The International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, INTERSOCIETY, has written to the duo of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Mukaddas, over the widespread and coordinated attacks and threats of annihilation against the resident and ancestral Igbo populations in the state.
In a letter dispatched to the duo, dated 2nd October 2019 and signed by Lawyers Obianuju Igboeli, Head of Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Chinwe Umeche, Head of Democracy & Good Governance and Chidimma Udegbunam, Head of Campaign & Publicity; and Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chair of Intersociety, was copied to the Secretary General of Amnesty International, UK and the group’s Country Director in Nigeria as well as the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, USA.
Others that received copies of the letter are Prof Anthony Ejiofor, President of World Igbo Congress, USA, Prof Justin Akujieze, President of Ekwenche Research Organization, USA, Prof Uzodimma Nwala, President of Ala-Igbo Dev Foundation, Enugu, Barr John Nnia Nwodo, President Gen of Oha-Na-Eze Ndigbo, Enugu, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, former Gov of Anambra State, His Honor, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, renowned diplomat and former SSG, Anambra State, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, Minister of Foreign Affairs & (nominal) member, Nigeria’s National Security Council and Prince Emeka Onyeso (Oba Agbala-Nze N’ Nri Ancient Kingdom).
In the letter which was copied to the South East Governor’s Forum and others for their notice and appropriate interventions, stated that ancestral Igbo communities are facing acute government neglect and threats of annihilation in the hands of Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and their splinter “bandits” in Benue State.
The group observed that the ancestral Igbo are majorly found settled in Ado, Oju, Obi and Okpoku Local Government Areas of the state, while the resident Igbo population are under coordinated ‘indigenized’ attacks, including abduction-for-ransom and other sundry extortions at gunpoint. It noted that other Igbo residents under threats are largely found in Gboko, Adikpo-Kwande, Ukum, Zaki-Biam and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas of the state.
The NewsCritic reports that Igbo People in Benue State are presently made up of ‘Igbo People of Benue’ or ancestral Igbo People of the State and ‘Igbo People in Benue State’ or resident Igbo Population in the State. The former is those who migrated to the area on their own and those excised or carved into the State as a result of ‘politics of State and Local Government creation and boundary adjustment’ particularly in the exercises that took place in 1968 and 1976.
While the latter on their part, are those who reside in the State for purposes of doing business and office work. A fraction of others is those who reside in the State for purpose of schooling. The population of Igbo People in Benue State is independently estimated at one million or more with indigenously locatable 300 villages or more, Intersociety disclosed.
According to the Group, in the past 30 months or between February 2017 and August 2019, no fewer than 50 Igbo citizens in Benue State were abducted for ransom and ethno-religious purposes. “Among the abductees, scores have been killed or abducted without traces till date. This is even after huge ransoms involving millions of naira for each victim were paid. From available independent records, not less than N277m ($900,000) had been paid by the kidnap victims as ransoms from Feb 2017 till date in freeing at least, 48 kidnap victims.