… Says Anti-Open Grazing Law Enforcement Has Come to Stay
…Vows To Uncover Cabal Responsible For High Wage Bill
By Abraham Uwuasom
Following a call by the Cattle breeders association under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore kicking against anti-open grazing legislation enacted by the Benue State government, as the group argued that they were original inhabitants of Benue valley in the State, thus the lingering crisis was a struggle for the state’s natural resources.
The National Secretary, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Engr. Saleh Alhassan had said during a world press conference in Abuja that it was inappropriate to treat members of the association as outcasts, he added that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol allowed the Fulani community free movement into and across the country.
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday maintained that Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore was a splinter group of herdsmen-politicians out to destabilize the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Governor Ortom made this position known Tuesday on a Special edition of Issues of the Moment, Radio Benue current affairs phone-in-programme.
Responding to a question on the threats issued by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore over the implementation of the law, the Governor said nobody from outside the State can dictate to the government on the issue.
The Governor pointed out that the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is a splinter group from the main Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria and that its members are politicians out to destabilize the Buhari government.
Ortom said the law against open-grazing was the product of due legal process and that his assenting to it was his legitimate responsibility saying he would follow the counsel of his people who elected him.
He disclosed that already, he had reported the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to the President, the National Security Adviser and Security agencies to have them arrested and expressed hope that the desired response would be achieved.
“No amount of intimidation or threats can stop the Benue State Government from implementing the prohibition of Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law beginning from Wednesday next week,” he stated.
Reiterated his led government’s commitment to deliver on his promises to the good people of Benue State, Governor Ortom said, “All legal processes and logistics arrangements had been concluded for the enforcement of the law from the 1st of November. He said the Anti-Open Grazing law has come to stay in Benue and there is no going back. He promised.
The Governor further explained that the law did not seek to witch hunt herdsmen as misconstrued in some quarters but to regulate their activities, open up job opportunities for the youth through localization of industries to leverage on ranches that would be established as well as encourage dry season farming.
He added that the law was part of the commitment of his administration to its primary responsibility to secure lives and property, promote peaceful co-existence of diverse groups and create conducive environment for foreign investment to thrive in the state.
The Governor said his administration was working with relevant stakeholders including Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria whose National leadership visited the state and appreciated the provisions of the law and attested to its friendly nature as a panacea for incessant farmers-herdsmen clashes in the State.
Ortom said in view of the law, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture had approved the establishment of pilot ranches in the State while government was to make land available for ranches on lease basis in the three senatorial districts in the state during the implementation.
He said Benue State with a projected population of about eight million people, has no land for open grazing and that if appropriate measures were not taken on time efforts for dry season farming and diversification through agriculture would be a mirage.
He however vowed to uncover the cabal responsible for the unrealistic high wage bill of Benue State for punishment.
Governor said this while on the same Radio saying that there was no justification for the state’s high wage bill of N7.8 billion monthly when other state like Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba which share similar political features have monthly wage bills far lower.
He appealed to the people of the State to support his administration to scale down the wage bill saying already measures had been put in place to address the problem before the end of the year.
The Governor said in spite of current financial difficulties, his administration had honoured its agreement with the organized labour to pay two months salaries across the board assuring that the arrears of medical allowances for Polytechnics and Colleges of Education were also being worked out for payment.
He explained that the visit of the leadership of the organized labour in Benue State during the strike to interface with government was a blessing in disguise, stating that the meeting provided the union the platform to go through records, and appreciate the challenges of the State.
The Governor revealed that the next tranche of the London and Paris Refund would be used to offset the overdraft it secured from the bank to make up for the payment of two months salaries across board.
He assured the people that once the wage bill was brought down to a realistic level, and the current allocation from the Federation Account subsisted, salaries would then be paid as and when due while arrangements are being made to clear the arrears.
Governor Ortom commended the people of the State for their show of understanding and appealed to them to keep faith with his administration.
Also speaking, the Secretary to the State Government Professor Anthony Ijohor, SAN, described Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore’s claim to the original ownership of the Benue Valley as wild and not backed by any historical fact, adding that the Association could not twist history.
Professor Ijohor said the Prohibition of Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law is the peoples’ law having followed due process and elicited the overwhelming acceptance of the people of Benue.
He pointed out that since it is a Benue law, all residents within the State have no alternative to obeying it.
In his contribution, Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology and chairman State Economic Team, Professor Dennis Ityavyar said the law was a clear indication that the Governor was providing good governance for the economy to grow, assuring the people that it would stabilize and increase economic activities.
He therefore called on the people to rise in support of the government for the successful implementation of the law.