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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Benue Killings: Ortom Rejects Proposed Cattle Colonies

Benue Killings: Ortom Rejects Proposed Cattle Colonies

Samuel Ortom

Abuja – The crisis rocking Benue state may have become more complicated as the state Governor, Samuel Ortom on Tuesday, rejected ‘cattle colonies’ being proposed by the Federal Government, in states where farmers-herdsmen clashes have become so rampant.

Ortom, who was at the Presidential Villa to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the latest killings in his state, argued that regulating open grazing held the key to ending the crisis.

But his position clearly countered that of Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh who had in a separate forum hinted of plans to establish cattle colonies to accommodate the interest of the herders’ community.

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Ogbeh had said: “We want to handle the issue of cattle rearing and crisis between farmers and herdsmen and actually bring it to a halt.

“I know that some people argue that open grazing is our culture, once a culture begins to develop very dangerous trends, leading to warfare between people, bloody clashes and death, that culture is due for re-examination.

“A culture must not be left because it is a culture, if it is harmful we reform it. We are talking of cattle colonies, not ranches, we are talking of massive cattle breed improvement through artificial insemination, we have to start immediately.”

But Ortom shortly after meeting Buhari said the concept of cattle colonies was strange to him and may not be acceptable.

He said, “I’m waiting to be briefed about what colonies means, I don’t understand it and until I understand it we will not accept it. But like I keep saying, for us the way forward is ranching and up till this time I am talking to you, the way forward still ranching because it is the global best practice.

“It is not just practised in other parts of the world, on African soil in Swaziland, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique almost all African countries that rear cattle, they ranch, so why can’t we do the same thing here?

“For the colony thing I don’t know what colony is.”

Recall that hell was let loose on January 2nd when herdsmen allegedly opened fire on residents in Akor Village in Guma Local Government Area of the state, leaving in its trail over 20 persons, including a pregnant woman dead.

Although an anti-grazing bill has been signed into law making an Act of the state, the latest attack was reported to have been carried out on the farming community same day the Act was supposed to have taken effect.

Meanwhile, Ortom also wrote-off allegations that he was blocked from seeing the President when the attacks occurred.

He said, “I have never accused anyone of blocking me from seeing Mr. President. I’m seeing Mr. President. I told him when this incident occurred I spoke to Mr. President on phone and followed it up. I know what it entails being a President, even as governor most times I am not with my phone, people cannot access me the way it used to be talk less of a President.

“I didn’t say that and I have not said it. The truth is that I have access to Mr. President anytime I want, I speak to him on phone and I see him personally. I requested to speak to him on phone that day because I couldn’t come to Abuja and he gave me the opportunity and today I’m here and I have seen him.”

Aside the directive from the Presidency that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris relocates to Benue, Ortom said he has never been averse to any options that would end the crisis, whether military or otherwise.

He said, “Anything that can stop the killings of my people I will go for it, I support it. Any policy or any directive, anything that will help stop the killing of these innocent people who are not armed because this can not continue.

“We know that the continuity of this will create greater challenges. I don’t want it to continue. We are struggling with economic issues, we are struggling with political issues and we are struggling with several other issues in this country, security issues and all that, Benue State should not be part of this, there is no need for it.

“The law on prohibition of Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranching was made out of the necessity to ensure that we have peace for herdsmen and farmers and that is what we have done.

“The law seeks to protect all and as I talk to you, except this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who are instigating people to fight and to kill us, they are Fulani men in Benue State as I talk to you doing their business.”

On allegation by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN Chairman, Benue State chapter, Garos Gololo, that the killings were in retaliation for the theft of 1,000 cows by some people in the state, Ortom said, “You know that man is a liar. Gololo is a liar; he is a wanted man in Benue State, we don’t even know where he is.

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“He stays somewhere and makes allegations. The other time he said 1,000 cattle drowned and the herdsman decided to commit suicide by jumping to the River, he has not come out to justify what he said.”

When asked how many ranches his administration has created since he favours it, he said, “Its not for me to create ranches, I know that as a farmer I have one in my farm and they are several other people who are free.

“The permits are available for people who want to ranch their cattle to access land and begin to ranch. So it is free for everybody and that is the right way to go, since we started the implementation there has been relative peace amongst farmers and herdsmen, they were doing well until this militia coming from this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, came and attacked us.

“They are known, we know where they are. As I talk to you they are in Tongua in Awe Local Government; that is where these people are camped and coming to attack people.

“It is taking a different dimension. Just yesterday (Monday) in Logo Local Government, Mobile Policemen that were deployed to Logo to keep vigil to protect the people and the land, these militia came, exchange fire with them, caught two of them and slaughtered them like goats; Mobile Policemen.

“They shot another one, matcheted him and left him in the pool of his own blood but luckily he did not die. We have taken him to the hospital; we are treating him, the other one that was declared missing was found today (Tuesday).

“So when it gets to the level of militia killing security men who are armed and are trained to protect lives and property, is it not taking a dangerous dimension? Who is now safe?

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