The Inspector General of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase, yesterday said there was no sufficient evidence to prosecute the herdsmen alleged to have perpetrated the killings in Benue State. The IGP also said that 18 suspects were already in police net in connection with the killings, even as the Tiv people in Bebue State, under the aegis of Mdzough U Tiv, MUT, are asking for N100billion compensation over the killings and destruction of their properties.
The IGP, was absent at the beginning of the investigative hearing in the matter on Wednesday, when the MUT President General, Edward Ujege, told the House of Representatives committee, investigating the killings, that over 984 Tiv people have so far been killed between year 2014 and 2016. In the report co-signed by the President General of the MUT, Edward Ujege and Secretary General, Azer Ukende, presented at the hearing, Ujege told the committee that over 29, 974 people have also been displaced across the state, with properties worth over N40billion lost to the mayhem.
Resuming his testimony yesterday, when the IGP and representatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, Interior Minister, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, appeared, Ujege insisted that the negligence of security forces and the Federal Government, which commands them, led to these colosal loss. He said it was also the demand of the Tiv nation that the herdsmen be ejected from Tiv land, as well as asked the Federal Government to investigate the carnage and punish the perpetrators. Ujege stressed that the N100billion, which the Tiv nation was asking for, could not assuage the feelings of the loss, but was needed. Deputy Governor of the Benue State, Benson Abonu, who spoke extensively on the killings in Agatu, said that the attackers killed, maimed, burnt down the entire settlement making it impossible for the people to return to the place. While the Benue people testified that 500 Agatu people were also killed in the crisis, the NSCDC said it was 300, but the IGP said only three people were killed, which made the lawmakers to conclude that the police were not on ground over the happenings in the state. The IGP in his testimony however, expressed regrets at the number of deaths saying that he was personally worried. He said his professional calling would not allow him to reveal all he was doing in the case, but that he had engaged all the parties in the crisis with a view to achieving peace. He said that paucity of funds, shortage of personnel, logistics and technology, were impeding police’s efforts in the crisis.
“We have apprehended some persons, may be investigation is rather slow. You must be able to assemble sufficient evidence to prosecute them. I don’t just want to prosecute people without securing conviction,” Arase stated. He appealed to the people to be patient with them, saying, “It is not as if we are not doing anything.” The IGP told the committee that he has also lost men in the crisis, which had rendered women widows and children orphans in their barracks. However, the committee members were worried that from the testimonies of the various groups from Benue State, the IGP held meetings with the Miyati Allah Cattle Rearers Association, who said that the Agatu people killed 8,000 cattles of the herdsmen that was why they retaliated by killing the people, but still referred to them as unidentified persons. Members of the committee held that it was proper for the IGP to have gone ahead to demand that those who said to have carried out the killings be identified and arrested for justice to take its course. The committee, however, said that it would hold further hearing with those from Agatu and the Idoma, as well as have the Benue State Commissioner of Police testify on the crisis.