By Abraham Uwuasom
In an attempt to bring to an end, the needless crisis, killing and maiming that has continue to ravage the people of Benue for long as a result of the activities of herdsmen and crops farmers, the Benue State Governor, Sam Ortom has officially declared opened the prohibition of open grazing in the state.
This is contained in a State broadcast by the Governor marking the commencement of the implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing Law and Establishment of Ranches, today, 1st November, 2017.
According to the Governor, “There is no more open grazing in Benue State. All those who are interested in doing livestock business must ranch their livestock; otherwise the law will catch up with them. Let me appeal to all citizens to be law abiding”.
Ortom therefore called on those who are interested in livestock business to ranch their livestock.
He said, “Today, first November, 2017, marks the beginning of the prohibition of open grazing in Benue State. I call on all citizens residing in Benue State who are into cattle or livestock business to abide by this law.”
“No one should take laws into his hands, adding that the Benue State government has put in place adequate machinery to enforce the law.
“Where there are trespasses or infringements of the law, report to the appropriate quarters and it will be duly handled by the team put in place. I want to appeal to all of us to be law abiding.” He warned.
According to him, “The law seeks to protect farmers and herdsmen alike. The law seeks to ensure peace for all citizens. The law is not targeted at any individual or group of people or any ethnic group.”
“All of us must team together and work to ensure the success of this law. We have suffered hardship, we have suffered pains, we have suffered sorrow. We have lost so much from both sides and we cannot allow this to continue as leaders with the responsibility of providing security for lives and property.” The Governor said.
He enjoins all citizens to join hands with Government to ensure that everybody adopts method of ranching which he said is the global best practice for all those in livestock business all over the world.
Yesterday, Tuesday, 30th of October, Benue people staged ‘A One Million Solidarity March’ in support of the commencement of implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law that that starts to be in operation today, 1st November, 2017.
The law is a creation of Governor Ortom in reaction to the desire of the people to finding a permanent solution to perennial clashes between herders and farmers in the State.
The solidarity protest was carried out by Strict Movement Against Ravages in Tiv-Land, SMART-LAND, and Benue Youth Forum with representation from Mzough U Tiv, Idoma and Igege sociocultural groups as well as those of Igbo, Yuruba amongs others.
The groups while registering their support for the Governor’s stance on the implementation of the anti-open grazing law drew the attention of security agencies to “security threats wearing the toga of terrorism.”
They all called on the security agents to arrest and prosecute the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for threatening to invade Benue communities.
National Coordinator of SMART-LAND, Gbakighir Sevendaga, and convener of the Benue Youth Forum, Mr Daniel Nyikwagh, said if ranching is not to be tolerated by herdsmen, they should be allocated Sambisa forest as a reserve or herdsmen and all livestock breeders in the state must ranch their animals.
Mr. Nyikwagh particularly commended the Governor for his political will in assenting to the law in spite of “threats from these bloodsucking herdsmen under the guise of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore”.
At the march, Governor Samuel Ortom was represented by his deputy, Engr. Benson Abouno who reiterated that “there is no going back on the law.”
The solidarity march was a confirmation that the law was not its own creation but a fulfilment of the desires and the aspirations of the people to having a permanent solution to herdsmen and crop farmers’ crisis in the state.
He reiterated the commitment of his administration to ensuring the security of lives and property of the people, noting that the law was not targeted at any one person or group of persons.
Earlier at the State Assembly, Speaker of the House, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange, said the law-making body as the representatives of the people would continue to enact laws that would serve the interest of their constituents.
While thanking the people for the show of solidarity for the law, Speaker Ikyange said the Assembly was not intimidated by threats from Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, adding that there would be no going back on its implementation.
According to Ikyange, should the need arise, the House would take the lead to protest attempts by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to impede the implementation of the law, saying it was enacted in line with the mandate conferred on the Assembly by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the President of the cattle breeders’ Association, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, described the Anti-Open Grazing Law as “wicked, obnoxious and repressive.”
According to the report “the association vowed to mobilize herdsmen in the country to resist the law as it was a deliberate attempt to enslave their members.”