By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom of Benue State yesterday rejected the Federal Government proposal of establishing colonies for cattle herders, insisting that the only option was establishment of ranches as it was globally done.
Governor Ortom who stated this after closed-door meeting that lasted about two hours with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, further insisted that the leadership of the
Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, should be arrested and prosecuted for the alleged genocide.
He said that he has been briefing President Buhari on the activities of the herdsmen right from the time they started their onslaught on the innocent people, adding that the militia who he said had vehemently opposed the anti open grazing law in the state operate from Tonga, in Awe local government area of Nassarawa State.
The Governor said as a result of the sophistication of weapons carried by the herdsmen, two Mobil policemen drafted to maintain peace were overwhelmed by fire power of the militia and slaughtered like chicken on Monday.
He said, “I had earlier briefed Mr. President when this incident took place on the 1st of January. After staying back on the ground to do the needful to ensure that we restored normalcy I said it was important for me to come personally and brief him and that has been done.
“Already, because of the communications we have been having when this incidents started, actions have been taken as directed by him. The movement of the DIG, (Deputy Inspector General) of Police, the movement of the IG (Inspector General) now to relocate to Benue State to ensure that this challenge is surmounted was at the instance of Mr. President.
“Of course additional personnel of DSS (Department of State Services) and Police have been deployed and even the Army. We have additional personnel on ground now. We have adequately and fully given them the logistics support to ensure that our people are protected.
“I had to brief him, he is also doing further investigation to know the next line of action. I believe that my request that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who has earlier threatened and I accused them directly, since June last year I have been writing to the leadership of security agencies, that these people are a threat to our collective interest and they must be dealt with. They must be arrested and prosecuted because we cannot allow impunity to continue to thrive.
“And of course threat and no action has resulted in this killing and I think that Mr. President will also do the needful to ensure something is done.”
On the allegations that he hired mercenaries from Republic of Ghana to fight herdsmen, he said: “I am not aware of this and I don’t even know about that one. I am hearing it for the first time. If someone has done that it must be this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, that have done it.”
Also commenting on the allegations that he was blocked from seeing Mr. President, he said, “I have never accused anyone of blocking me from seeing Mr. President. I am seeing Mr. President. I told him when this incident occurred I spoke to Mr. President on phone and followed it up. I know what it entails being a President, even as governor most times I am not with my phone, people cannot access me the way it used to be talk less of a president.
“I didn’t say that and I have not said it. The truth is that I have access to Mr. President anytime I want, I speak to him on phone and I see him personally. I requested to speak to him on phone that day because I couldn’t come to Abuja and he gave me the opportunity and today I am here and I have seen him.”
Also fielding question on suggestion that full blown military operations be set up in Benue like other places, he said, “Anything that can stop the killings of my people I will go for it, I support it. Any policy or any directive, anything that will help stop the killing of these innocent people who are not armed because this can not continue.
“We know that the continuity of this will create greater challenges. I don’t want it to continue. We are struggling with economic issues, we are struggling with political issues and we are struggling with several other issues in this country, security issues and all that, Benue State should not be part of this there is no need for it.
“The law on prohibition of Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranching was made out of the necessity to ensure that we have peace for herdsmen and farmers and that is what we have done. The law seeks to protect all and as I talk to you, except this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who are instigating people to fight and to kill us, there are Fulani men in Benue State as I talk to you doing their business.”
The Governor who reacted to the allegation by the Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN Chairman, Benue State chapter, Garos Gololo, that the killings were in retaliation for the theft of 1,000 cows by some people in the state, said, “You know that man is a liar. Gololo is a liar, he is a wanted man in Benue State, we don’t even know where he is.
“He stays somewhere and makes allegations. The other time he said 1,000 cattle drone and the herdsman decided to commit suicide by jumping to the River, he has not come out to justify what he said.”
On the Federal Government’s idea on setting up colonies to solve the problem, he said, “I am waiting to be briefed about what colonies means, I don’t understand it and until I understand it…but like I keep saying, for us the way forward is ranching and uptill this time, I am talking to you, the way forward is ranching because is global best practice.
“And it is just practice in other parts of the world, on African soil in Swaziland, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique almost all African countries that rear cattle, they ranch, so why can’t we do the same thing here. For the colony thing I don’t know what colony is.”
On how many ranches his administration has created, he said, “Is not for me to create ranches, I know that as a farmer I have one in my farm and they are several other people who are free. The permits are available for people who want to ranch their cattle to access land and begin to ranch.
“So it is free for everybody and that is the right way to go. And since we started the implementation there has been relative peace amongst farmers and herdsmen, they were doing well until this militia coming from this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, came and attacked us.
“And they are known, we know where they are. As I talk to you they are in Tongua in Awe local government (Nassarawa), that is where these people are camped and coming to attack people.
Herdsmen slaughtered two Mobil Policemen
“And it is taking a different dimension. Just yesterday (Monday) in Logo local government, Mobile policemen that were deployed to Logo to keep vigil to protect the people and the land, these militia came, exchange fire with them, caught two of them and slaughtered them like goats, mobile policemen.
“They shot another one, machete him and left him in the pool of his blood but luckily he did not die. We have taken him to the hospital, we are treating him, the other one that was declared missing was found today (yesterday).
So when it gets to the level of militia killing security men who are armed and are trained to protect lives and property is it not taking a dangerous dimension? Who is now safe?”