From: Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
As the implementation of the anti-open grazing law takes effect, in Benue, on Wednesday, a group known as Strict Movement Against Ravages in Tiv Land (SMART-LAND) has said that the Benue people would not give in to any form of intimidation from the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH).
The group which was also joined by the leadership of the Yourba community, Igbo Community, Idoma Nation and the Igede Nation, while staging a one million man peaceful walk within the state capital, on Tuesday, said it was not taking the alleged threat from MAKH for granted and therefore called for their immediate arrest and prosecution for treason.
Presenting his speech to Governor Samuel Ortom at the Government House and Speaker of the House, Terkimbi Ikyange at the Assembly Complex, National Coordinator of SMART-LAND, Gbakighir Sevendagas, stated that if open grazing or grazing reserves are a must for the Fulani herdsmen instead of ranching, Sambisa Forest and not Benue land should be made available to them for occupation.
“There is no spare land anywhere in Benue State to give to the cross border Fulani cattle herders as grazing reserves. Even if such were possible, it will compound Fulani aggression for more lands. Any idea of granting the Fulani herders grazing reserves outside their domicile do states of origin could be interpreted as a deceptive ploy to enhance Fulani imperialism which shall further generate negative inter-ethnic interactions.”
While lamenting that the invasion of Benue people’s homes and land by the herders in its magnitude have continued to deal devastating blows on the Benue inhabitants, Sevendagas described the action as genocidal and an act of terrorism.
“We therefore beseech the United Nations (UN), international communities, economic community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mr. President, Government of Nigeria, and security agencies to stop and descend o terrorists under the auspices of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore as herders bent on perpetrating criminal acts in Benue State.
In their separate remarks, leaders of the Igbo and Yoruba communities, Comrade Everest Iwu and Chief Kayode Odunuga pledged their support for the law and assured that they would continue to cooperate with the state government to ensure its full inmplementation.
Responding, Governor Samuel Ortom who was represented by his deputy, Engr. Benson Abounu who thanked everyone present for their show of solidarity for the government t of the state maintained that the march was a clear indication that the law was not sing an Ortom affair but one that had come about as a result of the yearnings of the Benue people irrespective of tribe, creed, religion or nationality.
Ortom who disclosed that he had heard on good authority that as from tomorrow, the MAKH would flood Benue with millions of cattle with the sole intention of rubbishing the implementation of the anti- open grazing law stated that the matter had already been reported to security agencies.
“The government is elected to protect lives and property of the people. Benue has not done anything wrong by enacting the law which is put in place to protect all classes of people in the state. This law has been put in place to protect all Nigerians resident in Benue including cattle rearers because a clause in the law also addressed cattle rustling. The law also protects other human activities such as farming of crops.
“There is no way farming can coexist with cattle rearing on the same piece of land. That is why the state came to a conclusion that since agriculture has become the main stay of the economy, herding should be separated from farming of crop. We love every nationality residing in Benue including the fulanis but this government will not sit and fold its hand and watch people come into the state to perpetrate impunity on our ancestrally guaranteed land.
Also speaking, Speaker of the House, Terkimbi Ikyange, while commending the organizers of the match for their support and promised that the state assembly would be at the fore front of any protest to ensure the full implementation of the law if the need arose.