Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, appealed to the Federal Government to suspend the conduct of the 2023 National Population Census.
Recall that the federal government had scheduled the exercise to hold in May 2023.
Ortom, however, while playing host to a delegation from the Middle Belt Forum led by its President, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, at Government House in Makurdi today said many people of the state were in the IDP camps and would not be counted because they need to be in their localities before they can participate in the exercise.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain said before any census is conducted, the federal government must ensure adequate security for the IDPs in Benue and elsewhere in the country to go back to their homes to be counted.
“I want to say that the Federal Government should suspend the issue of the census because it looks like the proposed census is coming with an agenda. So, until they are able to restore security and all our IDPs go back to their ancestral lands give all of them opportunities to be counted in their homes of birth. Because I understand from the National Population Commission that those to be counted must be counted in their localities,” Daily Trust quoted Ortom saying.
Ortom alleged there was so much injustice, bias, and tribalism ongoing in the country, adding that both the leaders and the people were expected to correct it before Nigeria could move forward.
While decrying the sustained attacks on Benue communities by herdsmen over the years in which he said more than six thousand people have died and property worth billions of naira destroyed, Governor Ortom regretted that the apex government had done little to help.
He said: “In Benue State alone, we have lost over six thousand people. In the last few days alone, over 131 persons were killed and we are still counting because others are in the hospital.”
Despite the incessant unprovoked attacks and several losses of lives, the governor assured that the Benue people will remain law-abiding citizens, saying, “Our people believe in Nigeria and have worked for the unity of the country.”
Speaking earlier, the President of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, urged the federal government to suspend the proposed national population census because he believed that the exercise “was coming with a hidden agenda.”
He frowned at the level at which herdsmen have been killing people of the Middle Belt without being arrested.
Dr. Pogu said what had made the activities of the herdsmen in the communities within the Middle Belt more frightening was that after killing and displacing the villagers, “the Fulani came and renamed those villages.”
“We will not cede our land to anyone. No portion of our land will be ceded to anyone. It will not be allowed. That should not be allowed to happen. Our land is our heritage,” he said.