Senate rejects panel report on Benue killings, says it is one-sided

Senate yesterday stepped down a report by its joint Committee on Police Affairs; and National Security and Intelligence for not having the input of Governor Samuel Ortom on the security situation in Benue State.

The senators, who spoke on the report presented by Chairman of the panel, Mr Abu Ibrahim, described it as one-sided.

They said the report had only the submissions made by Inspector-General of Police, who made allegations against Ortom and Benue State Government.

The Senate had mandated the committee to summon the IG to explain efforts being made by the police to stop the killings by herdsmen in Benue State.

As part of its findings, the panel stated that there was “a wide gap and serious defect” in the intelligence gathering mechanism of Nigeria Police Force and its counter-terrorism operations due to inadequate funding.

The panel also stated that “inflammatory statements, utterances and actions” of some politicians and opinion moulders had been found to be promoting hatred and inciting violence.

The report read in part, “There is massive proliferation of arms and ammunition in Benue State and across the country in general.”

In its recommendations, the joint committee said the police should be strengthened to utilise their intelligence gathering capabilities.

“The police are grossly underfunded. Therefore it is recommended that a percentage of excess crude oil fund of about $2 differential should be made available through appropriation to the police in order to beef up their operations.

“Politicians and opinion leaders should desist from making inflammatory statements capable of inciting violence.

“Deliberate steps should be taken to disarm all armed militias in Benue State and in the country in general.

“Inspector-General of Police should speedily prosecute those arrested and intensify efforts to arrest those still at large,” the report added.

Deputy President of the Senate, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, expressed reservations on the report.

Ekweremadu said, “I noted that in the statements made by the IG, he conspicuously mentioned the governor of Benue State, but I didn’t see where the committee made any effort to speak with the governor.

“If they did not interview the governor and his name has been mentioned in respect of certain statements and actions, it will only be fair to him to be invited by the committee for his own side of the story so that we have a balanced view of what transpired.”

In his remarks, Mr Adamu Aliero, noted that it was the first time the police announced suspects that had been arrested and being tried for the killings in Benue.

“For the first time, we hear of suspects being arrested and charged to court. This is a very good beginning,” he said.

A senator from Benue State and former governor of the state, Mr George Akume, also picked holes in the report.

He said, “This report would have been more balanced if the governor, who has been accused by IGP, was also invited to make input into this.”

Akume noted that the police boss did not visit Benue State at the peak of the crisis until public outcry and a resolution by the Senate forced President Muhammadu Buhari to order the IG to relocate to the state.

“He went to Benue State; he was there for one day. He spent two days in Nasarawa and he left. His comments have always been very jaundiced; they are not based on professional soundness and they do not show any detachment and impartiality,” Akume said.

The senator faulted the IG for dismissing Ortom’s allegation of a militia in Nasarawa as untrue.

He said, “The claims (by the IG) are untrue. Every security agency has made comments on this. Huge numbers (of gunmen) are there and many of them are from outside the country; they are armed.

“What the governor said is true and it is from there (Nasarawa) that they move and we have seen video clips of them moving into Benue; and very well armed.

“He said in Benue State there are livestock guards and this has repeatedly been made known in the media; but we have thousands of others who are freely moving with AK-47 (riffles) and they have not been arrested. As we speak, people are being killed in Benue, Nasarawa, Zamfara and Taraba states.”

President of the Senate, Mr Bukola Saraki, ruled that the report be stepped down, while the panel should meet with Mr Ortom and report back within one week.

He said, “On Senator Abu Ibrahim’s report; there is no doubt about it that it is incomplete because there are observations on the comments of the governor. The governor of Benue State was not given the opportunity to comment. The only reason why I allowed Senator Akume to speak was because I thought that would be the closest we could hear of the views of the governor of Benue State. Even his (Akume’s) explanation is not sufficient.

“I would have allowed contributions from Senator Wakili, Senator Manager and all others who want to speak but why don’t we keep our comments. Let Senator Abu Ibrahim go back and complete his assignment and present a complete report. That time, I will accept contributions by everybody.”

The remarks by the Senate President generated heated reactions in the chamber.

Saraki, however, insisted on stepping down the report, saying, “I have ruled on this. This report cannot be taken. We have said it is incomplete; therefore there is no point for us to get all worked up about it. The proper report will be presented to us and we can contribute at that point.”

Punch

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