Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his counterpart in Taraba State, Architect Darius Ishaku, has been dragged to the International Criminal Court over the spate of killings in the two states.
A civil society organisation, Initiative for Civil Rights Advancement in Nigeria, levelled the accusation against Ortom and Ishaku in a petition dated January 16, 2018 and signed by Engr. Yakubu Bulama, Information Officer of ICRAN, and addressed to the Office of Madame Fatou Bensouda of the ICC.
The group accused the two governors of poor handling of the Fulani herdsmen and farmers crises in the states.
According to the petition, it does appear that so much stories are being cooked up and sold to security agencies and the media in Nigeria as to what must have prompted the gruesome killings.
It said: :However, our investigations have revealed that the whole crisis started on 27th December, 2017 when Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State was traveling to attend the birthday of his political godfather named Senator George Akume at Gboko. It happened that somewhere along Makurdi-Gboko Road, the convoy of Governor Ortom ran into herds of cattle migrating to Taraba through the border axis of Logo Local Government Area. Out of anger that the cattle obstructed Governor Ortom’s convoy, his overzealous armed body guards and aides arrested some of the Fulani herdsmen, tortured them thoroughly before taking them into forceful detention.
“On the next day being 28th December, 2017 another group of Fulani herdsmen were passing through Agasha-Gbajimba Road when they were again attacked by armed militia branded as Livestock Guards who stationed at Governor Ortom’s farm. This time, 3 (Three) of the herdsmen were killed and their cattle rustled away to unknown location.
“Suffice to state that our Policy Evaluators who attended a security meeting in Makurdi, Benue State in the latter part of year 2017 can confirm that Governor Ortom warned the Nigeria Police Force to step aside and be ready to act as mere observers during the 2019 General Elections as the Livestock Guards together with the Civilian Joint Task Force which he set up have been mandated to violently intimidate the opposition party out of the way so he can rig election for purposes of achieving his second term bid on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.”
Bulama said the group is disenchanted that Governor Ortom, who is the Chief Security Officer of Benue State, saddled with the duty of protecting his people, has abdicated his duty and failed in all ramifications to deliver the dividends of governance.
He said Ortom has become so obsessed with the pursuit of his second term ambition that he now cares less about the security and welfare of Benue people, which Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) clearly made “the primary purpose of government”.
He added: “It is safe to posit that the coordinated attacks launched by Fulani herdsmen on Benue indigenes this time around is centered on the selfish actions and inactions of Governor Ortom. The attacks have nothing to do with implementation of the Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law, 2017. Granted, Section 24 of the extant law established the Livestock Special Task Force and Section 26 thereof provides that the Task Force comprises representatives of the Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Department of State Services as well as Nigerian Legion of Ex-Servicemen. The records show that Governor Ortom has failed to tell the public how many members of the Livestock Special Task Force were killed during the recent crisis and whether those killed include any representatives of the aforementioned security outfits. We are yet to find a place in the grundnorm being the 1999 Constitution of the Federation Republic of Nigeria wherein armed militias are permitted to be used by a State Governor under the guise of enforcing a State Law.”
He asked the court for the following prayers:
“That the ICC Prosecutor opens an investigation of the Accused on her own accord under Article 15 (1) of the Rome Statute;
“That the ICC Prosecutor also formally “submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC a request for authorization of an investigation” of the Accused under Article 15 (3) of the Rome Statute;
“That the ICC Prosecutor obtain International Arrest Warrants for the Accused from the ICC in accordance with Articles 58 (1) (a), 58 (1) (b) (i), 58 (1) (b) (ii) and 58 (1) (b) (iii) and proceed to arrest the Accused so they can face their trial.
“That the ICC Prosecutor compels the Accused upon conviction to pay compensation to the victims of genocide at Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State as well as Mambilla Plateau in Sardauna Local Government Area of Taraba State in the sum of $1,000,000,000 (One Billion US Dollars) each as punitive damages.
“That the ICC Prosecutor compels the Federal Government of Nigeria to set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the allegations contained herein beyond the ongoing media charade calculated to deceive the general public.
“That Governor Samuel Ortom and his Taraba State counterpart, Darius Dickson Ishaku be accordingly investigated and tried for abdication of duty and instigation of war crimes against humanity to serve as deterrence to other State Governors who are planning to arm local militias for purposes of the forthcoming 2019 General Elections or outright ethnic cleansing.”