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 Benue Governor Ortom Calls for Suspension of Nigeria’s Planned Population Census Until IDPs Go Back to Their Homes

“It looks like the proposed census is coming with an agenda,” he said.

Samuel Ortom

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has asked the federal government to suspend the plan to conduct the 2023 national population and housing census until all internally displaced persons (IDPs) are returned to their ancestral homes.
Ortom, made the call on Thursday, when he received a delegation from the Middle Belt Forum led by its President, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, at Benue People’s House, Makurdi.
The 2023 population and housing census is billed to start on May 3rd, 2023. No fewer than 43 IDPs were recently killed in an attack on LGEA Primary School Mgban, in Nyiev Council Ward of Guma LGA of Benue State by suspected armed herders.
But the governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary,  
Nathaniel Ikyur, noted that close to two million indigenes of Benue State were in the IDP camps and would not be counted because they needed to be in their localities before they could participate in the exercise.
Ortom stated that what the federal government must do before carrying out the census was to ensure adequate security for the IDPs in Benue and elsewhere in the country to go back to their homes to be counted.
According to the Governor, “I want to say that the federal government should suspend the issue of 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 opportunities to be counted in the homes of birth. Because I understand from the National Population Commission that those to be counted must be counted in their localities.”
Ortom, lamented that presently, “there is so much injustice, bias and tribalism,” going on in the country and that both the leaders and the people were expected to correct it before the country could move forward.
He particularly decried the sustained attacks on Benue communities by herdsmen over the years in which more than six thousand people had died and property worth billions of naira destroyed with the federal government allegedly doing little to help.
“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,” Ortom stated.
Ortom, however maintained that despite the unprovoked attacks and other injustices meted on the people of the state, “Benue people will remain law abiding citizens because they believe in Nigeria and have worked for the unity of the country.”
Pogu, in his earlier remarks corroborated Ortom’s earlier statement and urged the federal government to suspend the proposed national population census because he believed that the exercise, “was coming with a hidden agenda.”
Pogu, also frowned at the level at which herdsmen had been killing people of the Middle Belt, openly claiming responsibility without being arrested.
He said what made the activities of the Fulani in the communities within the Middle Belt more frightening was that after killing and displacing the villagers, they came and renamed those villages.
Pogu maintained that the people of the Middle Belt “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.”
The President of Middle Belt Forum stated that for every one 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.

George Okoh in Makurdi and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

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