Sunday, January 22, 2017 7:31 pm
The Benue State Government has said that the recent peace meeting and agreement which it facilitated between Agatu people and Fulani herdsmen should not be understood to mean that the Governor has ceded lands belonging to the people of the state and conferred indigeneship on Fulani herdsmen. This was contained in a Press Statement signed by Mr. Terver Akase, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom.
The government said allegations that it ceded Benue State land to foreigners are far from the truth. It disclosed that decision to allow herdsmen to graze cattle in designated areas in Agatu was jointly made by stakeholders on both Agatu and Fulani sides who have lived together for many decades both in Benue and Nasarawa communities and that the decision was not imposed on the people by Government.
“Governor Ortom has repeatedly emphasized that ranching as practised in other parts of the world is the best solution to the crisis caused by cattle rearing in the country. The Federal Government also recognizes this fact, that’s why N100 billion was set aside by the previous administration for the establishment of ranches across the country. The funds were sadly diverted into private pockets, prompting the House of Representatives to move for the probe of some individuals including a former Governor of Benue State.”
Akase said anyone who has visited Benue in the last few years or cared to monitor reports from the state concerning the killing of innocent people and destruction of property worth billions of naira would understand and appreciate the urgent need for the return of peace and the prevention of further crisis between herders and farmers.
“The recent peace, security and reconciliation meeting between Governor Ortom and Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Almakura at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi, which was one of such efforts, led to a peaceful resolution of very delicate and knotty issues.” Akase recalled.
He agued further that reports had shown that Fulani herdsmen from neighbouring countries who move to Nigeria are largely responsible for the killings and destruction that take place in some states including Benue.
“It was to avert the recurrence of the unfortunate situation that the communique issued at the end of the Makurdi meeting made a specific pronouncement that the privilege to graze cattle in designated parts of Agatu is “only granted to indigenous Fulani herdsmen who were known to the Agatu people before the crisis. This is to forestall destruction of farms and exhaustion of available green pasture.”
“The decision to allow indigenous Fulani herdsmen who have lived in Agatu land for decades to graze cattle after the harvest season at the end of February 2017 was made by the stakeholders with indigenous Nigerian Fulanis in mind and not in anyway an attempt to deprive the people of the affected area of their land.
It was to buttress the point against armed foreign herders that the communique stated thus, “We call on the Federal Government to do all it can to checkmate migrant herdsmen from entering the country in order to prevent the build-up on the Nasarawa bank of River Benue.
“Governor Samuel Ortom’ stand on the herdsmen/farmers crisis in parts of the state has not changed. The Governor is committed to the roadmap to peace and calls on all stakeholders, home and in the diaspora to support government’s efforts in preventing crises in every nook and cranny of the state.” Akase concluded.