By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The tribal leaders of Benue state have faulted the recent call by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai for a review of the state’s grazing law to accommodate killer herdsmen warning that the call could further embolden the marauders to unleash more killings in states like Benue.
Speaking yesterday through their Chairman Chief Edward Ujege, the leaders under the aegis Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), Idoma National Forum and Omi-Ny’Igede who commended the Army Chief for his concern and dogged fight for a peaceful Nigeria however derided his counsel.
“He was quoted as saying that the laws should be reviewed in such a way that everyone is given a sense of belonging. By implication, General Buratai’s position is that even terrorists like ISIS, Boko Haram as well as other categories of militants should be given a sense of belonging in our country and Benue State in particular after being chased out of our communities.
“We fault his counsel because the duty of the Nigeria Army is to provide security for lives and property especially when such security cannot be guaranteed by the Police or other sister security agencies. In other words, the Army or military is the last resort as far as dealing with security challenges of this nature in the country is concerned.
“The truth of the matter is that the happenings in Benue State predate the enactment of the Benue State law to prohibit open grazing and establishment of ranches. Indeed, there are many other states across Nigeria where these murderous acts are presently occurring, for which no such laws have been enacted. These include Adamawa, Zamfara, Ondo, Kaduna, Plateau, Cross River, Enugu and Edo states.
“Such statements coming from a highly placed person like General Buratai, are capable of igniting nerves and may be an invitation/encouragement to the militants to act, whereby the statements made by General Theophilus Danjuma becomes weighty.
“It will therefore be wrong for General Buratai who is known for his professionalism and gallantry in dealing with such situations to delve into counseling state governments on reviewing their laws and policies when mercenaries alleged by the leadership in the country to be aliens are killing innocent Nigerians.
“Even if review of such laws and policies were to be considered as counseled by the Chief of Army Staff, that would have been suggested after the military had chased out the ‘Muamar Gaddafi trained militia’ herdsmen out of the states in question.
“Suggesting a review of such laws and policies to accommodate everyone means giving a backing to the aliens and other criminal militia herdsmen for their actions.
“It is really worrisome for another to describe a law that conforms to international best practices of rearing animals as obnoxious and draconian. If we are quick to copy democracy from developed climes like the United States of America, why are we hesitant and even resistant to copying a modernized way of animal husbandry which is even practiced in African countries like South Africa, Swaziland among others?
“We state unequivocally that the enactment and implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, fulfilled all due processes and is not in any way in conflict with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We want to put it on record that Sharia Law enacted in Zamfara pushed many out of business but they never took up arms. Rather, they relocated out of Zamfara to where they could do their legitimate business. Ours should not be an exception.
“The law is a creation of Benue people and even Governor Ortom has no powers to decide otherwise. The ranching law came as one of the many options to end farmers and herdsmen crisis in the state which had been on for decades and anybody ascribing it to the Governor’s personal or political interest is insulting our collective sensibilities and we must condemn that in its entirety.
While we appreciate the Northern Governors Forum, National Economic Council, NEC and all other Nigerians for accepting that ranching is the right way to go in the 21st century as championed by Governor Samuel Ortom, we also call on security agencies to help enforce provisions of the law for peace and stability in the Food Basket state and for robust agricultural activities to further give credence to Benue’s appellation as Food Basket of the Nation.