By James Shim & Godwin Edeh
Youths in Ugondo community of Makurdi Local Government Tuesday morning blocked the junction at Terwase Agbadu and George Akume Way with burning tyres, in protest to the perimeter fence being constructed by the Nigerian Airforce (NAF) in their locality.
The youths who were in large numbers were however, calmed by the immediate response of security operatives who were led by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Col Paul Hemba (Rtd).
Speaking to The Voice on the action of the youths, the Special Adviser said, “it is uncalled for. The youths have no reason to take laws into their hands by blocking roads and preventing smooth flow of traffic.
“The Police and other securities are here and have successfully dispersed them. It is commendable efforts as they did not use force. However, they are to remain here to continue monitoring the situation.”
“The true representatives of the people are not the ones on the streets. In any case, there was negotiation between the community and the Airforce. It went to advanced stage and Governor Samuel Ortom made efforts to ensure the Airforce conceded more land by his intervention.
“The negotiation was on but along the line, the community took the matter to court and the governor had to withdraw and there is no room for any negotiation since the matter is in court,” Col Hembah explained.
Also reacting, the Mue Ter Masev, Clement Kulugh said, “the youths have not taken the right action.”
He disclosed that the community and the Airforce have been meeting over the matter and that there is no administration that has taken efforts on the issue like the Ortom administration.
The Mue Ter explained: “Governor Ortom withdrew because of court litigations. He is joined in the suit and he is making efforts to defend himself.”
According to him, Governor Ortom has not taken part of the land as is being speculated.
The youths, led by Tersoo Shie took the representative of the Chairman, Makurdi Local Government, Francis Mbashinya round the perimeter fence, before agreeing to stop their action to pave the way for peaceful negotiation which they were assured would be immediate.
The youth leader, Tersoo Shie in an interview, however, said the community would not pull out of legal action instituted because the 350 hectares brandished to them could not make anything for the four communities involved in the matter.
He noted that the land is the only inheritance from which they eke their living.
According to him, it was sad that the Airforce who are not the host community of the land are now the ones who are showing them the demarcation of what their father’s left for them.
He said, instead of the Airforce carrying out social responsibility to them and providing employment to their sons and daughters, they were fencing their houses, farmlands and denying them access, as well as harassing them on their legitimate inheritance.
When contacted, the Command Public Relations Officer, Tactical Air Command, Nigeria Air Force Base, Makurdi, Wing Commander Christopher Erondu, said he is yet to receive any report or briefing from the Base Commander.
Speaking to The Voice in his office, Wing Commander Erondu promised to brief the press as soon as he received report on the matter.
He urged the protesters and the community to see the Nigeria Air force Base as partner in the development of the Benue project and a great assurance in terms of security of lives and property of good people of the state who are blessed with both human, capital and natural resources.
According to Wing Commander Erondu: “The youths must be discouraged from any action that will jeopardise the existing cordial relationship that has been established over the years.”