* Excerpts of Speeches made by Benue Stakeholders during their meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Makurdi, March 12, 2018.
TOR TIV, His Royal Majesty, Professor James Ayatse
“Mr. President I want to add an appeal as a Father. The anti open grazing law, I want to appeal to Mr. President that if there is something that is dear to the heart of Benue people it is that law. I say it because I was here through the process and the agitation and the House of Assembly had to be occupied for days for them to pass that law. So it is really the peoples law and I want to passionately appeal to do everything possible ro support the implementation of that law. It is not the Governor’s law.
Wanataregh PAUL UNONGO
“Your Excellency, the land mass of your country is not increasing, the population is. If you do not effectively put an end to the phenomena of herdsmen militia and you take what is happening in North East in Borno, Yobe and you know what is happening you will discover you are having a terrible country very far from your dream. Mr. President the people of Benue under the leadership of Governor Ortom, as my brother who spoke I was very pleased some of the things I was going to say I am cutting them off. The young man who spoke there the only thing I want to stress is that your Governor whatever he is portrayed to you is not your enemy. He is under threat as a very competent, very capable and very totally loyal person to you, please help him. The law was not made to be anti Fulani. I am a product of a Fulani man from Kano and a Tiv man from Kwande and I am the leader of Tiv people. Mr. President your son Ortom is misunderstood by some of your security agents particularly the leader of the police. He is sincere under objective threat and you will discover that if you do not support him and your security dont support him he could well be hurt. Don’t allow that to happen on your watch.”
Retired General Atom Kpera
“Mr President, I know how swiftly you acted when it was reported to you that there was a problem of cattle rustlers in Zanfara State. You adorned yourself in a smart military uniform, a civil general, in fact a field marshal and you went there and swiftly took action and I believe that you would have done the same when you came to know that Benue State was under threat. Your citizens here were being wiped off and I remember that you swiftly directed the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue and keep you well informed of everything that was going on there. Your Excellency, the IG did not do what you sent him. He stayed for less than twenty four hours in Benue State and relocated to Nasarawa and gave you the impression and he said it loudly several times that what he came and saw was a mere communal clash. I think he must have swallowed his words when a few days after that his own police men were being killed by the same killers that were killing your own innocent citizens of Benue State. I will like to add Your Excellency, that I personally would not like to have been advised by that person but you know better. I read in the papers a few days ago that you have other sources of intelligence that come to you not known by other people. I believe in you, therefore I will like you to please when you leave here have a second thought on what your IG reported to you and on which you swiftly acted setting up the exercise Ayem A Kpatuma. Our expectation your Excellency was that when you sent this unit of additional force was to come and relief us of our very much troubled life, to see whether they can pursue the killers. The IG did not say that there were no killers because that was every where, he knew it but he failed to act according to the constitution which gives him powers. Your Excellency take a second look at that.”
Rt. Hon John Dyegh
“I am representing the eleven members of the green chambers and let me straight away say the Benue people are peace loving. As I am stand here, I am the one standing in the place of the seat that was once given to a Borno man whose son is here with us. That is to prove a point that the Benue people and indeed the Tiv people are peace loving.
Let me as a legislator talk about the rule of law. We know the President respects laws. He is the chief fighter of corruption in Nigeria. I want to say that some years ago when Zamfara made a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol, prostitution and all that in that state, the President then General Obasanjo was under pressure to stop that law from being implemented and he said publicly no; anybody that is against this law can go to court and that is civil. Today after the killings of over eight hundred and seventy persons in Agatu and over sixteen villages were ransacked and people living outside their homes till today the Benue People and all the legislators, the stakeholders came together and say no this is too much we cant take this any longer and let have an arrangement where the herdsmen can live without killing us and we can still accommodate them and that is how the idea of ranching came about. I want to put records straight so that people will know that we didn’t just sit down and said look we are going to bring a law to bring ranching to this state. It came about as a result of our pains particularly pains from Agatu and that is how and why the stakeholders of Benue State came together and say let us have this law.
Having said that, it is disgusting that a chief law enforcer, it is unfortunate that he is not here, the IGP will stand up and say the law is unenforceable. That the killings in Benue are a result of this law. It is unfortunate. It is not good, I mean that is making us not feel like Nigerians. Mr. President, with that statement and with the quietness of the Presidency, we are threatened. I feel threatened, we don’t feel we are Nigerians. We need your protection Mr. President. Having said that, just to emphasize that the chief law enforce should not dabble into politics. He should confine himself to enforcing the law. It is not in his place, it is not in his place, it is not in his place. I say with emphasis it not in his place to make political statements and to make statements that look to us that he is backing a section and particularly he is backing Fulani herdsmen. It is not correct. Mr. President we call on you to protect us.”
Senator George Akume
“Your Excellency, you could recall that Senator David Mark was Senate President while Suswam was the Chief Security of the State, yet the Tiv people voted for you in 2015.
We have no federal project in Benue State, Ortom does not make law, Benue People made the law, JS Tarka fought for the unity of our country Nigeria, Mr. President the Tiv people are not happy about your reaction towards the killing of Tiv farmers by Fulani herdsman.”
Governor Samuel Ortom
“Although concerted attacks on communities in the State commenced in 2011, between 2013-2017, Forty-Seven attacks were recorded and over 1,878 men, women and children were slaughtered in cold blood across 14 Local Government Areas of the State. Another 750 were seriously wounded while 200 were missing. Over 99,427 households were affected. We have lost an average of 47% of Internally Generated Revenues due to attacks by armed herdsmen in the State. This underscores the problem between herdsmen and farmers. It was clear to us that increased population, shrinking arable land, global warming and desertification as well as the need to diversify the economy through farming, all make open grazing unattractive.
Through consultations and research, we discovered that the global best practice for animal husbandry is Ranching. Top countries in the global cattle business such as India, Brazil, USA, South Africa; Kenya and Zimbabwe, are known to practice ranching. It takes proper care of Livestock to ensure quality meat and dairy products and minimizes cattle rustling. Your Excellency, this is the logic behind our popular Law, “Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017”. I urge anyone who has a superior method other than Ranching to bring it to the table. The Law duly passed by the Benue State House of Assembly reflects the wishes of the Benue people.
On 30th May, 2017, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore in a ‘World Press Conference’ held in Abuja, opposed the Ranching Law. They called on Fulani herders in all of West Africa to come into Benue to help them reclaim their land. In the same vein, Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association in their Press Conference declared that more blood will flow in Benue if the Ranching Law is not rescinded. Your Excellency, as a President that supports the Rule of Law, you will most certainly be offended by these Hate Speeches that may have crossed the red line. Your Excellency, how can a group claim responsibility for the killings that happened and are going about scot free? How can a group make public these inciting and criminal declarations in an organized society and are not arrested by the Police? Your Excellency, kindly order the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Cattle Breeders Association for carrying out their threats to attack Benue on account of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017.
Recent Security Reports before Your Excellency, indicate that the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) are accomplices in the massacres in Benue State. If these Reports on Benue and other parts of the country are true, they have enormous implications for national security. There may be a need to strengthen the enforcement of the ECOWAS Protocol by directing the Nigeria Immigration Service to do the needful.”
Compiled by Terver Akase