Members of the House of Representatives from Benue State recently appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to support the implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in order to end incessant clashes between framers and herdsmen. PHILIP NYAM reviews the content of the appeal
No Nigerian is unaware of the activities of armed herdsmen across the country in the last few years. At least, thousands of lives have been lost, with countless others displaced and property worth billions of naira destroyed in different locations.
No doubt, Benue State remains one of the worst hit over activities of these herdsmen, who normally attack in the dead of the night and disappear into thin air. In the last three years, Benue residents have been traumatized by these herdsmen necessitating the state House of Assembly to enact a bill prohibiting open grazing. The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Samuel Ortom in May, became operational from November 1.
However, since the state government commenced implementation of the law, some groups, particularly the Miyetti Allah (the umbrella body of cattle rearers) has been kicking and expressing its dismay with Governor Ortom for daring to assent to the bill.
Before the commencement of implementation of the law, the governor has raised the alarm over an alleged plot by suspected herdsmen in the West African sub-region to invade Benue State to stop the implementation of the law.
Investigations reveal that between 2013 and 2017, the Fulani herdsmen had attacked Benue State for at least 36 times killing almost 2,000 people. According to reports, out of the 23 local government areas in the state, the herdsmen have invaded 14.
It was against the backdrop of the threats from some herdsmen to frustrate the implementation of the anti-grazing law that members of the House of Representatives from Benue State last Friday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order security agencies to enforce the implementation of the law in the state.
The lawmakers, who made the call at a press conference in Abuja, also admonished the Miyetti Allah to act within the confines of law and desist from issuing threats and making inflammatory statements capable of provoking crisis in the state.
Spokesman of the Benue Reps Caucus, Hon. John Dyegh (Gboko/Tarka federal constituency) noted that the people of Benue State must be protected by the Federal Government and should not be reduced to second class citizens.
Dyegh appealed to President Buhari to support the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law recently signed by Governor Orton which took effect on November 1. He explained that the well-publicised legislation was not targeted at any person or group of persons in the state; rather it is intended to bring lasting peace on the issue of farmers/herdsmen clashes.
The lawmaker drew the attention of the Federal Government to threats by Myetti Allah and the unlawful activities of herdsmen, who still openly graze their cattle in Agatu and Apa local council areas of the state. He disclosed that the people are still living with the sordid memories of the massacre in virtually every nook and cranny of the state.
His words: “This is to sound a note of warning to those who have vowed to violate the law and cause crisis in the state. It is also to draw the attention of the Federal Government and make a passionate appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to grant full support to the government of Benue State by giving a standing order to all security agencies to ensure maximum implementation of this wonderful piece of legislation.
“The Federal Government must therefore live up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property and support the full implementation of this law, so that the largely agrarian people of Benue can resume their farming activities and sleep with their two eyes closed.
“You are not unaware of the carnage and massive destruction visited on the peace-loving people of Benue by heartless terrorists operating under the cover of Fulani herdsmen for some years now. While this lasted, economic activities in the state were almost grounded as people abandoned their farms and businesses due to the ravaging activities of AK-47 bearing herdsmen, who constantly invaded their communities, destroyed farms, property, maimed and killed indiscriminately.
“The people of the state lived in constant fear of being attacked thereby forcing surviving victims of these dastard acts to abandon their homes. Our people are still living with the sordid memories of the massacre in virtually every nook and cranny of the state, particularly in Buruku, Guma, Tarka, Logo, Agatu, Gwer West and Gwer East etc. thousands of lives and property worth billions of naira have been lost to these inhuman actions of these so called Fulani herdsmen.
Dyegh commended the courage and heroic leadership of Governor Orton for signing the anti- grazing bill into law despite obvious threats and pressure mounted on him against it by some interested parties. He also commended the Benue State House of Assembly for being focused and resolute in passing the bill, describing the state legislators are true representatives of the people.
Also speaking, Hon. Dickson Tarkighir representing Makurdi/Guma federal constituency said the peoples experience in the hands of the herdsmen was traumatisng as virtually every part of his constituency was heavily battered. He revealed that one of the reasons why the people voted for Governor Ortom was because he promised to combat the menace of herdsmen.
Ortom, according to him, on assumption of power, “started work and today peace is gradually coming back to our constituencies across board.” He added that the law has attributes of all good laws as it is not discriminatory.
Speaking in the same vein, Hon. Benjamin Wayo, representing Kwande/Ushongo federal constituency, said his constituency was sacked from their ancestral homes by the herdsmen invasion.
He pointed out that “during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration the Zamfara State governor, Sani Yerima, made a law to prohibit liquor and prostitution and nothing happened. We’ve made a law to protect our peace loving people, the action of Miyetti Allah condemning this, smirks of a conspiracy that government is supporting them. But, we do know that the President is a man of justice and he would provide the necessary support needed for the law.”
Similarly, the member representative of Agatu/Ador federal constituency, Hon. Adamu Entonu said: “Invasion of herdsmen has no coloration whether you are in Peoples Democratic Party or All Progressives Congress, it affects all. And to be realistic, this government does not have the political will to find a lasting solution to this problem and till date the call to establish Mobile Police units at the flash points in the state has been largely ignored.”
The presidency is yet to respond to the call by the lawmakers, but considering the urgency of the situation, stakeholders believe that the Federal Government will support the state government in the implementation of the anti- open grazing law to end the carnage in the state.