Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has raised the alarm over an alleged plan by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to launch fresh attacks on Benue State, calling on the security agencies to protect the people by immediately arresting the leaders of the group.
This came as the governor gave the final warning to livestock rearers and cattle rustlers, who were not ready to abide by the anti-open grazing law to leave the state on or before November 1, 2017, saying he would do everything legitimate to enforce the new law.
The governor stated this while speaking with journalists in Abuja on Thursday.
The Miyeitti Allah Kautal Hore recently dragged the Benue State government to court over the enactment of the anti-open grazing law.
The association had, a few days after Ortom assented to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment bill, threatened to challenge the law in court, claiming that the Fulanis were the first settlers of Benue valley and as such original owners of the state.
The suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja with no FHC/ABJ/CS/527/2017 was instituted by Trustees of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Socio-Cultural Association, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodojo and Mr. Salleh Alhassan, through their counsel, Mr. Aliyu Ahmed and associates.
Saying the national leadership of the association had given the state government its words to get its members to abide by the new law, he dismissed the Bodojo group as splinter gang that was bent on causing a crisis in the state.
Ortom said: “Let me bring to the attention of Nigerians the activities of the Miyeitti Allah Kautal Hore, a splinter group of Miyeitti Allah; they are notorious for impunity. They took us to court as a government; but that in itself is legitimate, but going to issue a threat as if they are stakeholders in Benue State, is what we detest.
“We are not going to succumb to any threat; I have called on the security agencies to arrest Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodojo and Engineer Salleh Alhassan, the self-acclaimed chairman and secretary of the splinter group; because what we have done is legitimate; we are protected by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria to make good laws for the protection of our state as far as the laws do not contradict the Constitution of Nigeria, and that is what we have done.
“We went through the due process in passing the law; the state house of assembly went through a public hearing, passed the bill and before sending it to me for assent. The citizens of Benue state support this law. It is our state and stakeholders are happy with it. For those who are ready for ranching, they can leave the state before November 1 and go to other states or countries where there is land for open grazing.’’
Warning that the Miyetti Allah had no monopoly of violence, the governor said that he only called on security agencies to arrest its leaders because the people of Benue State are law-abiding citizens.
He said that the security agencies in the state had discovered that a splinter group of the association had been responsible for the killing of people and other deadly and criminal activities in the state in the past few years, adding that he would no longer accept them in the state.
He said: “I was legitimately elected by my people to protect lives and properties in the state and under my watch, nobody will intimidate my people. And I have the support of the people, I will stand with them.’’
“I have reported the group to the President and I am waiting for them to be arrested and be dealt with according to the law of the land. We are law-abiding people, and nobody should be treated as a sacred cow. We cannot continue with the impunity of these criminals. Enough is enough.
“Nobody can stop us from doing what is legitimate. Those who want to do open grazing should leave Benue State; we only have land for farming and ranching. I have discussed with Mr. President and he did not object to it; he is a law abiding president; he is in support of the law.
“We gathered they are assembling in the neighbouring states and Cameroon to attack us, but we are not threatened because we know the security agencies will protect us.’’
Explaining the date given to cattle rustlers to comply with ranching, which will expire on November 1, 2017, the governor said that there would be no more open grazing as from the deadline given, adding that the state had done enough publicity and advocacy to enlighten the people about the new law.
He added: “We have involved all livestock breeders, including the cattle owners. We invited the national leadership of the Miyeitti Allah, the umbrella group of Fulani cattle rustlers; interfaced with them and gave them adequate information about the law.
“The new law is to protect both the farmers and the livestock breeders. That is where we are. For instance, Section 20 of the Act talks about those who will be involved in cattle rustling and the penalty for those who will break the law, it is very stiff.
“It is also designed to protect the cattle breeders and livestock owners generally; nobody is going to molest them or kill their cattle or steal their animals. On the other hands, Section 19 of the Act talks about protecting our farmers. There is also provision for the leasing of land for grazing and many people can apply and the government will approve the land for them, which is renewable every year. For us, it is a win, win for everybody, the law protects both the farmers and the livestock bridlers.’’
He said that the leadership of Miyeitti Allah accepted the government’s explanation and promised to impress it on its members to obey the law, adding that on the part of the state government, it would add human face to the implementation of the law and make sure it supports everybody that is interested in doing livestock business in the state.
“We will provide the enabling environment. This will also provide an opportunity for those interested in the business to do decent businesses; their children will be living in decent homes; they will go to schools. And they will live a better life,” Ortom further stated.
Calling on Nigerians to support the enforcement of the new law, he said that it is the only way the government could restore peace for farmers, cattle bridlers and everybody in the state.
He added that between 2012 and 2016, Benue State lost more than N95 billion worth of goods and properties in the crisis.