IT is very worrisome that the disagreement that developed between the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, and the leadership of Benue State has continued to escalate, making it even more difficult to halt the Benue massacres being perpetrated by armed bandits. This disagreement arose after the IGP described the New Year Day massacres and other genocidal attacks on Benue farming communities by armed herdsmen as “communal misunderstanding”. Governor Samuel Ortom and other Benue leaders had prevailed on Idris to apologise for offending the populace when the IGP arrived in the state on January 10, 2018 to lead police operations as President Muhammadu Buhari ordered.
But rather than creating a healthy atmosphere for the successful implementation of security operations, the two sides continued to ratchet up verbal exchanges. It came to a head on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 when Police spokesman, Moshood Jimoh, unprofessionally described Governor Ortom as “a drowning man” on a live television platform, thus sparking off calls for his sack. Governor Ortom in a live radio programme in Makurdi, Benue State, reportedly called on Benue citizens to use “all legal means” to defend themselves.
IGP Idris, unfortunately, has allowed himself to be distracted in his duties to restore order in Benue State. The president sent him there to disarm and arrest all illegal arms bearers and bring the perpetrators of the massacres to justice. He was sent to restore law and order in the state. He and his men are supposed to conduct themselves in a professional and impartial manner to instill confidence in the populace, no matter what side of the conflict they belong to.
In doing so, the Police are supposed to work harmoniously with the government and residents of Benue State. The involvement of the Police leadership in exchange of words is highly unbecoming. It can only worsen the situation and negate the Police mission there.
The call by Governor Ortom on Benue people to defend themselves “by all legal means” is unfortunate and dangerous. It is a call for anarchy, as there is no safe or “legal” way the citizenry can defend themselves against heavily-armed and obviously well-trained herdsmen. If this call is heeded, no one knows what it will portend. Ethnic warlords might spring up, and that cannot help the unity of the country.
We must continue to exercise restraint and insist that the security and law-enforcement authorities perform their sacred duties of protecting all Nigerians and bringing murderers and armed bandits to justice in a manner devoid of partiality.
Happily, President Buhari has, at last, spoken up decisively that the killings must stop and the culprits must be brought to book. On that we stand.