Tribal leaders in Benue State, under the aegis of the Mdzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omi Ny’Igede, have revealed why herdsmen have continued to kill their people.
The tribal groups, at an emergency meeting held in Makurdi and chaired by the President General of Mdzough U Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege, said they were worried over a communiqué jointly issued by several groups of pastoralists who met in Kaduna.
The pastoralists meeting was said to have had in attendance the representatives of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani Socio- cultural Association; Tabital Pulaaku Nigeria Chapter; Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN); Mobgal Fulbe Development Association; Gam Allah Fulani Development Association; Fulani Title Holders Association; Pastoral Resolve (PARE), and Jonde Jam Fulani Youth Association.
According to their communiqué, “We (pastoralists) totally reject the repressive and oppressive ‘Anti-open Grazing Law’ of Benue State as it is fundamentally going against our culture, economic interest and constitutional rights and we will deploy all the necessary legal means as enshrined in our constitution to challenge it.”
But Ugeje, who spoke on behalf of the tribal leaders, condemned the position of the pastoralists and their leaders.
He said: “We wish to point out that the leaders of Miyetti Allah cannot and should not contiinue to use the enactment of the Anti-open Grazing Law in Benue as an excuse to justify the killing of defenceless farmers and other members of the society in Benue.
“The killings by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria are not restricted to Benue where anti-open grazing law has been enacted. The herdsmen killings cut across Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa, Kogi, Plateau, Kaduna, Edo, Ondo, Enugu and other states where the law does not exist.
“It must also be noted that the killings in Benue, particularly, started as far back as 2010 before the anti-open grazing law was enacted Benue State House of Assembly late last year.
“We maintain that it is sheer mischief for the leaders of Miyetti Allah to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to call Governor Samuel Ortom to order, because the anti-open grazing law was not made by Ortom.
“The grazing law was a product of the people of Benuethrough their democratically elected representatives as a last resort in their futile efforts to find peace and ensure security of lives and property in the state.
“It is unfortunate that the leaders of Myetti Allah have deliberately chosen to use Ortom as a scapegoat in their ethnic cleansing agenda in Benue. For, as his public service record would show, Ortom is an extremely peaceful and God-fearing governor who is only doing the will of his people.
“That is, why up till now, a good number of herders, including Fulani, Hausa and other groups with good intentions, still reside peacefully in Benue”, Ujege stated.
“The Benue State law for the prohibition of anti-open grazing and establishment of ranches has, indeed, been justified by the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which endorsed ranching and directed that there should be no more open grazing of cattle in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Taraba states.
“The Buhari administration’s failure to declare the killer Fulani herdsmen as terrorists and prosecute the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani Socio-Cultural Association that has allegedly incited genocide and ethnic cleansing of Benue people, particularly the Tiv race, has given us cause for concern.
“This is because of the fact that they had invited all herdsmen from around West and Central Africa to converge on Benue State and vowed to use all means available to visit mayhem on Benue people.
“This open threat, we believe, has led to the killing of 73 persons in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue on January 2, 2018 and the subsequent murder of two Catholic priests and 17 worshipers at Mbalom parish in Gwer East local government area of the state last month.”
“Let it be known that the killings are still on-going, at an average of two persons per day, although most of these killings are not being reported.
“We categorically state that the position of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani Association, as contained in their communiqué after an emergency meeting in Kaduna, clearly constitutes the height of lawlessness, impunity and terrorism, which must not be condoned by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The same Constitution of Nigeria they are quoting also provides that every state in the country has the right to enact laws for the good governance of her people. Miyetti Allah has no right whatsoever to threaten the implementation of the anti-open grazing and provision of ranches law in Benue.
“We must not forget nor shy away from expressing our fears about the impression being created, latent or apparent, that the Miyetti Allah has become the mouth piece of the Federal Government.
“How else do we explain the body language of the government through statements by its highly placed officials including the Chief of Army Staff, Inspector-General of Police, Minister of Defence, and even, President Muhammadu Buhari himself, in the face of the herdsmen killings in Benue?
“We and indeed, other concerned Nigerians, are yet to come to terms with the Inspector-General’s false and misleading assertion that the killings in Benue were as a result of communal clashes.
“What about the declaration, by the Defence Minister, that the anti-open grazing law in Benue was the cause of the Fulani killings? Why would the Chief of Army Staff advice Governor Ortom to review the anti-open grazing law to make for harmonious living by the various groups in the state?
“Then President Buhari told the world during his recent visit to America that those responsible for the killings in the Benue and other parts of the Middle Belt were Libyans who were armed by the late Gadhafi?
“We also wish to renew our demand for the arrest and prosecution of the leadership of the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Fulani Socio-Cultural Association, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejor, the Secretary, Engr Saleh Alhassan and Garus Gololo, for threatening to resist the implementation of the anti-open grazing law in the state.
“It is only when that is done and the people are able to go back to their farms in order to avert a looming crisis in the state and our children are able to return to school, that we will score the operation high and also justify their presence in the state,” Ujege said.