It appears the government of Governor Samuel Ortom is not taking the problem that the Ukpute people in Oju local government area are suffering from the ceaseless attacks from the Bonta people of Konshisha local government area of Benue state.
For months now, the Awajir-Oju road has been closed to traffic and the people in the entire Igede are now compelled to take the long route from Naka to Otukpo and unto Igede because the Bonta neighbours would not spare any Igede person that dares to take the Oju-Awajir road.
The short road from Aliade to Obarike Ito which was awarded to contractors and we understand was paid for has not seen a digger anywhere to date. For over two months now, the people of Ukpute have been sleeping in the bush as a result of the constant attacks from their Bonta neighbours.
The boundary demarcation, which the government said it was undertaking, has not seen the light of day. Appeal was made to the government to ensure that police checkpoints be mounted on the Awajir-Oju road, particularly between Bonta and Ukpute to secure free traffic on the road has not received the attention of Governor Ortom.
It was gathered that one of the youth leaders from Bonta who attended the recent peace meeting with the deputy governor was heard saying that even if a battalion of soldiers are brought to be stationed there, the Bonta people will still fight the Ukpute people. Even though the youth leader was identified, he was not arrested or reprimanded. In the afternoon of April 3, 2021, over 100 armed militia with dangerous weapons, AK47 guns were hired and were transported in vehicles to carry out a surprise attack on Ukpute people at Ukpute; burnt down the only primary school there, killed several persons and injured several others.
All attempts to get the law enforcement agents to the rescue have not been fruitful as usual. Ukpute people are citizens of Benue state whom the Governor Ortom government has the duty to protect and there is no reason why he should handle the ceaseless attacks on the Ukpute people in a lukewarm attitude as has been shown so far. The Ukpute people are peace loving people who never look for anyone trouble.
Investigation into the unnecessary boundary problem as a result of land grabbing desire by the Bonta people, when it started in the fourth quarter of 2020, showed that the Bonta people are the aggressors. It was expected that the government should have taken serious action and the people involved be brought to book. It never happened. The parties were asked to go home and maintain peace with the promise that the government was going to immediately carry out the boundary demarcation between the two neighbours as a permanent solution. It never happened.
Soon after the parties were asked to go home and maintain peace and not up to one month after, the Bonta people commenced the building of fresh thatched houses even inside the farms of Ukpute people up to and including the Afrofim camp on Ukpute land. The law enforcement agents and the state government were informed. As usual, no action was taken. This no doubt has emboldened the Bonta people to continue to terrorise Ukpute people.
The unanswered questions are: Does Governor Ortom not know that he has the constitutional duty to protect the people of Ukpute as their governor? Should Governor Ortom just sit and watch this mayhem continue and should he watch and allow the Bonta people permanently block the Awajir-Oju road as a result of the unnecessary land grabbing desire by the Bonta people and thus cut off the entire Igede people from having free access to and from the Oju-Awajir road simply because the road happens to pass through Bonta? Should the governor continue to watch the lives and property of the Ukpute people being wasted without taking action to halt it?
The rains will soon be here, God willing, and farming activities will commence in earnest. Since the beginning of 2021, Ukpute people have not been able to go to their farms freely because of the unexpected attacks by the Bonta people. For how long will the state government turn the blind eye to the issue? The matter has now graduated to the Bonta people hiring armed militia with powerful military weapons to attack and kill the Ukpute people as was the case this afternoon. Somebody should tell Governor Ortom to do the needful as the chief security officer of Benue state now before things get out of hand.
Alewu is the President of Igede Progressive Elite Caucus Association (IPECA), Lagos.