Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on 30th June 2017, issued a quit notice to herdsmen opposed to the recently-passed Anti-Open Grazing Law in the state saying: “When the deadline expires, it’s either you ranch your livestock peacefully and continue to do business here in Benue State or you quit”.
However, a Fulani socio-cultural association, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, had described the law as a recipe for anarchy. They averred that the Land Grazing Law of 1960 still subsists, while ominously reminding Governor Ortom of the “mistake” supposedly made by a former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, who was said to have “tried futilely for eight years to subdue” Fulani people.
The Governor retorted: “We challenge anyone with a superior formula that will provide peace for Benue to come out with it. We have heard and seen the threat by Miyetti Allah to Benue State and they are even going beyond grazing to talk about struggle for natural resources in Benue State; that they were here before we came.
“We want to send this message to them that we will not accept that kind of threat.
The Security Council had to be convened and we have decided that the Federal Government and the Acting President must know about this threat and action should be taken by security agencies to arrest and prosecute these people for these inciting statements”.
We note with grave concern that herdsmen also rose against a similar law recently passed by the Taraba State House of Assembly. They protested at the Assembly grounds, fully armed. There already are reports of attacks against Fulani settlements on the Mambilla Plateau by a yet-to-be-ascertained militia. The situation in Benue seems a perfect setting for a major armed confrontation between the herdsmen and indigenous communities over a constitutionally-enacted law meant to confine animal husbandry businesses to ranches to stop the blood-letting between herdsmen and farmers.
We call on those in the cattle business to drop the confrontational approach and conduct their businesses peacefully and according to the laws of any state they find themselves in. If they have any issues against any law, they should pursue them peacefully through dialogue, working together with their host communities and state governments. Where necessary, they should approach the courts for redress.
Making territorial claims at this stage of our history is a recipe for conflict, which is already ravaging many parts of the country. The Federal Government must step in and tackle this issue without bias, fear or favour.
War does not yield good dividends, there is no substitute for peaceful and lawful approach to socio-economic problems.
The war drums in Benue must be silenced before they develop into a chorus across the country.