New Telegraph

Ortom, M’Belt Forum ask FG to suspend census over insecurity

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) yesterday asked the National Population Census (NPC) to suspend next month’s Housing and Population Census due to the worsening security situation in the country. They also urged the Federal Government to ensure the return of all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes before the census is conducted.

Ortom, who made the call for the suspension of the census when he received the MBF President, Bitrus Pogu at Government House, said the close to two million Benue indigenes in the various IDP camps would not be counted because they need to be in their localities before they can participate in the exercise. He asked the Federal Government to provide adequate security for the IDPs and other Nigerians before conducting the census.

T he governor said: “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 to give all of them the opportunity to be counted in the homes of birth. Because I understand from the NPC that those to be counted must be counted in their localities.” Ortom added that there is so much injustice, bias and tribalism going on in the country that both the leaders and the people are expected to correct it before the country can move forward.

He decried the sustained attacks on Benue communities by herdsmen over the years in which more than 6,000 people have died and property destroyed. “In Benue State alone we have lost over 6,000 people. In the last few days alone, over 131 persons were killed and we are still counting because others are in the hospital,” he said. Pogu urged the Federal Government to suspend the census because he believed that the exercise “was coming with a hidden agenda”. The MBF frowned on the killings in the Middle Belt by herdsmen without being arrested. Pogu said the Middle Belt will not cede their land to anyone. He said: “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.” The group said for everyone to have a sense of belonging, the Federal Government should move beyond mere “issuance of condolences messages” whenever people are killed and decisively deal with the killers and their sponsors.

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