Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, interacted with journalists after a State Security Council meeting at the Peoples House today, assuring that his administration was determined to ensure the enforcement of the Anti-Open Grazing Law. Excerpts:
We convened this emergency council meeting to discuss specifically the threat from Miyetti Allah against Benue State Government and its people because of the Anti-Open Grazing Law we signed some days back. We assure the Benue people that as law abiding citizens and as a government that believes in the rule of law and has the mandate of protecting lives and property, we’re under authority to do what we did. We stand by this law. For us we say that this is the way forward for providing peace for herdsmen and farmers. Our people have been killed in the last few years, thousands of them were killed, massacred and their homes destroyed because of these clashes. We challenge anyone with a superior formula that will provide peace for Benue to come out with it. We have done everything under the sun to ensure that we maintain peace in this State. This Security Council has tried so much to ensure that there is peace. We do not want to take laws into our hands and that is why we painstakingly took time to bring this law into play. We have heard and seen the threat by Miyetti Allah over Benue State and they are even going beyond grazing by talking about their struggle for natural resources in Benue State; that they were here before we came. We want to send this message to them that we will not accept that kind of threat. The Security Council had to be convened and we’ve decided that the Federal Government and the Acting President of Nigeria must know about this threat and action should be taken by security agencies to arrest and prosecute these people for those inciting statements. It is not right, we are law abiding citizens and as much as possible we expect that everyone living in Benue State should be law abiding. The Bill we signed into law does not send the Fulanis away or any person grazing and rearing cattle and breeding cattle in Benue State. But we are saying that the land is no longer there for grazing and farming to go alongside so if you rear cattle in Benue State, you must ranch. Let me say again that we’re not just talking about cattle, we are talking about livestock, so pigs, goats and other animals are involved. If you want to rear them in Benue State you must ranch them. This bill gives protection to both herdsmen and farmers. If anyone has a superior decision or formula that can restore peace to our people let him bring it to the table.
Question: Do you have any plans to bring the farmers and herders together to discuss this law?
Answer: I’ve already told my Security Adviser to arrange a town hall meeting that the herdsmen can come; the farmers and other stakeholders can come so that copies of the law will be made available to them. That law is friendly and remains the best option. Globally, it is ranching that is being practiced in livestock farming so I don’t know why we should do a different thing here in Benue State or in Nigeria. We have no other solution to this than ranching. We stand by our law and we will keep to it and we’ll ensure that we enforce it. Let this message be clear. As Governor of Benue State, my people are behind me. This law went through the Benue State House of Assembly, it went through public hearing and the entire people accepted it, even herdsmen. Fulani men were invited and participated in making this law so I don’t know why somebody should just sit somewhere in Abuja criticizing it without knowing the details. I’ve asked them to secure copies of this law and they will see that the law is very friendly. It is meant to protect herdsmen, it’s meant to protect everybody in the State.