Following the November 1 implementation date for the anti-grazing law in Benue State, the Miyetti-Allah Kautal Hore Fulani socio-cultural association has challenged Governor, Samuel Ortom over the law that to forbid its members from the state.
National President of the association, Alhaji Abdullahi Bodejo at the weekend said at a briefing in Abuja that the pastoralists have the same legal right like every Benue state indigene.
Bodejo, who accused the Governor over the controversial bill and other allegations of causing unrest in the state, also denied plans to invade Benue.
He said the association has no intention to cause chaos over the anti-open grazing law in the state.
“Firstly the Miyetti-Allah Kautal Hore is not a splinter of any other group. This is socio-cultural organisation and one can only be a Fulani man to be a member unlike other associations related to cattle rearing and sales which can accommodate anyone is as much as they are in cattle rearing or sales businesses.
“Also His Excellency Governor Samuel Ortom asking pastoralists to leave Benue State cannot happen. We have a mandate to speak on behalf of our members and their rights as Nigerians. How can a Nigerian ask other Nigerians to leave a place they are constitutionally entitled to be,” he said.
He fauted the governor’s claim that the state lost N95 billion between 2012 and 2016.
Describing the allegation as untrue, he noted that the pastoralists have always been at the receiving end of the conflicts, especially with farmers.
On the call for his arrest and that of the association’s National Secretary Engr. Saleh Alhassan, Bodejo accused the Governor of using ‘threat and blackmail tactics’ knowing he was committing illegalities by trying to deny the pastoralists their means of livelihood.
“We are law abiding and have always been championing pace and amicable resolutions of conflicts between pastoralists and farmers, the records are there. This was why we went to the court over this matter rather than result to self-help,” he added.
He also questioned the governor’s claim that the law was meant to protect both the farmers and herders alike, stressing that there was no provision for the so called ranches except the intent to establish six detention centres, where seized or ‘arrested’ cattle would be kept and auctioned after seven day thus legitimizing cattle rustling.
“The governor was also not specific on the fines for cattle rustling unlike the specific penalties for pastoralists who can be accused of open grazing.”
Bodejo, who is also the Lamido Fulbe Nigeria urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address the situation by calling Governor Ortom to order in the interest of peace and well-being of the state and the nation.