BY Adekunle Aliyu and Peter Duru
MAKURDI – GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom has raised the alarm over alleged plot by suspected herdsmen in the West African sub-region to invade Benue State to prevent the implementation of the anti-open grazing law this came as the Ekiti State High Court has sentenced a herdsman, Ali Haruna, to two years imprisonment for destroying crops worth N1.5 million in the farm.
The Benue Stat governor said yesterday at the funeral service for Mama Atese Rebecca Terkpe at the NKST Church, Taraku in Gwer local government area of the state: “I received security reports that Fulani herdsmen from across the West African sub-region are planning to invade Benue to stop the implementation of the anti-gazing law in the state.
“I call on the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to organize prayers and fasting for divine intervention on the matter because we need peace in our state.”
Ortom described the anti-open grazing law as the best solution to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders in the state and urged the people of Benue to support its implementation.
He maintained that the new law had come to stay, assuring that his government would ensure its implementation at the end of the window period allowed herders in the state to build ranches.
He appealed to the people to shun communal violence over land and resort to dialogue in the resolution of disputes, adding that lives and property lost during such crisis could not be replaced.
However the An Ekiti State High Court has sentenced a herdsman, Ali Haruna, to two years imprisonment for destroying crops worth N1.5 million in the farm.
The state Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, held that the prosecution had proved the case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt setting aside the appeal filed against the judgment of the Chief Magistrate’s Court.
Haruna had earlier been sentenced to two years jail by an Ado-Ekiti Chief Magistrate’s Court presided over by Mr Idowu Ayenimo on a two-count charge of malicious damage preferred against him.
Ayenimo sentenced Haruna to two years imprisonment on count one and two years’ imprisonment for count two which are to run concurrently.
The herdsman took his cows to the farm owned by one Abdullahi Yaho destroying crops therein. The prosecution called five witnesses during the course of the trial at the lower court.
Dissatisfied with the verdict of the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Haruna through his counsel, Mr Chris Omokhafe, filed an appeal urging the High Court to set aside the conviction on grounds that it must be
consistent and that the appellant was not found with any destructive weapon.
Omokhafe and prosecution counsel, Gbemiga Adaramola, frontloaded all
records and adopted their written addresses.
Affirming the judgment of the Chief Magistrate’s Court, JusticeDaramola said: “There is no iota of doubt at all, the prosecution proved the charge against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
“I see no reason whatsoever to disturb the findings of the trial court; this appeal is totally devoid of merit and is hereby dismissed accordingly.”