•Herdsmen are aggressors in Benue –Govt
By Moshood Adebayo and Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) has rejected branding its members as terrorists, just as it has tabled five demands that it hoped would douse tension as well as reduce conflict in some states.
First on the list of demands is the arrest and prosecution of those who killed their members in Mambila and Numan, in Taraba and Adamawa states, respectively.
The association also wants compensation paid to the victims of all crises, “to reduce their level of suffering, as well as set up a judicial commission of inquiry to look into all killings, so as to unravel the truth and the offenders.
“MACBAN also wants the Federal Government to establish a Ministry of Livestock Development, to attend to the multi-dimensional needs of the industry, as obtained in many countries.”
The association also advocated the enactment of a national law to cater to the peculiar needs of pastoralists, in particular, and the livestock sub-sector, in general. They said anti-grazing laws promulgated by some states have woefully failed to address contentious issues.
It was also a day MACBAN disclosed that, so far, the association has lost over 1,000 people and 2 million cows in the recent crises between its association and some state governments. In a statement signed by its National Secretary, Baba Usman Ngeljarma, MACBAN lamented the ‘’unfortunate crises which have degenerated into dangerously intolerable level of killings, maiming and unprecedented destruction of property in some states of the country.”
MACBAN alleged that its members have been main targets of offensives and also, deliberately being pointed at as the attackers at the same time. This horrible accusation, in both intent and purpose, is meant not only to smear the image of the herdsmen as a peace-loving community, but to, also, allow further criminal justification to carry out total ethnic cleansing on our members, as witnessed in different parts of the countr.’
“As the premier pastoralist body in the counter, we have remained in unimaginable pains on daily basis as we receive communication of gory details of attacks, maiming and destruction of our members across the country.”
Ngeljarma alleged that his members have suffered long years of exclusion as the most neglected community in the country, thereby depriving it of so many things.
“It is no longer hidden that to achieve these, some state governments are sponsoring ethnic militia against our people, recruiting and arming locals to kill our people and rustle their livestock as seen recently in Benue and Taraba states.
“We have lost over 1,000 people, including children, women and the aged and over 2 million cattle to this gang. We are more disturbed, today, as this state government hides under the self-created crises and blackmails the federal government into releasing to them security operatives to achieve their illegal and wicked agenda on our people…”
In a swift response, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Benue Governor, Terver Akase, debunked Miyetti Allah claims and insisted that the Fulani are the aggressors who threaten and make good their threats.
“The entire world knows who is the aggressor and who is the victim in the crisis perpetrated by herdsmen in Benue State over the years. Fulani herdsmen are the aggressors and Benue people the victims. The herdsmen make no pretence when they threaten and they follow their threats with violence killing hundreds of people and destroying property worth billions of naira, Akase said”
He recalled that just last week, Benue buried 73 indigenes who were murdered in their homes by herdsmen in some attacks in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state.
“Did the people kill themselves? No, Fulani herdsmen killed them. I expect the killers of those innocent Benue children, women and youths to allow the dead rest in peace instead of spitting on their graves as they are doing at the moment?
Also speaking, Special Adviser to the Governor on (Media and ICT), Tahav Agerzua, dispelled insinuations that the state government is arming militia against the herdsmen. He stressed that Miyetti Allah is only looking for justification of their recent invasion of the state.
“The Ortom administration does not sponsor and arm any militia against anyone. Rather, it did an amnesty program and disarmed many with illegal weapons. Miyetti Allah is looking for justification of the invasion of the state which they threatened at a press conference in Abuja on May 30 last year.” He further called for the arrest of the leaders of the group for sponsoring the mass murder of Benue people in their ancestral land.
“Their leaders must be arrested for sponsorship of mass murder in Benue and several other states.”