Leaders from Benue State led by Governor Samuel Ortom yesterday declared that their state had no land for the establishment and designation as cattle colony in the state as being advocated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Benue leaders made the declaration at a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on the recent violent attacks on communities in Benue State by suspected Fulani gunmen.
Governor Ortom, while addressing State House correspondents after he led the delegation of Benue stakeholders to a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said that even though the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, had explained to him the meaning of cattle colony and its relevance in addressing security challenges occasioned by farmers/herdsmen conflicts, cattle ranching remained the only way out of the crisis.
“The Minister of Agriculture happens to be a son of the soil; there are many options that are put on the table. Like I told you the last time I came here, “I do not understand what colonies mean. Today, I was privileged to meet the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, and he explained to me that a colony is many ranches put in one place, restricted in one place. For us in Benue State, we have no 10,000 hectares to be allowed for that kind of a thing to take place.
“Other states may have the land but we in Benue State don’t have and that was what led us to enacting this law.”
Speaking further, the governor said, “We are not sending anyone away from Benue State. The herdsmen, whether you are Igbo, Fulani, Hausa, Idoma or Tiv, you are free. Just follow the law, obtain permit and then do the ranch and you are protected,” he said.
The governor insisted on the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for the alleged inciting statement which caused the massacre of innocent residents of Guma and Logo local governments of Benue State.
“When people violate the law and they are not sanctioned it becomes a problem. These people should be arrested and investigated because there is enough evidence against them.”
The governor said Benue State was part of President Buhari’s constituency; therefore the residents also deserved government’s protection.
“We don’t have powers over the security of this country, except the Federal Government. It is expected that the Federal Government will support us to enforce our laws and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Governor Ortom also stated that “even before the anti-grazing law, killings were taking place more than what we are witnessing today” said the state government had found a solution in the new law to protect all.
The governor then denied allegations that the state was arming militia groups, describing the development as a distraction from the main issues.
He said that as far back as 2015 when he took over as governor, he organized an amnesty programme which achieved the disarmament of over 800 youths.
Receiving the Benue State delegate comprising of political leaders, traditional rulers and elders of the state led by Governor Samuel Ortom at the Presidential Villa, President Buhari said all those involved in the conflict that culminated in loss of lives would not escape justice, including any illegally armed militia in the state.
The President commiserated with all the victims of the attacks, and the families who lost loved ones and properties, noting that the government would make efforts to ameliorate the situation of all the victims.
President Buhari said relevant agencies had been directed to start catering for the humanitarian needs.
“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.
“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation,’’ he said.
The President told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.
President Buhari said the Inspector General of Police had been directed to relocate to the state to provide security for lives and properties, urging all Benue indigenes to trust the security agencies and report all suspicious cases of movements in the state.
In his remarks, the Benue State Governor said the tension would be reduced with the Federal Government’s intervention to find a lasting solution to the herdsmen attacks.
“We will leave here to rebuild confidence in our people,’’ he said.
The Tor-Tiv, Prof. James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse, said his entire domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.
“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation,’’ he added.
Present at the meeting were Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, former Senate President, David Mark, former Benue State Governor, Sen. George Akume and Sen. Barnabas Gemade. Others include Sen. JK Waku, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Brig. Gen. John Atom Kpera (rtd), former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Terkimbir Kyambe, and other members of the National and State Assembly from the State.