Pan-Northern socio-cultural group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, said it had constituted a committee on how best to handle the anti-open grazing law which has been a bone of contention in some parts of the North.
The implementation of the law is currently causing crises in Benue, Taraba and Adamawa states, leading to the killing of hundreds of citizens and the destruction of property.
The Secretary-General of the ACF, Anthony Sani, told one of our correspondents in Kaduna via the telephone on Friday that the constitution of the committee became necessary because the forum believed the clashes bordered on occupation rather than on ethnicity or religion.
Sani, who did not name members of the committee, blamed governors for enacting laws that were not “implementable” just as he knocked the Fulani herdsmen for not “forgiving those who offended them.”
He said, “The ACF has actually constituted a committee on how best to go about the anti-open grazing law with a view to stopping clashes between herdsmen and farmers and improving the volume and quality of the livestock industry in the country.
“This is because the forum believes the clashes border on occupation rather than on ethnicity or religion. The committee has yet to submit its reports to the forum. It is after the submission of the report that well-informed positions on this important subject can be taken. Any law which cannot be implemented for whatever reasons in the interest of all the people should be reconsidered for performance.
“How frustrated we are with the challenges of community living should not make us believe that acts of revenge can address our concerns and bring about the peace needed for socio-economic development.
“There can be no justification for taking it out on innocent people under the pretext of revenge through reprisals. If God can forgive our transgressions, we should also forgive those who transgress against us.
“So, let the herdsmen and farmers come together and unleash their synergy against the collective challenges for a common interest. The two occupations are not mutually exclusive.”
The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, described attacks on farmers by Fulani herdsmen as a national challenge that required the cooperation of all Nigerians to surmount.
He spoke in Makurdi, Benue State capital, on Friday when he received a delegation of the Arewa Consultative Forum, led by its Chairman, Senator John Shagaya, at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi.
Ortom said, “Several states, including Zamfara, Adamawa, Kaduna, Plateau, Ebonyi, Ogun, Abia, and Niger, have suffered attacks, which indicates that the problem transcends individual states.
“I saw the photograph of President Muhammadu Buhari at his ranch in Daura, Katsina State recently. This gave Nigerians the direction that ranching is the way to go in animal husbandry and as a disciplined person, the President knows what is good for the country.”
The governor, however, stated that he had forgiven all those whose actions and words had caused pains to the people of the state.
Earlier, Shagaya, who said they were in the state to mourn with the government and the people over the killings, condemned the killings while commending Ortom for maintaining calm, law and order despite the callous act. He described the perpetrators of the attacks as enemies of the state and agents of disunity.
However, the Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, had earlier stated that the anti-open grazing law implemented by Ortom was unnecessary.
The governor described as most unfortunate the accusation by the Benue State governor that militias had a camp in Tunga, Nasarawa State.
Al-Makura said, “This is a stigma. It can spark up crisis. The Tiv people are bona fide citizens of Nasarawa State. They have equal rights and privileges. I will protect them until such a time the crisis subsists. Ninety-five per cent of the Internally Displaced Persons we have in Awe are Tiv people.”
Based on Ortom’s allegation that killer herdsmen had a camp in Tunga, Nasarawa State, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, said the police would investigate.
Idris, at a meeting with stakeholders in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital, said, “We are going to send a special investigative team to Tunga to investigate and evaluate the allegations.”
He promised that he would study all the presentations and make an appropriate recommendation to President Buhari with a view to finding lasting solutions to the crisis.
Also, a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Orker Jev, suggested the establishment of military bases in the flashpoints in Benue State, where Fulani herdsmen have been killing people over the anti-open grazing law.
He told journalists, “Definitely, the establishment of a military base in Benue State will be part of the moves to address the situation. The police are incapable; their training will not help in resolving this issue. It is the military who have the capacity to combat this kind of security challenge.”
On his part, the founder of Uma Ukpai Evangelistic Association, Revd. Uma Ukpai, said the killings in Benue State would worsen the existing tension in the country.
Speaking in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, on Friday, the cleric stated, “What is happening in Benue is borne out of lack of conscience and is regrettable that our leadership has not played its role. It is also an evidence of the curse that Nigeria is suffering from.
“Will the feeding of the cattle of those herdsmen be placed above the lives of the dead? How were those cattle fed before? Were they killing people before in order to feed their cattle? It still boils down to the fact that the leadership has not played its role because the people involved in this thing are known and the leaders know where they are.”
In the meantime, pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has advised southerners to establish their own ranches.
The group also endorsed the Benue State’s anti-open grazing law, stating that more states should make laws prohibiting cattle grazing in their jurisdiction.
Commenting on the Benue killings, Afenifere described as irresponsible the statement made by Lalong condemning Ortom for implementing the law against open grazing in Benue State.
The group’s spokesperson, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, advised Benue State against abrogating the law, noting that other states should emulate the decision, insisting that ranching was the way to go for the herdsmen.
Claiming that President Buhari has cattle but that his cattle are not known to be grazing openly on the streets, Odumakin explained that cattle rearing was a private business, and as such, there is no question about the fact that state governments had the right to make laws for the common good of their people.
He added, “The laws that they have made should stay and states that have not made such laws should do so. If Nigeria were to share boundaries with the United Kingdom or the United States, would the herdsmen graze their cattle in those countries? No, they won’t do that.
“You are keeping cattle, you are doing a business, so don’t disturb anyone with your livestock, they should go and set up ranches. The President has cattle and he is not grazing them all over the country.”
On the calls by some people that the southerners should boycott eating beef produced by the Fulani herdsmen, Odumakin advised southerners to rather set up ranches and supply beef to the southern region, which he said was the major market for meat from the north.
He said, “What the southerners should do is to have their own ranches and raise cows for their consumption. Let it be an economic issue for people to raise cows, goats, sheep and all kinds of animals.
“If they (herdsmen) insist on continuing full grazing and there is nobody to buy their cattle in the south, then they would know we are serious.”
An online poll conducted by Punch Newspapers shows that many Nigerians favour the boycott of beef because of the killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states.
As of 9 pm on Friday, the poll on the PUNCH website, had garnered 1,501 responses with 76 per cent of them – 1,139 voting ‘Yes’ to the question of whether Nigerians should boycott beef.
Eighteen per cent of respondents – 276 – voted in the contrary while six per cent of respondents – 86 – were indifferent.
The poll came out of a social media message circulated over the course of the week, in which it was suggested that Nigerians should boycott the consumption of meat.
According to the message, most beef consumed in the southern part of the country come from the cattle owned by herdsmen who have been accused of wanton killing in communities where they have clashed with residents and farmers.
In his position, the President of a faction of the Ijaw Youth Congress, Mr. Eric Omare, said Benue and other states with the anti-grazing law should not jettison it, adding that dropping such a law was equivalent to dropping an anti-robbery law because some persons criticised it.
Omare explained that rather than drop the law, security agencies in the country should cooperate with the state governors to implement the law so that the killing spree by the herdsmen would come to an end.
Meanwhile, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo have said they will not accept the proposed establishment of cattle colonies by the Federal Government.
MASSOB’s National Director of Information, Mr. Sunday Okereafor, said, “After the killings in Benue State and some parts of the country, the next thing is to give them cattle colonies as a prize for their actions. No country does that. We are rejecting cattle colonies in Igboland.
“The Federal Government should have labelled them (herdsmen) terrorists. But they are not doing so. But we are warning senators, traditional rulers, governors and members of the House of Representatives from Igboland to reject cattle colonies.
“Any of them who goes ahead to be part of it (cattle colonies) is on his own because we have already rejected it. Building cattle colonies for Fulani herdsmen in our land will take our peace away from us.
“The governors in the South-East must not surrender our land for cattle colonies. MASSOB is also saying no to Grazing Bill. They (Fulani herdsmen) should go to the north and feed their cows.”
Okereafor, however, called on the Federal Government to organise a sovereign national conference where every ethnic group in Nigeria would speak on the way forward for the country.
Similarly, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, said Benue State’s anti-grazing law was in order.
He said, “You do not just wake up to make a law. There is always a reason for any law. The anti-grazing law was embraced in Benue State to restore the socioeconomic sanity. Remember that Benue State is regarded as the food basket of the nation. The state depends largely on agriculture. When you spend so much on farming and in a twinkle of an eye, herdsmen bring their cattle to destroy crops; you are finished because that is your source of livelihood.
“So the law is strongly needed, not only to ensure law and order but also to protect lives and property of the citizens.”