Thursday, 11 January 2018

Benue’s Grazing Law, Massacre And Sound Bites

Benue State’s Anti-open Grazing Law which came into effect on November 1, 2017 is meant to foster harmony and peaceful coexistence between the state’s farmers and Fulani pastoralists. It
has, however, achieved nothing, near this. With the latest massacre in the state by suspected pastoralists, the federal has, however, taken severe hit for not doing what the state governor and the people of his state consider the needful all this while. HEMBADOON ORSAR writes.

Governor Samuel Ortom in all of his  addresses following the threats from leaders of Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore  over the state’s Anti-open Grazing Law, has always appealed  to the federal government to collaborate with states of the federation to entrench cattle ranching as the lawfully recognised method of rearing livestock in the country in order to end the frequent crises between herdsmen and farmers but  the appeals have been to no avail.

Following the New Year Eve massacre which continued till New Year’s January 2,  Benue people from different quarters now fault President Buhari for not living up to his responsibility of protecting lives and properties of the people of state particularly when his attention was drawn to the persistent threat by the Miyetti Allah who vowed to resist the Anti-open Grazing Law in any way they can, even as they claim to own the Benue Valley.

In one of the herders’ threat, they described the enforcement of the law as a time bomb, and the  special assistant to the Benue State Governor on Herdsmen Matters, Alhaji Shehu Tambaya reacted by condemning the statement  and even called for the herders leaders arrest.

The Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore did not stop at a single threat, they held other press conferences in different parts of the country at different intervals and made known their intention to invade and cause mayhem in Benue as the state government commenced the implementation of the Anti-open Grazing Law on November 1, 2017. Saleh Alhassan its secretary said the law can only attract violence.

The comments from the herders as the Anti-open Grazing Law took off in Benue attracted reactions from socio cultural groups in the state  which repeated calls on the federal government to ensure the arrest of the leaders of their association to no avail.

The Benue socio cultural groups which spoke consist the Mzough u Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omi NY’ Igede through their spoke person Engr Edward Ujege who is the president of Mzough u Tiv. According to Ujege, the claim also by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore on November 8, 2017 that their species of cows were not good for ranching was untrue since they have not presented any empirical proof to show why and how their cows can’t be ranched.

“The ranching of cattle is in all weather, be it tropical or temperate in various parts of the world. Even President Muhammadu Buhari has a ranch for the same species of cattle in Daura, so we can categorically say that their cattle are very much suitable for ranching.”

Twenty-four hours after the implementation of the law, a herder Gambo Mohammed who was  arrested and arraigned  at the Makurdi Chief Magistrate Court, presided over by Isaac Ajim was remanded in prison custody, for violating Anti open grazing Law,  criminal conspiracy, causing grievous hurt, culpable homicide and illegal possession of firearms.

When the case was came up, the prosecutor, Imo Edward, an assistant superintendent of police told the court that on the 2nd November, 2017 at about 0730hrs, the DPO Logo Division received a distress call from the unit commander Police Mobile Force 13 Squadron, on special duty at Ayilamo that some Fulani herdsmen stormed Azege Village shot and killed a 40 year fisherman Ortse  Kwaghdoo   and also shot one Mr.  Akaa  Hingir who later died in the hospital.

According to him, during police investigation, one Mallam.  Gambo Ibrahim Mohammad was arrested and a locally made pistol was with three live ammunitions were recovered from him.

Over eight persons were  said to be arrested from November 1, 2017, when the implementation of the Benue Anti Open Grazing Law which came into effect.

Information from the Benue State police spokesman Moses Yamu revealed that out of the eight perons that were arrested five were herdsmen while three were farmers.

ASP Yamu told newsmen  that four of the herdsmen were arrested in Guma local government in an attempt to rape a married woman who raised the alarm, prompting her husband to rush to her rescue but was shot dead in the process by the herdsmen.

The three farmers were arrested in Orokam in Ogbadibo local government of the state for cattle rustling

The command has also arraigned a Fulani herdsman Umaru Easyam for alleged rape of a pregnant woman in Gwer-west local government of Benue state. Easyam who claimed to reside in Tse-Ikyer Mbakyoondo village in Gwer-west local government was the sixth herdsman that  has been arrested for violating the Anti-Open Grazing Law.

Following the killing of the over 50 persons in Logo and Guma local government areas of the state, which began on New Year Day and spilled over to the following day, Tuesday, January 2, massive protests by angry youths. The protesting youths blocked the popular Wurukum Roundabout, preventing vehicular movement along the route in protest to the killings by suspected herdsmen in six Benue communities.

Security agencies in the state had a hard time controlling the protest as the angry youths threw stones at any security personnel in sight even as the police respond with tear gas at the protesters.

The youths who numbered over 1000 also blocked the entry and exit points of Makurdi, the capital leaving hundreds of commuters  stranded for hours.

Speaking to newsmen,  national president Ihyerev Youth Association. Hon. Ben Titus Terna decried what he sees as the nonchalant attitude  of President Muhammadu Buhari over the mindless killings in the  state, saying that it was a grand conspiracy by the president against Benue people.

“The President has remained adamant. We are defenseless and have resorted to defend ourselves. We will continue to stage this protest for seven days.  We want the entire world and international community to come to our aid”

On hearing about the incident, Governor Samuel Ortom cut short the Security Council meeting and headed to the scene of the protest. All attempts by the Governor to calm the angry youths proved abortive as they went wild and threw stones and sachet water at the governor and his entourage.

But  in a swift response, the security men whisked the governor out of the riotous situation just as police men shot live bullets and tear gas into the air to disperse the crowd.

Addressing journalists at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Governor Samuel Ortom expressed concerned at the anger of the people but urged them to remain calm, even as he condemned the attack.

He assured them that government was proactive in securing of lives and property of the people, reiterating that there was no going back on the Anti-open Grazing  Law.

“If there is anyone with better alternative to the crises between farmers and herdsmen than ranching, the person should bring it out else there is no going back on this law, but I am appealing to the people not to engage in reprisal attack, I have  called for additional security personnel in the state, Let us remain law abiding,” Ortom said.

Governor Ortom restated his earlier call, on the president and the security agencies to arrest  the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautai Hore who have persistently vowed to thwart the Anti-open Grazing Law.

“They are sabotaging the law. The federal government should rise up to its responsibility of providing security for lives and property by arresting leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautai Hore. If they do not do this,  then they are telling us that we are not part of Nigeria.

The speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Mr Terkimbi Ikyange, blamed the massacre of Benue people by Fulani herdsmen on the inability of the federal government to take threats by the Cattle Breeders Association serious.

The speaker recalled that, when the National leadership of the Cattle breeders association under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, openly threatened to mobilise herdsmen across the country to oppose the implementation of the Anti-open Grazing Prohibition Law, the assembly in a unanimous resolution, called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police to effect their arrest. He lamented that in spite of the threats and subsequent reaction by the assembly and Benue State Government, no efforts were made by the presidency and security operatives to prevent them from carrying out their well planned holocaust against the defenseless people of the state.

He re-echoed the call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the national leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore as a way of halting the renewed violence against Benue communities.

In another development, Benue women protesters besieged the Benue State People House demanding President Buhari  to end the killings of local farmers in Benue communities by the suspected Fulani militia herdsmen.

The women who were wailing and carrying gory posters of women and children killed by herdsmen in the New Year attack on communities in Logo and Guma local government areas interrupted the meeting between the minister of Interior, Lt Gen Adulrahaman Dambazzau rtd( who came at the instance of President Buhari), Governor Ortom, serving senators in the state and other stakeholders.

The women expressed worry over the laxity of the federal government in ending the killing of innocent people by the herdsmen.

Leader of the Women Mrs. Rebecca Apezan said the problem between the herdsmen and famers in the state started since 2012 and questioned why it has been so difficult and taking so long for the federal government to deal with it.

“When we were voting  President Buhari we had in mind that Fulani herdsmen are his people and he knows the language he will speak with them and they will understand, but today the opposite is the case. What is our crime? Have we committed a crime voting for President Buhari? President Buhari has lived in Benue before and knows very well that the Tiv people are friendly why is he putting us to shame.

“We voted for the president massively but what have we gotten, is sitting on the fence when the herdsmen are killing our people.

How can we not cry? Look at how our children, husbands, wives and parents are being slaughtered like animals,’” she lamented.

Mrs. Josephine Haba, president of the Nigeria Non-governmental Organisation  Network NINGONET, lamented the humanitarian situation caused by the invasions in the state. She called on the United Nations, federal government, agencies and individuals to intervene and come to the aide of the victims.

Samuel Ortom urged the women to be calm saying that he has already reported the incident and has started receiving positive responses. He again called for immediate arrest of leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, insisting that they were behind the attack having threatened before that they would mobilise their people and resist the Anti-open Grazing Law.

“But as we have seen the minister we know that the president himself is here, what Fulani people have done to us is worse than what Boko Haram has done in the north, because the 250 Chibok girls were not killed but were taken to Sambisa Forest and were not killed but in our case, our people are killed and slaughtered like goats by the herdsmen.

Since this people are worse than Boko Haram the President should declared them as terrorists, treat them as such and handle them with every seriousness.”

 Regarding the New Year massacre Benue State Police command has said that already another eight herdsmen, comprising six in Guma and two in Logo has been arrested.

The police public relations  in a statement  said the attacks were recorded in Tomater village in Sengev council ward, Akor village in Nzorov council ward and Bakin Kwata village in Umenger council ward of Guma local government area where a total of 17 persons including seven members of Benue State Livestock Guards were killed,  their vehicle burnt and an uncertain number of persons injured in separate attacks between December 31, 2017 and January 2, 2018. The police further disclosed that  Agba-Uko near Azege village and Tse-Aga village of Logo local government area experienced the same fate where one person was killed, one  motorcycle was burnt and four persons injured.

Although the PPRO disclosed that the situation has been brought under control and investigation into the matter in progress our correspondent observed as at Thursday that more corpses were being brought to the state’s University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, while many are said to be missing.

As more corpses were still arriving Makurdi on Thursday, January 4 Lt Gen Adulrahaman Dambazzau rtd, who was in Benue at the instance of the president to commiserate with the people of the state described the Fulani herdsmen as criminals. This is as President Buhari described the massacre as “reprehensible.”

Governor Ortom  said “I keep repeating myself, if the FG or Miyetti Allah has an alternative that is better than the Ant-opening grazing law let the person bring it out else, for us in the state there is no going back on this law, no amount of intimidation can make us reverse to status quo, ranching is a global practice that is practice in all parts of the world and is the only solution to the farmer/ herder crises.


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