A spokesperson to Muhammadu Buhari has condemned Governor Samuel Ortom for blaming fresh Benue killings by suspected Fulani militia on the president.
According to a statement Garba Shehu issued on behalf of the presidency on Thursday, Buhari said the “rising levels of incidents, especially the killings and violence in various parts of the country calls for further collaboration with security agencies to curb its recurrence”.
“The president expresses his condolences to the families of our dear citizens who lost their loved ones in the recent spate of killings in Benue state,” it said.
Ortom on Tuesday accused President Buhari of working for the Fulani ethnic group to take over Nigeria.
He spoke in reaction to the recent killing of residents allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen in parts of the North-Central state.
He also lamented that no fewer than 70 people had been killed in the last two weeks in three local governments in the state.
The governor, who said the killings should not continue, said, “What is happening now, to me, is very clear; Mr President is just working for these Fulanis to take over the whole country.
“His body language is what is being played out. The body language, the action and inaction of Mr President shows that he is only the President of Fulani people; I have known this.”
Ortom urged Buhari to address Nigerians in person and stop talking through proxies like Shehu and other presidency spokesperson. But the Buhari government responded by speaking through Shehu.
In its reaction to Ortom’s statements, the presidency said, “(Buhari) states his disappointment and sadness to hear Samuel Ortom, the Governor of Benue state make a litany of accusations against his person and his government of following the recent unfortunate incidents in the state.
“No responsible government takes pleasure in such events as the killing of the military and that of innocent citizens taking refuge in an Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp.
“President Buhari is deeply pained by the terrible acts of violence happening not only in Benue state but also in other parts of the country and expects that the law enforcement agencies will go to every possible extent to catch the perpetrators of these heinous acts and bring them to justice.
“The lives of fellow citizens should not be desecrated by deploying them in political diatribe which unfortunately appeared to be the intent of the string of emotional attacks and blame laid at the doors of the President for those killings by Governor Ortom. President Buhari took an oath to defend the life and property of every citizen, a duty he takes seriously and is committed to ensuring.
“Those citizens regardless of their affiliations, who either incite, sponsor or are proven to be abettors of these atrocities will face the law squarely and be answerable for their crimes against our fellow citizens and nation.
“President Buhari continuously stresses that the strength of our country lies in our diversity in faith, culture, and traditions and attempts to sharpen the divide between northern and southern Nigeria, between Muslims and Christians, and between communities that have coexisted for centuries should be frowned upon and resisted.
“As Nigerians, we accuse colonial rulers of the policy of divide and rule. Today, it is our own leaders who put region against region, religion against religion, ethnic group against ethnic group and community against community.
“The future of Benue state and indeed that of the entire country lies in harmony and the respect for law, order, and the constitution. It is the only way to achieve progress and development.
“While the President will continue to keep security, police and the armed forces on their toes to be on top of their act in troubled parts of the country, the situation in the states will greatly be helped by everyone working together because that is the foundation on which progress and prosperity can be achieved.”
Seeking more cooperation with Ortom, the presidency said, “Benue under the Ortom administration ought to cooperate with the federal government in the implementation of a number of national strategies programs in addressing underlying issues militating against peace, progress and development. This can still get done when the interest of the people is placed above all other interests.”
“A government voted into office by the people, should treat the people as its masters and not as its servants,” the presidency said.