The Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, has pledged the support of the traditional rulers and the entire people of Benue to the Nigerian Army as its conducts Exercise Ayem Akpatuma – Cat Race in the state.
“We welcome the exercise. We believe it will help peace to return to Benue which has suffered series of attacks from herdsmen,” the traditional ruler said as he received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen Tukur Buratai on Monday.
He, however, said the people were apprehensive of the exercise, recalling the clashes between the army and Tiv people at Zakibiam in the past and called for adequate enlightenment on the exercise.
Ayatse said that the herdsmen attacks which affected Guma, Logo, Gwer West, Makurdi, Kwande, Katsina-Ala and Agatu Local Government Areas of the state had resulted in loss of lives, property and farmlands.
He noted that since the army deployed its personnel to conduct the exercise in the affected areas, the attacks had been brought under control.
The traditional ruler expressed concern that more herdsmen were moving into the seven local government areas.
He appealed to the security agencies to enforce the anti-grazing law which was duly passed by the State House of Assembly and ensure that the perpetrators of the attacks were arrested and prosecuted.
The traditional ruler, who said that he owns and rears animals, including cattle, said he had since ranched them in line with the law as nobody was above the law.
Earlier, Buratai informed the Tor Tiv that he was in the state to formally launch the exercise meant to train personnel to assist civil authorities to tackle internal security challenges.
He explained that Ayem Akpatuma was an exercise and not an operation, but vowed that anyone caught threatening the peace of the state would face the law.
The chief of army staff solicited the cooperation of the traditional rulers and people of the state in the conduct of the month-long exercise.
The army is to conduct the exercise in Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Taraba, Kogi and Niger States which had witnessed herdsmen/farmers clashes and other forms of criminality in recent times.