The Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia, has called on the Nigerian Army to deploy infantry soldiers to the state to check the killing of farmers by suspected herders.
He also sought the establishment of a battalion at Ugbema and seven forward operating bases in Guma, Logo, Ukum, and Kwande Local Government Areas to enhance response.
Alia spoke on Tuesday during a courtesy visit to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, at the Army Headquarters, Abuja.
He said while the current deployment ensures safety on the highways, killings continue in the hinterland, depriving farmers of access to fertile land for agricultural activities.
The governor noted, “We appreciate the efforts of the Nigerian Army in keeping peace in the Benue Valley. Benue is an agrarian state and farming is our main occupation. However, the most fertile parts of the Benue Valley within the state are staying inaccessible to farmers due to the threats of bandits and violence from armed herders.
“Now that is it, two to five or more people are killed every week as a result of violence from these gangs and groups, which in a few number of cases the media do not capture, the 401 Special Force Brigade are trying their best but their deployment remains on the main roads number of times while killings continue to take place in the hinterland.
“My prayer to you is for forward operating bases to be established in Anyiin in Logo Local Government Area, Zaki-Biam in Ukum Local Government Area, Udei and Gbajimba in Guma Local Government Area, Naka in Gwer West Local Government Area, Pontar in Konshisha Local Government Area and Adikpo in Kwande Local Government Area.
“In the immediate term, while hoping that a full-fledged battalion can be established at Ugbema in the midterm, our second prayer is for the 401 Special Force Brigade and Operation Whilr Stroke to be provided with additional manpower/patrol vehicles to improve their reach.
“As a government, we are willing to provide you some shelters for the forward operating bases and some logistics.
“We hope that although you may be stretched, you’ve made Benue quite special because of our uniqueness in crisis-ridden effects and attacks we’ve been receiving.”
The governor noted that some local governments in the state also share a boundary with Cameroon, adding that the discovery of solid minerals in the LGAs could worsen insecurity in the areas.
“The discovery of solid minerals in those areas and local governments is likely to exacerbate the security situation in those areas. It is therefore important that proactive steps be taken by establishing an infantry battalion to cover the general area” he added.
COAS said he has been reviewing the situation in Benue and pledged to do what is best to restore peace to the Benue valley.
He promised to deploy more troops and combat enablers to 104 forward operating bases, adding that the establishment of more FOBs is subject to budgetary provisions.
He said, “The Nigerian Army currently has over 100 forward operating bases and cannot afford to establish more without budgetary allocations. I urge the governor to provide infrastructure to enable the movement of troops and logistics to support our operations.”