Monday, 3 July 2017

Open Grazing: Ortom Gives Herdsmen 5-Month Ultimatum To Embrace Ranching Or Face Trial

The Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, gave herdsmen in the state a five-month ultimatum to embrace ranching or face trial.

He said “there is no going back on anti-grazing law in the state”.

He said herdsmen in Benue State engaging in open grazing from November 2017 would be prosecuted in accordance with the new anti-grazing law.

He said “any herdsman who fails to set up a cattle ranch within the same period will equally have the law to contend with”.

But he said the state would provide land for prospective cattle ranchers while imploring the Federal Government to explore a form of subsidy for the ranchers, being a new initiative.

He said the state government had located the whereabouts of the wanted militia leader, Terwaze Akwazza (a.k.a Gana).

He said the state would not want to suffer high casualties in a bid to capture Gana.

Ortom,  who spoke with newsmen in Abuja, said there was no going back on the implementation of the anti-grazing law from November.

He said the law was a consensus of the generality of the people of the state.

He said: “Within two years, I promised and we have successfully signed the anti-grazing bill into law. It was well received and applauded by all stakeholders in Benue State, irrespective of religious or ethnic affiliation.

“This was attested to by the support we got with various delegations across the state coming to us to appreciate and stand with us, especially in the wake of the threats from Miyetti Allah to mobilize their members to resist the bill.

“The support we were getting was so overwhelming with an more than 8 million people of this state, showing support except one man, Abubakar Tsav, who came out to criticize the bill.

“Our duty is to provide enabling environment for our farmers, even herdsmen rearing cattle would be protected. So, for us, we are focused and that is why it took us about two years of painstaking due process to ensure that we get the anti-grazing bill right, and we did.

“Even members of Miyetti Allah took part in the process by participating in the public hearing, so it wasn’t anything hidden because we have no hidden agenda. This is an all-encompassing law that is not talking about cattle alone but all livestock including pigs, goats and so on.

“The target is not just about herdsmen or Fulani, but those who want to violate the laws, those that will allow their livestock to destroy other people’s farms. We are obligated to protect every citizen of this state  since the land in this state is no longer as it used to be like in the 1950s.

“Today, because of the upsurge in the population of the country and other human activities, every part of the state has been cultivated for agricultural purposes. The land is no longer there, so, open grazing is no longer possible.

“It’s our responsibility to protect the citizens, including the herdsmen. There are penalties in the law for cattle rustling, there are also advantages of cattle ranching. The law will lead to the creation of jobs by expanding the value chain as done globally.

“The law has come to stay because it was unanimously endorsed by the people of Benue State. As a responsive government, we are giving a transition period of between now and November to allow people ranch their cattle.

“It is expected that those who want to stay in Benue State to rear cattle must ranch. If you don’t ranch, the law must catch up with you.

“I have told my people that for those who feel that they don’t want to ranch, they must be allowed exit peacefully”.

He said “no one would be coerced into doing what does not please them”.

“I have told all herdsmen who want to leave Benue that if they need security, the state security council is ready to provide them with maximum security to exit peacefully and go to other states where there’s enough land for open grazing.

“It is as simple as that. We are not at war with anyone. I believe in the rule of law and due process and by November, the law will be implemented, and I believe that things will work out,” the governor added.

While assuring the state that the security of lives and property is a priority of his government, Ortom said the arrest of notorious bandit, Terwaze Akwazza, was a matter of time.

He said the community that was shielding the gangster was responsible for the inability of security agencies to have captured him by now.

He said the state would not want to witness high casualties in a bid to capture Gana.

“Gana was a terror, but today he is in hiding. He was chased outside of Benue State. It is a promise; we are going to track him down.

“We don’t want casualties, while trying to fish him out from the community shielding him and that is why we are working with the Federal Government to ensure he is apprehended.

“His days are numbered,” he added.

The governor said “Benue State stands to benefit immensely from the yam export initiative of the Federal Government”.

Saying that the state was responsible for 42 per cent of the nation’s yam produce, Ortom noted that the state’s problem of the lack of market for its yams has been solved.

He said the government would do all within its resources to ensure that farmers in the state participate actively in the export initiative.

The governor warned detractors that are bent on derailing the objectives of the government, adding that the antics of his detractors will not discourage the government from the path of developing the state.

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