• Recovers looted N370m from state officials
• Commends Buhari on security
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has said that the persistent clashes between farmers and cattle herders left his state reeling with a loss estimated at over N95 billion in five years.
Gov. Ortom, who spoke exclusively with The Guardian, said the frequent clashes also left a death toll of thousands in the state.The governor, who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for responding to the security situation in the state by deploying additional security forces, noted that since November 1, 2017 when the state law prohibiting open grazing of livestock came into effect, seven herdsmen were arrested on November 28, 2017. He said six others had been arrested while four others who violated the law are currently in prison custody.
Ortom, who said the law on open grazing was not targeted at any particular ethnic group but to protect both the farmers and herdsmen, has assured the people of the state that his administration would continue to take proactive measures to guarantee the security of lives and property.
While enjoining the Muslims to pray for peace and unity as they mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad, the governor thanked Benue people and other Nigerians for the support given the state government to successfully commence implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law.
Meanwhile, the governor said his administration had recovered not less than N370 million from those indicted by Justice Kpojime’s Commission of Inquiry, which investigated funds accruing to the state from June 2007 to May 2015.
Ortom, who disclosed this while fielding questions from journalists in Makurdi yesterday, said 13 persons out of those indicted are currently being prosecuted by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) while others are currently under investigation.
The governor said the N4.5 billion bond recovered from a bank, which was meant to finance some projects, had been channelled for the specified works as contractors were already mobilised to site.
Also, he was ready to fish out and prosecute ghost workers to reduce the state’s current over-bloated wage bill from its current N7.8 billion to M4.5 billion.
Ortom, who commented on the exit of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), said it was a democratic setting and the former vice president was free to move to any political party.
“This is a free world and democracy entails freedom for everybody. In politics, there are only permanent interests; there are no permanent enemies.
“I was in PDP, I moved to APC and now I am governor of Benue State. Atiku has moved out of our party and if he thinks that is the right thing to do, so be it,” he said.