The All Progressives Congress, APC, has reacted to the recent call by Minister of Defense, Mansur Dan-Ali for suspension of the anti-grazing law in the state.
Hon Agbo Samuel Terkula, Publicity Secretary APC, Benue State, in a statement issued on Thursday said the call by Dan-Ali was an indication that there was an ethnic cleansing agenda against the people of Benue.
He called on the minister to withdraw his statement.
His statement reads:
These are not the best of times for our dear Benue State especially as a result of sustained efforts by herdsmen to decimate the people of the Benue valley and takeover the land as evident in press conferences addressed firstly by the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and later by the forum of cattle breeders in Nigeria.
While our eyes are yet to dry from tears that keep flowing from them as a result of mass killing of our rural populations, we are again confronted with anti-democratic, tyrannical and anti-people’s comments by the Nigeria’s Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali as it borders laws regulating animal husbandry in the affected states in Nigeria.
Need by the Minister be reminded, since his utterances indicate that he is ignorant of trends in the state, it was the search for what will end skirmishes that began existing between crop farmers and animal rearers that the people of Benue State demanded for a law that would regulate animal husbandry. The product of this agitation is the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law (of Benue State of Nigeria) 2017. The law among other things provides for the protection of the interest of these two categories of farmers because of stiff penalties for cattle rustling and open grazing.
It is also pertinent to draw the attention of the Defence Minister to the fact that public hearings for the purpose of collecting opinions in order to come out with a people-oriented legislation were conducted in the three senatorial districts that comprised Benue State namely: Benue North East, Benue North West and Benue South before ending up at a Town Hall meeting in Makurdi, the State capital. The bill was then passed into law and enjoyed the assent of the Governor His Excellency Samuel Ortom.
While the process for enactment of the law was in progress, herdsmen preferred to stand aloof only to be start issuing threats after the passage of the bill into law and even indicated time to which they will strike. This they did as on 1stJanuary, 2018, while the people were still in the euphoria of the New Year Day, the herdsmen struck, leaving no fewer than 73 dead bodies in their trail. Since then, the killings have continued unabated.
We restrained ourselves from joining issues with the Defense Minister when he seemed to justify the New Year Day killings by alleging that they were as a result of the “grazing law” in Benue State and called for opening of grazing reserves and cattle routes. Today, he is in the news again, this time with dictatorial comments that a law that has been passed by a State House of Assembly be suspended.
He is said to have urged the President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the law and we ask: How? The law is not a decree; it is an act of parliament. A decree can be abolished; a law can only be repealed. Mansur Dan-Ali: Go to court! That is how it is done in a democracy or better still, go through the legislature that enacted the law for repeal; this is our candid advice.
But then, we ask, why is the Minister head bent on reactivation of cattle routes and grazing reserves with a skewed reasoning that had been the practice even before independence when the matter has been put to rest by the National Economic Council and the Northern Governors’ Forum? Is it not true that many policies of the Nigerian government have been changed with the passage of time? At Independence, we were practicing the parliamentary system of government. Is it not true that it has been changed to the presidential system? Only recently, Nigeria’s system of education has been changed from 6-3-3-4 to 9-3-4, the fourth time since independence. Why is it being so difficult to adopt the global best practice of ranching? In any case, ranching is not being imposed on states as states that are comfortable with open grazing are free to continue with the outdated practice of animal husbandry.
Let it be known that as a political party that is trusted with the destiny of the people of the state, we stand with and by them in shine and in rain; we are absolutely behind our Governor His Excellency Dr Samuel Ortom in his unwavering stance in giving the people he governs what they want. The people want a law prohibiting open grazing that is what they got because the State Assembly stood on the side of the people and that is where we belong.
Our Governor, we beseeched you to remain steadfast; remain courageous as you have been. Benue is behind you. APC Benue is behind you. And God, in whom you believe will not forsake you. This too we shall overcome.
Lest we forget, what does Abuja wants of Benue State? Initially, when a delegation from the state visited Mr president after the burial of the 73 victims of the New Year day attack, the president told them to come back and learn to live with their neighbours. It was not long when the same president was in London accusing Libyans of the crimes in Benue State.
Now we ask, by advising the president to suspend the law, is the Defence Minister implying we do that for the good of the Libyans? They are not Nigerians, therefore, how can we suspend a law that is meant for the safety of Nigerians because it affects nationals of other countries? We beg to differ with Mr. Defence Minister who is supposed to be at the forefront of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria but has descended so low to take sides with herdsmen who have vowed to resist the prohibition of open grazing law because a Mansur Dan-Ali is a defense minister.
Let it be known that we are in total agreement with the Senate’s directive that Mr. Mansur Dan-Ali retract his comments respecting Anti-Open Grazing Law. It is unthinkable that a cabinet member in a democracy would make such utterances. We also in total agreement with the Benue State House of Assembly following their vote of no confidence on the Minister of Defence and their call for his immediate sack.
He has been insincere, blatantly trying to rewrite the history of killings by herdsmen in Benue State and elsewhere in Nigeria. Plateau, Kaduna and Zamfara have witnessed atrocities from herdsmen that predates the current dispensation, likewise Benue State. Is there prohibition of open grazing law in operation in these states?
We are constrained to conclude that utterances of the Denfence Minister have emboldened the killer herdsmen to continue their quest to decimate communities, without limit to areas where their archaic practice of open grazing is prohibited. Hence, “grazing law” cannot be the reason for the continued onslaught as erroneously reasoned by Dan-Ali in his desperate bid to protect his cattle business. Less than 24 hours when he came public again, the herdsmen saw reason to continue with their dastard acts, killing no fewer than 10 persons in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State.
We urge the President and the National Security Council to disregard the advice of Mansur Dan-Ali by adhering to the Rule of Law and give marching orders to security agencies to curtail the killings of Nigerians and enforcement of laws of the country be they local government, state or federal laws. Otherwise, undermining the laws of Benue State implies undermining the laws of the federal Republic of Nigeria.
Conclusively, there is no going back because Prohibition of Open Grazing Law has come to stay in Benue State whether or not a Mansur Dan-Ali likes it.
Once again, we reiterate sincerely that we remain behind His Excellency Governor Samuel Ortom in his bid to meeting the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the state.