He said the group also tried to link the Benue State Livestock Guards with the killings, claiming that the pastoralists were bombed on their way from Benue to Nasarawa after they had retrieved their cattle.
“I consider these allegations and blackmail targeted at my person and the Government of Benue State as part of a grand conspiracy by enemies of the state to eliminate me. Since 2017 when we enacted the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, I have escaped seven assassination attempts.
“Those behind the evil plots have not hidden their motive. They have made me an enemy for choosing to stand with my people and defending their rights to life and freedom. The recent utterances of some personalities such as Lamido Sanusi have revealed the true identities of those behind the sinister agenda to eliminate me. But my life is in the hands of God and only He can permit anything evil to come my way,” he added.
Ortom who said he has written a petition over to matter to be delivered to Mr President, stressed that he had no hand in the killings and that when he heard about the bomb attack in Doma in which pastoralists were killed, he visited his counterpart of Nasarawa State, Governor Abdullahi Sule and sympathised with him and his people over the loss of his son and victims of the bomb incident.
He maintained, “I must state categorically that the Benue State Government under my leadership has no hand in the Akwanaja incident. Linking me with the bomb attack in Doma, Nasarawa State is the most unfair thing anyone would do to me.
“How am I connected or responsible for what did not take place in my state? Akwanaja is in Doma local government area of Nasarawa State, so how do I account for what did not take place in my state? I am Chief Security Officer only in Benue State.”
The governor also absolved the Livestock Guards of the accusations just as he disclosed that they (Guards) have become target of attacks by armed men with many of them killed in cold blood despite legitimately implementing the grazing law.
He stressed that the law came into being as a result of incessant attacks on Benue people which predated his administration, dating back to 2009 until 2011 when the attacks assumed a dreadful dimension with widespread killings, injury and displacement of farmers from their ancestral homes.
“Benue State came under attack nearly 50 times before the law was enacted. My predecessor, Senator Gabriel Suswam, was nearly killed in 2014 at Uikpam on his way to Torkula village in Guma local government area to see the damage caused in the community.
“When I was voted as Governor in 2015, my people who are predominantly farmers requested for a policy that would not only end hostilities and attacks on them by nomadic herdsmen, but would also allow both parties to peacefully coexist.
“As a result, the State Executive Council sent a bill to the State House of Assembly and the “Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Bill” was passed by the House of Assembly on 4th May, 2017 after public hearings were held in the three Senatorial Districts of the state,” he further explained.
Ortom said the armed attacks on his people in the past couple of years had caused a devastating humanitarian crisis resulting in the killing of over 6,000 Benue people and displacement of about two million others, with many of them living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps as he stressed that despite the intimidation from certain quarters, his administration would not be cowed to repeal the law.