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Suswam, cause of our clashes with Tiv – Herdsmen

Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam

Fulani herdsmen on Monday accused the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, of being the architect of the  clashes   between them and the   Tiv.

They  also claimed that they had lost 134 of their colleagues and 11,915  heads of cattle to  the clashes  in the last three months in Benue, Plateau and Taraba states.

The herdsmen, under the umbrella body known as  Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association,  specifically traced their woes   to Suswam  whom,  they claimed, stoked the hostilities  against them not only in  Benue State but in Plateau and Taraba states.

Suswam’s convoy  on Tuesday came under attack from some gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen at Tse Akenyi, in Benue State. The governor was on  his way to a camp of displaced persons  in the Guma Local Government  Area of the state when   the incident occurred.

The National Vice-President of  the   cattle breeders association, Alhaji Hussaini   Bosso, told  journalists    in Minna, Niger State, that  their problem in Benue State started when Suswam announced that he did not want them  in the state.

He claimed that the announcement   caused  the massacre of  their members in the   three  states.

Bosso  said  that in  Benue State alone, the association  lost  82 herdsmen and 6,700 cattle  and     43 Fulani   and 4,682  in Plateau State.

  Nine  members of the association  and 533 cattle, according to him,  were lost in Taraba State.

Bosso  claimed that  the  killings  in Benue and Taraba states were   carried out by  the Tiv  and the Beromo in   Plateau State.

He said, “All these atrocities were perpetrated by Tiv people. To our surprise,  the police  were  aware, but did not do anything to avert the ugly developments. Not only  that the Police  felt unconcerned  about the matter, the respective governments of the affected states did nothing.”

Bosso appealed to the governments of the three states to, as a matter of urgency , bring  an  end to   the   killing of innocent Fulani herdsmen.

However, there   was outrage on Wednesday over violent activities of the  herdsmen, particularly the attack on  Suswam’s  convoy.

Repeated calls to the mobile telephone number of the Director of Press to Suswam, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, failed to connect. Response to a text message sent to him did not come as of 11pm on Wednesday.

But prominent   groups and Nigerians, including the Arewa Consultaive Forum,  the  Catholic Church in Benue State, the Middle Belt Forum;  the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro,  and a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr. Abubakar Tsav,  urged the Federal Government to check  the activities of the   cattle rearers.

The  Minister of Interior, Mr.  Abba Moro, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Ubong Udoh,  described the attack   as morally condemnable, barbaric and callous.

 The minister noted that the   intention of those behind the attack was to create unnecessary tension  ahead of the 2015  elections.

He  added  that it was meant to slow down  the progress the  Jonathan  administration had recorded in the fight against terrorism and other forms of violence across the country.

 The minister, however, expressed confidence that the war against terrorism would become more intense  as the government would never give   in to the forces of terror.

 The Catholic Church, in a statement in Abuja,  called on President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently intervene and stop  the attacks by the  herdsmen.

 It recalled that  the  herdsmen had carried out repeated attacks on the Tiv   and farmers   in other parts of Nigeria.

Also, Tsav  urged government to deal with the attacks on farmers by herdsmen.

Tsav, who is a member of the Security Committee set up by the Northern  States Governors’ Forum, stated that government was not doing anything tangible about the crisis in Benue State.

He  said, “The problem here is very dicey because now if the Tiv should rise and begin to retaliate, it will eventually degenerate into a religious conflict because people will begin to read such meanings into it.

“Already, people are accusing the Hausa of aiding and abetting the Fulani. Very soon, they will start saying the Hausa too are involved and when this happens, it will begin to spread and when it starts spreading ,only God knows where it will end.

“Government must take a decisive action to stop this thing from spreading because it  started from an attack on the Tor Tiv, and now the governor.  We are appealing to our leaders to be very rational in dealing with this matter.”

ACF, through its spokesperson, Mohammed Ibrahim, described the attack on the governor as “disturbing” and condemnable.

It said, “The ACF is greatly disturbed by the recent attack on the convoy of  Governor Suswam despite the security around him. The situation is really disturbing.

“We therefore urge that security be intensified in the affected areas so as to halt further loss of lives and the destruction of properties in the area.

“We also appeal to the two communities (warring tribes) to sheathe their swords and embrace peace as only peace can guarantee the unity of the North.”

The Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese,   Benue State,  Bishop William Avenya,  said that the Catholic Bishops of Makurdi, Otukpo, Gboko and Kastina-Ala Dioceses had met over the attacks.

 He stated that  they had resolved that “government should monitor the influx of pastoralists into the state, check the activities of traditional rulers and security agents.”

While admitting that the crisis might be political, the cleric advised all stakeholders both in the state and outside, to also help solve  the  problem in the state.

He said, “We have observed that the co-existence of pastoralists and farmers has always been problematic when not properly handled. This is seen  in countries such as  Chad, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and the Sudan.

“In Nigeria, this crisis has affected states such as  Katsina, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Gombe, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto in the North; Oyo and Ogun   in the South-West; Abia in the South-East and Delta and Edo  in the South-South. This problem is indeed widespread.

“From 2010 to date, Benue State in particular has witnessed endless conflicts between Fulani pastoralists and    Tiv, Idoma and Agatu farmers. We called on  Dr.  Jonathan and the Governor   Suswam as well as  chief security officers to take responsibility of security in Benue State.”

Also,   the Middle Belt Forum said that  attacks by the herdsmen were part of a plot    to  destabilise the  North-Central.

The Coordinator of the forum in Plateau State, Mr. Manasseh Watyil, said in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jos, “The Middle Belt views the attack on the governor of Benue State  as a calculated attempt to destabilise  the entire  North-Central.”

Watyil, who  called on  the President to protect the people of the zone , added,  “Jonathan should know that he cannot do without the Middle Belt  for him to get to where he is going.”

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