By Peter Duru – Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom on Tuesday stated that killing or assassinating him would not stop the people of Benue state from strictly enforcing the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in the state.
He also disclosed that his government had been under immense pressure to amend or rescind the law noting that it was beyond him to do that because the law was completely the product of the Benue people.
The Governor made this known shortly after inspecting the ongoing renovation work at the Benue Government House, newly constructed 9.6kms Apir-Tse Poor road and electricity project, construction and furnishing of classrooms and ongoing work on the new Benue Internal Revenue Service buildings all in Makurdi.
The Governor who reacted to recent media reports that the state had decided to give out its land to herdsmen said “we have not done any policy somersault in any form as regards prohibition of open grazing in Benue state, and we have not shifted grounds.
“Right from when I signed the open grazing prohibition law which provided for ranching in 2017, I did not say that I was sending Fulanis, Hausas, Igbos, Yorubas or anyone away from Benue state.
“I said everybody was free to do legitimate business in the state. The law is a win-win for everyone including Fulani herders, farmers, and anyone doing legitimate business.
“They are free to come to Benue state, there is land and I have maintained this and I have not shifted grounds. That was what my Education Commissioner reiterated few days ago. He did not say anything contrary to our stand.
“I want to reiterate that anyone who wants to sojourn in Benue state and do business is free to do that provided you respect the provisions of our law. That is our position.
“We have not stopped any ethnic group from doing business in Benue state. Nigeria is our country and there are Benue people who are in other states doing legitimate businesses.
“We have been under pressure to amend or rescind the law and I said no, we will not do that because it is 100 percent a Benue people’s law. We have no apology for what we did.
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“Whether I’m killed or not, I still remain committed to the prohibition of open grazing in Benue state, that is what the people want. And it is only the Benue people that can reverse the law not even me.
“So the issue of reversing the law is beyond Samuel Ortom and the question does not arise. That is why I will continue to call on President Buhari to rescind his decision to insist that open grazing must continue in Nigeria because it will only bring chaos, anarchy and lawlessness.
“Open grazing is outdated, there is no need for it. That is our position whether you are Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Tiv, Yoruba or whoever, if you want to do ranching we have land for you. Come and apply, we will give you the land on lease, that is what our law says.
“We are ready for ranching, we have no problem with Fulani people, we have been living together for a long time. But we are against the foreign herdsmen who come to take away our land and kill our people. We are against them, we will not accept them and we will resist them because we are not their partners.
“Our law is still in place and we are enforcing it and arresting and prosecuting anybody who violates it in Benue state. That was what my Commissioner reiterated in Abuja recently that some persons tried to twist.
“And I cannot be blackmailed by anyone in this country. Benue people elected me and so far I am doing their will. We are executing projects and ensuring that the grazing law is in place and we are enforcing the law.
“We are equally working with security agencies and the Community Volunteer Guards, CVGs, to stop the insecurity that is going on in the state to encourage the investors who are coming into Benue state to invest.”
According to the Governor, “despite all these we have the potentials to produce enough food for the state and country.
“Our major concern is to ensure that the conventional security agencies and Live Stock Guards including our CVGs work very hard to ensure that the over one million IDPs in the state go back to their ancestral homes so that we can have food security otherwise there is threat of food security in Benue state and of course once that happens in the food basket of the nation, Nigeria will pay dearly for it.”