While speaking exclusively with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday night, the Benue State Commissioner of Police, Bashir Makama, gave reasons why the police in Benue are holding back on their offensive against suspected killer herdsmen on rampage across the North-Central state.
The Police boss said that its operatives would prioritise an immediate succour and enduring tranquillity for the affected communities, adding that the police are concentrating their energy and resources towards a safe return of recently displaced residents to their communities.
“Let there be peace. Let there be calm. Then, the suspects can be followed and arrested,” Makama said by telephone amidst demands for government clampdown on the culprits which followed widespread outrage about the killings.
When asked if the Police had made new arrest since the January 2 arrest of eight suspects, Makama said efforts had since shifted to helping those sacked from their villages return.
“Let there be peace to create confidence for people to return to their home rather than emphasise on effecting the arrest of people who have done what they have done and fled.”
Speaking further, the commissioner said he had been to the local government where the killer herdsmen are allegedly using as hideouts but found no immediate leads.
“I have been to that village myself. There are so many people there. You cannot just be carrying everybody. It’s not a random arrest; it’s specific arrest,” he added.
But Mr. Ogbole, the leader of the Movement Against Fulani Occupation, criticised the commissioner’s statement as misplaced and provocative.
“All this is nothing but diversionary tactics to allow these herdsmen to decimate Benue communities and leave through the Taraba border to Cameroon back to their hideout.
“What is stopping them from going after these men now? When there was killing in Omoku in Rivers State on New Year’s Day, how many days did it take to fish out the suspect and kill him?”
Ogbole likened the situation in Benue to the recent development in Rivers State in which the police killed a prime suspect in an attack on churchgoers January 1.
“Why should Benue people wait until the thing calms down? Why should they go back to the precarious situation when there’s no guarantee that the people will be safe if they go back to their villages?
“All this could fuel suspicion that there’s a collision between the federal government and the militia.
“We already have information that the police are slow to go after the herdsmen, which is why men of the Civil Defence Corps were no longer working with the police,” Ogbole said.
The commissioner said the Inspector-General’s team would likely include men who are capable of following vigorous leads that would help in nabbing the killers.
“Now that the investigation team has come, they would be going after the culprits,” he said.