The Benue Valley Professionals Network (BVPN), a nonpartisan network of professionals from the Benue Valley, held its maiden colloquium on 21 April, 2018 at Radisson Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria to deliberate on the mass killings, destruction, displacement and unlawful seizure of ancestral lands by terrorists occurring on an almost daily basis in the Benue Valley region. Participants cut across indigenous communities of the Benue Valley, across Nigeria. In total, the colloquium was attended by 70 professionals from Lagos, Abeokuta, Asaba, Benin, Ibadan, Kaduna, Makurdi and Port Harcourt, and passed the following resolutions as signed by two of the conveners, Ier Johnathan and Vitalis Ortese.
1) We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the persistent, ongoing killings and genocide in the Benue Valley by terrorists. These killings constitute acts of terrorism, and are a gross violation of fundamental human rights. Despite repeated occurrences of these terrorist acts, the Federal Government has failed to put forth a well-coordinated and thorough investigation to unravel the mystery surrounding these gruesome, barbaric crimes against humanity carried out by these savages against helpless Nigerian citizens. We call on the Federal Government and all affected State Governments to thoroughly investigate, identify, arrest and prosecute these murderous savages and their funders and bring them to justice.
2) We fear that the minority communities in Nigeria, most especially in the Benue Valley, now face a threat of extinction.
3) We note that the ongoing, barbaric mass murders of persons, including defenseless women and children, in the Benue Valley region is inexcusable, an affront to our collective humanity and a failure of the Nigerian state to live up to its primary responsibility of ensuring the security and welfare of the citizens.
4) We observe that specific ethnic groups in the country are targets of the terrorist group and unequivocally restate that we, the Peoples of the Benue Valley, have a stake in Nigeria and will not stay silent in the face of these crimes against humanity and killings of our people by any group under whatever guise.
5) We believe that these heinous and inexcusable killings are being carried out with the aim of grabbing the lush Benue valley lands and resources for some interests.
6) We are dismayed at the increasing number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Benue Valley as a result of these terror attacks and call on all national, international agencies and well-meaning individuals and entities to support the tens of thousands who have been displaced in the region and left without any meaningful compensation by the Federal Government.
7) We are concerned that by appointing heads of almost all security agencies from one section of the country, the Federal Government has grossly violated the Nigerian constitution (as amended) and must speedily correct this anomaly so as to give every part of the country a sense of belonging.
8) We call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to live up to its primary, constitutional duty and responsibility to protect the lives and properties of persons, irrespective of ethnic, religious or political party affiliation.
9) We call on our representatives at the National Assembly to live up to their constitutional mandate, strongly protest the killings of our people in our ancestral lands and ensure the protection of our constitutional and other rights as enshrined in the constitution; Universal Declaration of Human Rights; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and all relevant covenants by which Nigeria is bound.
10) We note that though state governors are chief security officers of the affected areas, in reality they are constrained by constitutional provisions and are therefore unable to effectively control the security apparatus within their jurisdiction.
11) We express our strong support for restructuring and the need for a new Peoples Constitution to include fiscal federalism and local government autonomy.
12) We call on all peace-loving Nigerians at home and abroad and the International Community at large to prevail on the Federal Government of Nigeria to stop the ethnic cleansing going on in the Benue Valley.
13) We call on the state and federal governments to immediately compensate all those who have been maimed, lost loved ones, and lost property and livelihoods as a result of these terrorist acts.
14) We observe the failure of leadership at all levels in the Benue Valley and Nigeria as a whole. We call on current leaders to re-order their priorities and deliver good governance, transparency, accountability and prudent management of human and natural resources.
15) We reiterate the need to assess future political leaders seeking office on the basis of their past performance and antecedents and call for stronger mechanisms with which these leaders could be held accountable.
16) We urge media practitioners to exercise the highest professional standards in their reportage of the killings and destruction in the Benue Valley. This will better inform the populace and help facilitate an end to these terrorist acts.
17) We charge Civil Society Organisations to engage the local, state, federal government, traditional institutions as well as relevant security agencies and stakeholders on how they can work together to keep their communities safe.
18) We call on all our Peoples in the Benue Valley to shun divisive tendencies, close ranks and work together to develop the region’s economy and cultural links, and agree that stronger unity and strategic partnerships among the ethnic minority groups in the Benue Valley would engender unity, peace and progress in the region and in Nigeria as a whole.
19) We take pride in the history and rich cultural heritage of the peoples of the Benue Valley and are resolved to preserve, protect and promote same as a means of fostering unity and building a strong sense of identity for posterity.
20) We call on all Professionals from the Benue Valley to maintain constant vigilance at all times and actively participate in the governance and accountability process to ensure that public officials adhere to due process, best governance practices and the rule of law.
21) We call for sustainable leadership and succession plans in the Benue Valley and Nigeria as a whole that will mentor and develop new leaders who are ready to tackle the national and global challenges we face in the 21st century.
22) We note that even though ethnic minority groups in the Benue Valley and the rest of Nigeria constitute a large segment of the country’s population, our interests continue to be subsumed under those of the major ethnic groups. We therefore call for better representation of ethnic minority interests in the national agenda, dialogue and on matters of strategic national importance.
23) We note that our traditional values have been eroded and our youth are not properly mentored and call for value orientation and mentoring of our youth to build character and values.
24) We deplore the abhorrent practices of many unconscionable politicians in our communities who lead our youth astray by hiring them as thugs and social media bullies and note that they pay such youth stipends to engage in destructive and criminal activities. We advise such politicians to repent and support our youth in more productive endeavours.
25) We call on young people in the Benue Valley to use social media constructively and positively to build their communities, values and endeavours.
26) We observe that industries in the Benue Valley are in a state of decline and call for an industrialization and ideas revolution in the Benue Valley.
27) There is an urgent need to initiate and implement sound economic policies in the Benue Valley and the need to also halt capital flight from our region in order to build a more sustainable and vibrant economy
28) The Conveners of our Assembly recognize and have given Commendation Awards to the following for their contributions and support to the People of the Benue Valley in these trying times: Late Pastor Edward Dooga, Rev. Father Atta, Rev. Father Solomon Ukeyima Dr. Sunday Ochoche; Dr. Helen Teghtegh; Barrister Terence Vembe; Mrs. Alu Azege; Mr. Daniel Kwen and TuFace Foundation.
We urge them and others to continue in their good works.