Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State yesterday denied a report claiming he absolved Fulanis of killings in disputes with Tiv farmers in the state.
A statement by his spokesperson Mr. Cletus Akwaya yesterday quoted the governor as saying that the report, which was first carried by the Federal Government-owned News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), had generated tension in the state.
The NAN report quoted Gov. Suswam as having absolved the Fulani herdsmen of a recent deadly attack at Guma, when he spoke to journalists after a security meeting in Makurdi, the state capital on Saturday.
The NAN report which was widely published in newspaper reports on Monday, quoted the governor as saying: “We called all the prominent people of Minda extraction for a roundtable to discuss possible ways of solving the problem once and for all and we discovered that criminals are the ones attacking Benue communities, not Fulani herdsmen”.
Akwaya yesterday affirmed that the governor did address the press after the stakeholders meeting involving parties in the dispute, attended by representatives of security agencies, political leaders and traditional rulers.
But he added that Gov. Suswam regretted the two recent incidents and apart from other security measures already in place, he set up a committee of eminent persons from the affected local government areas to assist the security agencies with useful information to help them provide a permanent solution to the crisis.
The statement noted that clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in some parts of Benue had been persistent in the last three years.
“Over the last three years suspected Fulani herdsmen have sacked several communities in Benue State in violent attacks that led to the killing of dozens of people and the accompanying destruction of valuable property and farms”, the statement added.
In almost all the clashes, the statement said the attackers usually disappeared into the neighbouring Nasarawa State after the attacks.
These frequent clashes necessitated the several meetings between the Benue State governor and his Nasarawa counterpart, Umar Tanko Al-Makura, in order to find a lasting solution to the problem.
The governors set up joint peace committees to monitor their shared borders and provided logistics for the committee members to report any security threat to the police and other security agencies.
“Against this background therefore, Governor Suswam would not have ‘absolved’ the Fulanis of the killing of Tiv farmers as reported”, the statement said.