In a statement released on Wednesday by Terver Akase, the Benue State Governor’s Press Secretary, Governor Samuel Ortom, insisted that the attacks and killings in the state were regarded as a jihad following verifiable comments by the various herdsmen groups.
The governor who said further that the herdsmen groups through their statement openly declared a jihad in the state, was reacting to an allegation by Jama’atul Nasir Islam (JNI), which wrongly claimed that he declared the herdsmen killings in the state as a continuation of the late Usman Danfodio’s jihad.
The statement read in part, “We read in some of today’s national dailies, the statement credited to the headquarters of Jama’atul Nasir Islam, JNI, regarding the reported comments of Governor Samuel Ortom on attacks in the state and we find it necessary to put the matter in its proper context.
“In the statement, Secretary General of JNI, Dr. Abubakar Khalid Aliyu accussed Governor Ortom of attributing the herdsmen attacks in the state to a continuation of the late Usman Danfodio’s jihad.
“The impression being created by the organisation that Governor Ortom attacked the leadership of Nigerian Muslims in his comments is as misleading as it is a deliberate attempt to cast the Governor in bad light before Muslims in the country.
“In the interview under reference, Governor Ortom who was responding to a specific question, only quoted the threats by leaders of Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association who had addressed press conferences and stated that the attacks on Benue State were a jihad and struggle for the control of natural resources in the Benue Valley. The groups also vowed that there would be more bloodshed in Benue State.
“For instance, the Fulani Nationality Movement stated in a communique after a meeting in Kano on January 13, 2018, that they had embarked on a Jihad in Benue State.”
“Part of the said communique read, ‘We notice the recalcitrant culture of the Tiv people as demonstrated even during the 1804 Jihad when they obstructed our ordained conquest of Nigeria. We call on all Fulanis to prepare for this Holy War. There is no going back. All over the world, Nigeria is the only country given to Fulani by God.’
“Governor Ortom who referred to such statements including the ones quoted above from the Fulani Nationality Movement, reiterated his call for the arrest of the leadership of the groups to prevent further killings in the state.”
He maintained that he had enormous respect for the leadership of Jama’atul Nasir Islam and all other Nigerian Muslims and would not have launched an attack on the religion.
“We reject and condemn this negative branding of the Governor by JNI. Since assumption of office, Governor Ortom has embraced and encouraged all religious groups in the state especially the Muslim community as evident in the cordial relationship between the present administration and leadership of the Islamic faith.
“It is therefore strange that the headquarters of Jama’atul Nasir Islam has chosen to assault the Governor’s reputation on a matter which has verifiable evidence unconnected with him.”