Governor Solomon Lalong of Plateau State, on Tuesday, led a delegation of Plateau elders to Benue State on a sympathy visit.
He also used the opportunity to apologize once again for insensitive comments he made after the New Year massacre by herdsmen which resulted in over 70 deaths. Lalong had said in an interview that he had warned his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom, against passing the Anti-Open Grazing Bill. His comments were interpreted to mean a justification for the attacks.
Governor Lalong, who was represented by the Plateau State Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Barr. Fetus Fwamtel, while noting that Benue and Plateau states had lost over 7,000 people each to the so-called ‘unknown gunmen,’ however, described the recent killing of Benue people as, “one murder too many and an onslaught against us as a people.”
Responding, Governor Ortom said that Governor Lalong and himself had come a long way, explained that even before he (Governor Lalong) apologised, he had forgiven him but, however, expressed joy that the Plateau State governor had openly apologised.
“Lalong and I have been close thinking together on how we can over come our common challenges. We need to get closer now more than ever before. He apologized and even before he did, I made a pronouncement that I have forgiven him. I am happy he apologized so we can quickly put this behind us,” Ortom said.
Governor Ortom also used the opportunity to apologise to his Nasarawa State counterpart, Alhaji Tanko Al-makura, for saying that the state was harbouring the herdsmen who came and attacked the Benue stressing that he should have confided in him first before going public with the information he received.
“May I also apologise to my friend and colleague in Nasarawa, Alhaji Tanko Al-makura, for making public the information I got. I should have confided in him first. There is no need for any blame game among us.”
He also maintained that the anti open grazing law is not targeted at any particular ethnic group as being erroneously insinuated in some quarters but insisted that his administration is committed to a peaceful coexistence with all Nigerians and even non Nigerians living legitimately in Benue.
“The law is not targeted at any ethnic group. Ranching remains the global best practices. No land for grazing in Benue. 98 percent of the Benue people are farmers. We are committed to a peaceful coexistence with all Nigerians and even non Nigerians living legitimately in Benue,” the Benue governor said.
The visiting Plateau delegation donated the sum of N2.5 million to the Benue State Government to help in meeting some of the basic needs of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state.