Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has said, contrary to insinuations, the state is not interested in chasing away Fulani herdsmen, as the nomads are allowed to live among their hosts without fear.
Speaking in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Information Technology and Communication, Tahav Agerzua, yesterday, the governor advised the general public to discountenance “reports in several national dailies and other media platforms credited to officials of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore claiming that Fulani herdsmen were being driven from Benue state,” emphasising that, “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
It can be recalled that a law to prohibit open grazing and establishment of ranches came into effect in the state on Ist November, 2017.
According to the statement, “Before and after the law came into effect, the state government had neither issued any quit notice to any individual or ethnic group nor driven such out of the state.
Ortom had signed the bill into law on 22nd May, 2017 but allowed a grace period of close to six months to give time to herdsmen and owners of livestock to acquire land for ranches, but instead of encouraging herdsmen to commence the process, officials of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore threatened through media statements to mobilise its members to resist the law and invade the state to wreck havoc on farming communities.
The association also went to court to challenge the legitimacy of the law and the matter is still in court, as the state government is insisting that law itself was enacted to put an end to incessant clashes between herders and farmers, which have resulted in massive destruction of lives and property across the state over the years.
The statement explained that “the objective of the law is to bring lasting peace between the two groups in accordance with internationally accepted best practices” and should therefore be supported by all in order to pave the way for lasting peace and development in the state.
Included as penalties for breakers of the anti-open grazing law is payment of N100, 000 for cattle rustling, imprisonment for three years or both.
n case the rustler maims, injures or kills, the penalty which is much higher includes culpable homicide punishable under the provisions of the penal court.