Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has expressed concerns over the proposed National Population Census, calling on the Federal Government to suspend the exercise until all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are returned to their ancestral homes.
He made this known while receiving a delegation from the Middle Belt Forum, led by its President, Dr. Bitrus Pogu at Government House Makurdi. The Governor emphasized that he smells a hidden agenda in the exercise if IDPs are not counted in their localities.
According to Governor Ortom, over two million indigenes of Benue State are in IDP camps and would not be counted because they need to be in their localities before participating in the exercise. He added that until the IDPs are returned to their ancestral homes and adequate security is provided, the proposed census should be suspended.
It is important to note that the National Population Commission requires that those to be counted must be counted in their localities. Governor Ortom lamented that there is so much injustice, bias, and tribalism going on in the country that both leaders and people are expected to correct before the country can move forward.
The Governor also decried the sustained attacks on Benue communities by herdsmen over the years, in which more than six thousand people have died, and property worth billions of naira destroyed, with little help from the Federal Government. He urged the Federal Government to restore security and ensure all IDPs go back to their ancestral lands to give them the opportunity to be counted in the homes of their birth.
Dr. Bitrus Pogu, the President of the Middle Belt Forum, also corroborated with Governor Ortom, urging the Federal Government to suspend the proposed national population census. He believed that the exercise “was coming with a hidden agenda.” Dr. Pogu also frowned at the level at which Fulani herdsmen have been killing people of the Middle Belt in connivance with other Fulani socio-cultural groups.
Dr. Pogu stated that 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. He added that no portion of their land would be ceded to anyone.
In conclusion, it is imperative that the Federal Government ensures the safety and security of all IDPs before carrying out the census exercise. The need for a fair and accurate census cannot be overemphasized, and it is essential that all Nigerians are counted to plan adequately for the future.
Keywords: Governor Ortom, National Population Census, Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, ancestral homes, Middle Belt Forum, Fulani herdsmen, tribalism, injustice, bias, census exercise, Federal Government, accurate census.