Benue: Who killed the two Mbalam priests:

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The August 6, 2018 letter by Gov Samuel Ortom demanding N10Bn compensation from national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, has continued to raise critical issues. The most sensitive part may be the attempt by Ortom to deny complicity as insinuated by the former Edo State governor and former infant terrible of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).

The new APC boss had raised questions on two occasions saying the Mbalam priests were killed soon after preaching against non-payment of salaries in Benue State which allegedly made families worse. Oshiomhole had also said that those arrested in the mater were rather Christians and persons who were aides to the governor, rather than being herdsmen.

Gov Ortom reacted by slamming a N10Bn claim and heavy demands of retraction and apologies in many national media outlets. In the letter, the Guma-born governor and former minister who recently defected to the PDP wondered why the APC national boss failed to see the fingerprints of the Miyetti Allah and ravaging herdsmen or the facebook post by the assassinated priests claiming threats to their lives as herdsmen grazed around them. The governor promised to make Oshiomhole sweat in court to prove how it was the preaching against Ortom that led to the killings even when he said there was no record of any such preaching in the first place.

Full details:

With regards to the avoidable, unprovoked, needless yet vicious mass killing of Benue people, it boggles the mind to begin to process the level of thinking that led to your unconscionable statement that “Benue Christians” are responsible for the mass killings and sustained genocide against their own people. This clearly shows your sleight of hand in attempting a puerile change in the narrative by seeking to blame the victims for causing the deaths of their kinsmen and their own mass displacement. For the records, Gov. Samuel Ortom has been unequivocal about his zero tolerance for crime and criminality and has strived not to shield anybody found wanting from the brunt of the law.

Your comment about the “trial” of persons purportedly responsible for the killings in Benue State is noticeably uninformed. Available records in the public domain show that no person has been charged to a proper court of competent jurisdiction in respect of the mayhem at Mbalom Community that led to the death of two priests and 17 parishioners of the Catholic faith on 24th April, 2018. The persons arrested thus far purportedly in connection with the crime were on 31st May, 2018, taken by the police before Chief Magistrate Court 1, Makurdi which clearly has no jurisdiction to try offences of culpable homicide. Even at the last adjourned date on 17th July, 2018, the prosecuting police officer informed the court that investigation in the matter was still in progress and applied for further adjournment. As it stands, other than vain propaganda, no charge with proof of evidence whatsoever has been filed in a competent court by the police to put the killers of Benue people on trial. As the National Chairman of the party in power, let us seize the facility of this letter to implore you to offer proper advice to those saddled with the responsibility to promptly take anybody found wanting in the Benue carnage to a competent court of law as the Benue people are very much interested in seeing their killers prosecuted.

Disturbingly, since you don’t work with any of the security agencies and they do not report to your office, it astounds the senses when you state with finality that “some of those who have been killed were killed not by Muslims, they were killed by Christians of Benue State origin, including those he (Gov. Samuel Ortom) has employed… those who have confessed to this crime include people who have worked with Gov. Ortom and these killings were done few weeks after one of these Reverend Fathers in a church sermon was extremely critical of the governance in Benue state and of the style of governance of Gov. Ortom and his price obviously was that few weeks after this sermon in which he was very critical of Gov. Ortom including the damage

done to family life by the none payment of salaries that he had to pay with his dear life”.

Even to a layman, it is apparent that the import of the weighty statement above is that by reason of the purported ‘critical sermon’ by one of the priests against Gov. Samuel Ortom, the priest had to “obviously pay” with his life! How you arrived at this deduction is a matter for you to narrate in a law court when you finally have your day in the witness box. But it will suffice to state here that if only you had not chosen to play cheap politics with the deaths of Rev. Fathers. Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha and 17 of their parishioners; if only you had not chosen to pretend that you are oblivious of the numerous threats by leaders of Miyetti Allah to unleash mayhem in Benue as carried copiously in the media and the attendant siege and bloodletting that Benue has been subjected to because of the passage of a valid law to regulate grazing; if only you had chosen to speak truth to power on the unprovoked Benue carnage; you would have seen a correlation between the gory death of Rev. Fr. Joseph Gor and his heart cry on social media when he cried out on 3rd January, 2018 at 18.47 hrs thus… “Living in fear. The Fulanis are still around us here in mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around. No weapons to depend (sic) ourselves”. If only you had taken time to reflect soberly on all these as a father, a husband and above all a human being, you would have been better guided before making unguarded remarks. A copy of the said facebook post is hereto annexed for your proper digestion, reflection and guidance. It is marked as Annexure 3.

For the records, it is the position of our client that he is unaware of any ‘critical sermon’ by any of the two priests against him and puts you to strict proof of the said ‘critical sermon’. As a Christian and a very diligent one at that, Gov. Samuel Ortom has no cause whatsoever to bring harm to a human created by God for any reason whatsoever talk less of a Clergy of the Most High God.

To begin to therefore heartlessly draw an imaginary correlation between a non existent ‘critical sermon’ against Gov. Ortom and the dastardly act that resulted in the death of unarmed Catholic priests and faithfuls is a wicked, calculated ploy to bring our client who is a Pentecostal with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) on a collision course with the respected Catholic Church. To show that you leveled these despicable allegations in a full and lucid state of compos mentis, you repeated the said allegation on Saturday, 4th August, 2018 at an APC rally in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State which was also aired on NTA. We have also retained a burned compact disc of the rally in our possession. This is talkativeness taken too far! This, to say the least, is irresponsible politics in its medieval form and such conduct should not be condoned in any civilized society without exerting appropriate legal consequences. Our client is therefore prepared to take you the whole hog as you go through the crucible of proof in the law court to substantiate your claims.

At this juncture, it is imperative that you be told some home truths since you have decided to make an uninformed foray into the Benue killings. The summary of the mindless killings in Benue State is that a law validly passed by the House of Assembly of a federating unit in the Nigerian nation to regulate grazing in its territory does not seat well with forces who feel they are above the law. By the boldness of their threats, the savagery of their actions and the amazing inactions of those imbued with the state apparatchiks to ensure concomitant sanctions, these forces have proven again and again that they are truly above the law. However, as it is with all pogroms, history is tediously chronicling these events, profiling the heroes and the villains and putting this historical carnage in proper perspective. No matter your attempt to twist the narratives, those pages of history are already replete with the numerous threats both in the print and electronic media by the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to occupy and cause mayhem in the Benue valley if the Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law, 2017 is not shelved. Those pages are already replete with all the correspondences, prior information and public outcries that Governor Samuel Ortom made to relevant persons and agencies of the Federal Government putting them on notice as to these impending strikes and the need to take proactive and preventive measures. Those pages are already replete with the inactions of the various players in government and the eventual carrying out of those threatened violence. Those pages are already replete with how a Miyetti Allah leader in Benue State, Alh. Garus Gololo went on the BBC on the 4th January, 2018 and admitted to the January 1st, 2018 killings in Benue state on the ground that 1,000 cattle were rustled. Those pages are already replete with the fact that till date such a character has not been quizzed not to talk of been made to answer for admitted crimes. Those pages are already replete with how the President admitted that the IG of Police flouted his orders to relocate to Benue and contain the crisis. Those pages are already replete with how the same IG and the Minister of Defence have variously blamed the killings in Benue State on the law regulating grazing and called for it to be shelved. Those pages are already replete with how a Presidential spokesman virtually narrowed down the option left for the natives to choose between loss of their native lands for cattle colonies or death in the alternative.

It therefore bears cautioning that while on behalf of your political party and the government it occupies at the center, you attempt to push the warped narrative that ‘Benue Christians’ are killing their kith and kin, you may search your conscience and humanity and ask yourself critically if ‘Benue Christians’ were also responsible for the herdsmen attacks that led to the raping, death and maiming of your own Edo kith and kin in various Edo towns from Akoko Edo to Ewu to Urohi to Irrua to Ekpoma to Edo South? Having done this thorough soul searching, you may expand the scope to ask if “Benue Christians” were also responsible for the attributable deaths nationwide from Plateau to Taraba to Kaduna to Zamfara to Adamawa to Kogi to Nasarawa to Enugu to Ebonyi to Delta to Ondo to Oyo to Ekiti? We leave you with your conscience!