THE POSITION OF THE BENUE STATE PEOPLE ON THE LAW TO PROHIBIT OPEN REARING AND GRAZING OF LIVESTOCK AND PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF RANCHES AND LIVESTOCK ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL AND OTHER MATTERS CONNECTED THEREWITH 2017.
We the people of Benue State hereby represented by the leadership of Mdzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omi Ny’Igede, the 3 main socio-cultural organisation of the Tiv, Idoma and Igede have called this press conference to clearly state our further support for the law to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches and livestock administration and control and other matters connected therewith 2017.
The law itself is the outcome of the yearnings of the people of Benue State who desire peace and want a lasting solution to the incessant herdsmen/farmer clashes which had often led to the pillage of our communities, the massacre of our men, women and children as well as the destruction of our farms, homes, raping of our women and children and excessive unrest.
The masterminds of the law are the people and not the government. The people include all Benue State residents/citizens, the Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, Yoruba, Etulo, other Nigerians and foreigners.
We have here a timeline of the Fulani herdsmen attacks on Benue State from 2013 to 2016. In the period in focus the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore sponsored herdsmen have carried about forty major and deadly attacks in fourteen of the twenty three local government area of Benue State. We paid dearly for the atrocities of the herdsmen with over two thousand lives of our men, women and children. Till date over 500 persons are missing while over half a million people were displaced and the future of almost a million youths are truncated. Over nine thousand households were affected in the various attacks carried out by the herdsmen while properties worth 95 billion naira were destroyed in 2014 alone.
The sad outcome is that not a single person was arrested or prosecuted for these dastardly acts.
The law, we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that, it has overwhelming benefits to both farmers and herdsmen.
Some of the major advantages include the following;
- It will curtail the needless killings and taking of human lives.
- It will prevent destruction of crop farms, community ponds, settlements and property.
- It will protect environment from degradation and pollution caused by open rearing and over grazing of livestock.
- It will optimize the use of land resources in the face of overstretched land and increasing population.
- It will enhance the production of high quality and healthy livestock for local and international markets.
- Section 20 (1-3) of the law provides severe penalties for cattle rustling which the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani socio-cultural organisation has described as the most destabilizing to the existence of its members nationwide.
- Ranching will provide enormous economic advance like increase in milk and beef yield. There will also be a value chain advantage for people producing and selling livestock feeds and related products.
- It is apparent that the population of Nigeria is increasing while the livestock population appears to be stagnant as a result of open grazing. Ranching will drastically correct the shortfall in livestock production to meet the fact that in 30 years time Nigeria will have the fourth largest population in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore in their recent publication alleged that the government and people of Benue state want to send Fulanis out of Benue state. This is far from the truth, because the law is not targeted at any particular person, group, tribe or even the Fulanis but a win-win situation for both farmers and livestock breeders and rearers. It is not meant for cattle alone but covers all types of livestock.
As I am speaking, there are many non-indigenes of Benue state who own properties and live peacefully amongst our people.
In another instance, others are alleging that the Benue state House of Assembly has no authority to enact the law.
We wish to state that section 100 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 empowers the state Houses of Assembly to make laws for good governance of the various states and the country.
The enactment of the law followed due parliamentary process. All were publicly invited through the media and other means for public hearing. All views were taken into consideration before the passage of the law.
Gentlemen of the press, what worries us most is that the members of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore have deliberately refused and failed to apply for land or take advantage of the ranches earmarked for use. At the time of making this press conference, nobody has come up with evidence of seeking any such facilities.
In spite of this unfathomed accusation, we have become aware that another group, the Miyetti Allah Breeders Association is in full support of the law. In the Daily Trust newspaper of Wednesday November 8th, 2017 on page 10 it was reported that “100 herders indicate interest to set up ranches”. This means that those threatening us are really not cattle breeders and rearers but mercenaries.
In another development, the attention of the people of Benue State hereby represented by the Mdzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omi ny’Igede, the principal umbrella socio-cultural organizations of the Tiv, Idoma and Igede, has been drawn to reports of an alleged armed Fulani militia build up and convergence at the Nigeria -Cameroon border and at the Agatu border with Nasarawa State to the north west of Benue State.
It was reliably gathered that leadership of the herdsmen have held clandestine meetings in Nigeria and abroad to concretize their plans to visit mayhem and genocide on the people of Benue State. The plot is said to be multi-directional and aimed to simultaneously invade Benue State from every angle so that there would be no escape for our defenceless people.
Our three main socio-cultural organizations and indeed the entire people of Benue State are deeply troubled because the herdsmen already tagged as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world by Global Terrorist index as published in the Vanguard Newspaper of 1st June 2017 have the capacity, capability and means to carry out the threat.
Knowing that the favourite pastime of these herdsmen is unprovoked bloodletting, unjustifiable destruction of other peoples livelihoods and systemic denigration of the ecosystem, we cannot take such a report lightly and especially in consideration of the recent call by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani socio-cultural organization for its members to mobilize and resist the anti-open grazing and establishment of ranches law enacted by the Benue State House of Assembly and assented to by the State Governor on the 2nd May 2017.
The leadership of the Miyetti Allah in a press conference held in Abuja on the 23rd of October 2017 as reported by the Leadership Newspaper of 24th October 2017 confirmed these threats by its directive to its members to commence their convergence on Benue land in order to resist the anti open grazing law. We are reliably informed that already there is a mass gathering of cattle and militia men at Kungwa in Awe Local Government area of Nasarawa State. They have also demonstrated their intention to resist the law by suing the Benue State Government as well as the National Assembly and other agencies or offices of the Federal and State governments at an Abuja Federal High Court in suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/527/2017.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we have invited you here to inform you that the law establishing Benue State anti-open grazing law is done with the best of intentions. We believe that ranching is the best approach to stop the incessant loss of lives and properties. We challenge anybody with a better method for rearering of livestock which will not cause damage to us to introduce it, as we believe ranching is the global best practice.
We are appealing that we are also Nigerian citizens and in accordance with the constitution of Nigeria, we deserve the Federal Government protection.
This law should not be an excuse for further unwarranted attack on our people.
Long Live Benue State
Love Live Nigeria
Engr. Chief Edward Ujege, FNSE, MFR
Mdzough U Tiv
Bar. Amali Adoya Amali
Idoma National Forum.
Chief Ode Enyi