The Benue State Government has called bluffs recent threats by Fulani herdsmen to mobilize herdsmen in the country to resist the grazing law recently put in place by the government.
The state government affirmed its firm position in a press release issued on Thursday, 1st June, signed by the Honorable Commissioner, Ministry of Information and Orientation, Mr. Lawrence Onoja Jr.
In the statement titled “Anti-Open Grazing Law Has Come To Stay”, Mr. Onoja lamented the threat by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a Fulani socio-cultural association, to mobilize all their members to resist the open grazing prohibition and establishment of ranches law in Benue State.
“The Miyetti Allah,” noted Onoja, “exposed their open disregard for constituted authority by vowing to mobilize herdsmen in the country to resist the law.
“These comments in our estimation are treasonable as they amount to threats to disobey the law and is therefore a recipe for anarchy and threats to the peaceful existence of not just Benue State but Nigeria in general.”
He drew awing attention to reports, particularly that which appeared on page 41 of the Nation Newspaper of 31st May, 2017, credited to the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.
In the said report, the National Secretary of the Association Engr. Saleh Alhassan, sought to justify the reprehensible, irresponsible and criminal destruction of lives and properties in Benue State on the grounds that the Fulani herdsmen are the original inhabitants of the Benue Valley.
He claimed that they are engaged in a lingering crisis with the current inhabitants in the state, particularly the Tiv, over Natural resources.
The President of the cattle breeders’ Association, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, had described the Anti-Open Grazing Law as “wicked, obnoxious and repressive.”
The Benue State Government, while condemning the statements of these leaders of the association, said their stand “amounts to open declaration of war on Benue State citizens.”
The Government called on the Security Agencies to arrest these leaders of the Association for prosecution for openly making inciting statements capable of breaching public peace and order.
Said Mr. Onoja: “Benue State and its people are under threat.
“We request the Federal Government to call Miyetti Allah and its leaders to order before they plunge the country into a conflagration which will be difficult to contain.
He also called on all Nigerians to stand up and condemn the threat of Miyetti Allah.
“To be sure, the threat by Miyetti Allah is not only for Benue but for all states that have or will have farmers and herdsmen crisis,” said the statement.
Onoja went further to recount the basis from which the law drew its strength, saying:
“The “Open Grazing Prohibition Establishment Law 2017” was enacted by the elected representatives of the people, the Benue State House of Assembly in exercise of her powers as provided for by section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“Part 2 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution reinforces the House of Assembly’s power by providing that “a House of Assembly may make Laws for that State with respect to industrial, commercial or agricultural development of the State.””
With regards to ownership of Benue Lands and the natural resources therein, he said that “the Preamble to the Land Use Act which is also a Constitutional provision “… Vests all Land comprised in the territory of each State (except land vested in the Federal government or its agencies) solely in the Governor of the State.”
Thus empowered, the governor “would hold such Land in trust for the people and would be responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals resident in the State and to organisations for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes while similar powers with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on Local Governments,” he noted.
The Benue State Anti-grazing Law, he stated, “is therefore Legal and valid.”
He, thereto, challenged Miyetti Allah “to bring any better or superior solution that would restore lasting peace between farmers and herdsmen to the table rather than issue threats that will compound the problem.”
He reminded the loss Benue State has suffered at the hands of those marauding band through the destruction of farms, ponds, settlements and property, including human and material loses due to those incessant crises over the years.
“The objectives of this law,” he said, “include preventing destruction of farms, ponds, settlements and property by open rearing and grazing of livestock as well as incessant clashes between nomadic livestock herders and farmers.”
He enjoined the general public to promptly report to the Government, Police and other security agencies in the state any suspicious movement, gathering of people, or suspicious activities of strangers, the.