Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, tells JOHN CHARLES the anti-open grazing law protects law-abiding farmers and herders in the state
Governor Samuel Ortom recently raised the alarm that herdsmen were moving into the state with their cows. Has the state relaxed the law preventing open grazing?
The agenda to take over Benue State by the Fulani is still there. They have not given up. The governor’s alarm that herdsmen are planning to come back to Benue and unleash attacks on Benue people is real. However, l want to remind the Fulani herdsmen moving into Benue with their cattle that there is an existing law prohibiting open grazing in the state and anyone coming into the state should be ready to respect it.
The anti-open grazing and ranching establishment law does not stop cattle owners from bringing their cattle into the state but the law stipulates that such animals should not be transported into the state by foot anymore.
But Fulani herdsmen usually moved from the far North towards the Benue valley in dry season in search of grazing land. What problem do you have with that?
Yes, we know that the dry season calls for the influx of the herdsmen and their cows from the far North into the Benue valley. However, our worry is the fact that the herders find it difficult to know the differences between farmlands and open fields, which is why they usually have problems with the farmers who are indigenes of this place.
So, whether those herdsmen coming into the state now are from Mali or Niger, they should ask their members who are here in the state. There is a law on the ground and the law stipulates that whoever wants to ranch or rear livestock in Benue has to obtain permit. If you don’t have land in Benue, you have to contact a person who has land in Benue and seek his permission to own a ranch, through application. The application will be sent to the Ministry of Agriculture that will then transmit it to the governor for approval.
We are hoping that as they come into Benue, they will respect the law that is in place, which is the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranching Establishment Law. This law does not protect only the farmers; rather, it protects both the farmers and the herders. That is, if there is any case of cattle rustling, the culprit will be apprehended, tried and prosecuted; same way with herdsmen who embark on open grazing.
What do you think will improve the relationship between the Fulani and the farmers in the state?
l believe if the herders respect the law that was enacted by the Benue State House of Assembly and signed on May 22, 2017, by the governor, there would be no crisis and peace will reign.
Again, they must recognise the fact that Benue has the right, under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to make laws for the good governance of its people.
But the herdsmen are not happy with this anti-open grazing law. What are you doing about it?
It is regrettable the Fulani herdsmen have refused to recognise that Benue has the right under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to make laws that would be for the good of its people. I believe that when Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the Fulani Nationality Movement and other groups begin to recognise that the Benue State Government has that right, we will have peace. Let me make it abundantly clear here that our people have no problem with the Fulani. By the way, the law is not an anti-Fulani law. It is a law that prohibits open grazing by cows, goats, pigs, chicken and other animals. It simply said whatever animals you want to rear, you have to ranch them. We want each Fulani to see that the law is not anti-Fulani law but if a Fulani man violates the law, the law would take its course and if any Tiv man or an ldoma man violates the law, it would take the same course as done to herders.