The presidency has reacted to claims by Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue, that the federal government allegedly asked security operatives to go after criminal herders.

Ortom, in an interview published by ICIR on Monday, accused the federal government of working against efforts to tackle insecurity in the country.

The Benue governor said if not for the respect he has for the Nigerian constitution, he would have carried arms to fight bandits.

Responding to Ortom’s comment, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson, in a statement on Wednesday, challenged the governor to mention the names of the security operatives in question.

Shehu said Ortom’s claims in the interview are “patently untrue”, adding that the Benue governor is promoting division with his comments.

“In a recent interview, the governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom, claimed that high ranking security personnel had informed him personally that President Buhari had ordered security forces not to move against the Fulani herdsmen responsible for recent violence,” Shehu said.

“These ridiculous claims are patently untrue. If he is as brave as he claims to be, let him name names. Let him name the military personnel who told him this story or forever shut up.

“It is disappointing that Ortom, who in the same interview describes himself as a child of God who believes in being lawful and respects the Nigerian constitution, felt the need to spread such a divisive lie.

“In a period of heightened insecurity, our politicians should be working to bring us closer together, not risking further violence by dishonestly seeking to further divide us along ethnic or religious lines.

“Fortunately, the cheap, dog whistle politics behind Ortom’s falsehood are plain for all to see. He is not the first opportunistic politician who has attempted to sow discord amongst his country’s people in the run-up to an election; sadly, he will not be the last.”

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