Does Benue have a chief security officer?

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By Peter Awunah, PhD

Last week, the people in the villages along the highway stretching from Okpokwu to Ogbadibo local government areas of Benue State raised alarm over the occupation of their farmlands, homes and forests by armed herdsmen.

The people lamented that the marauders have been brazenly engaging in attacks and kidnappings of commuters on the Otukpo-Ugbokolo-Otukpa-Orokam road without resistance.

This is the same scenario that has been playing out on the Makurdi-Naka road. Other parts of Benue State are not left out. Sankera which is made up of Katsina-Ala, Logo and Ukum is one of the worst hit areas. Guma, Makurdi and Kwande have also had a full dose of such attacks.

Surprisingly, the Governor of Benue State, Hyacinth Alia and his government carry on as if nothing is at stake. He has not visited any of the areas ravaged by herders’ attacks.

Governor Alia’s lack of attention to the ongoing insecurity in Benue State is deeply concerning and unacceptable. The governor’s failure to convene a security meeting for several months while the state grapples with escalating banditry and criminal activities demonstrates a severe lack of prioritization of the safety and well-being of the people of Benue.

It took the Governor more than four months to reluctantly appoint a security adviser, but that was after the Benue State House of Assembly issued him an ultimatum to do so.

But yesterday, when his candidate for the Guma State Constituency by-election was rejected by his party the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alia quickly called a security meeting and declared that the APC primary election was suspended. This showed how the governor takes the issue security as nothing of importance to him.

The primary responsibility of any government is to ensure the security of its citizens, and by neglecting to address the pressing security challenges facing the state, Governor Alia has failed in this fundamental duty. The prolonged absence of a security meeting reflects a disconcerting disregard for the plight of the residents who continue to live in fear and uncertainty due to the rampant criminal activities of bandits, herdsmen and other criminals.

The timing and motive behind the sudden security meeting called by the Governor raise serious questions about his commitment to addressing the security crisis. The decision to convene a security meeting and cancel the primary election for the Guma State Assembly seat only when it directly affected his interest, rather than out of genuine concern for the safety of the people, is deeply troubling and suggests a self-serving agenda. It equally smacks of dereliction of his duty and a betrayal of the trust placed in him by the people

Governor Alia’s actions, or lack thereof, undermine the trust and confidence that the people of Benue State have placed in their leadership. It is imperative that the Governor refocuses his priorities and takes immediate and decisive action to address the security challenges plaguing the state. This includes regular and proactive engagement with security agencies, the community, and relevant stakeholders to develop and implement effective strategies to combat banditry and criminal activities.

The governor must demonstrate a genuine commitment to the security and well-being of the people of Benue State by prioritizing the resolution of the security crisis over political expediency. The lives and safety of the citizens should never be compromised or disregarded for political gain or convenience.

It is imperative to also advise the Heads of Security Agencies in Benue to remember that their role is a nonpartisan one. They must learn to resist being dragged into partisanship by turning down invitation to frivolous meetings such as the one Governor Alia convened yesterday on the APC primary election in Guma. The security commanders should be worried that the governor has not bothered to summon a security meeting to address the occupation of some parts of the state by herders, bandits and other terrorists, but is eager to use them to settle a score with his political opponents.

I am also worried that since governor Alia took over, he has not given account of what his administration is doing with resources of Benue State. The monthly allocations to the state have increased during his time more than all previous governors, yet no one knows what he is using the money for. All that we hear is that he is paying salaries. How much of the allocations does the salary bill take?

Governor Alia promised to clear the backlog of salaries and pensions and he has got more than enough to do that, but we are yet to see any action in that direction. He is also quiet on internal revenue generation.

There are reports that governor Alia uses officials hours to go into long prayer sessions while governance suffers. Someone needs to remind the governor that he was not elected to run a parish or a prayer service. If he wanted to continue as a priest, why did he dump priesthood to join politics?

As the Representative for Gwer/Gwer West Arc. Asema Achado rightly advised him, prayer is good and necessary, but there should be time for prayer and time for governance.

Awunah writes from Durumi, Abuja