Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Benue State, the last has not been heard of the killings that are largely attributed to the crisis between some herdsmen and farmers in the State. Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) constantly condemns this violence but the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom insists that the group had claimed responsibility.
Speaking at a stakeholders meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, who was on a visit to the State, Ortom inquired why no attempt at arrest has been made on the leadership of the Association, who he claimed declared that “more blood will flow in Benue if the ranching law is not rescinded”.
“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.”
Did they actually say that?
At no time has the Association ever said they were responsible for any attacks or killings in any part of the Country. Rather they also counted losses in the several attacks between farmers and herdsmen.
In May 2017, after Benue Government enacted the Anti- Open Grazing Bill, which prohibited roaming of cattle in the public except in ranches, among others, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore the parent body of MACBAN, organise a Press Conference in Abuja, where it argued that the law is repressive, oppressive and fundamentally against the pastoralists’ economic interest and Constitutional rights.
The Conference headed by the President of the Association, Alhaji Bello Abdullahi Bodejo and the National Secretary, Engineer Saleh Alhassan said they will mobilise their “people to resist any attempt to enslave them through this wicked legislation ever contemplated in the history of our nation. Yet the group promised to only use legal means in doing so.
“It is against this disturbing background that our Association view the current attempt by the Benue State Government to criminalise our means of economic livelihood of cattle rearing through the enactment of an obnoxious law, the ‘Anti-open Grazing Law’, as the most wicked act any Government can do to us and our economic interest.
“Pastoralists, like all citizens of Nigeria, have the right to move freely and to reside in any part of the Country. They also have a right to own property in any part of the Country. And they enjoy the right of freedom from discrimination like any other citizen of the Country.
“We want to state here that we reject that repressive and oppressive law and will deploy all the necessary legal means as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution to challenge it.”
It further called on Minister of Justice, Inspector General of Police, Senate President, Speaker House of Representative and Traditional Rulers in the Country to prevail on the Benue State Government and call it to order, adding that the new legislation is nothing but a call to anarchy.
The Association did another Press Conference on November 13th, in Kaduna State, stating the Anti-Open Grazing Law was an attempt to ruin the means of livelihood of herders.
Also Speaking at the Conference, the National President and the National Secretary urged Federal Government to intervene in the possible crisis that may arise from the Law.
“It is a negative law because it attempts to expel herdsmen from their grazing areas for ages, besides, that of Benue Anti-Grazing Law; no herder was involved during the cause of its preparation to get their input.
“To us, ensuring security of citizens should be the priority of governance, but this Anti-Grazing Law is nothing but a time bomb if not addressed with wisdom.
“It is a national challenge that requires a National intervention by the Government, because it is capable of creating serious conflicts on the land resources.”
The Association also debunked rumours of planned attacks by its members in the State.
After the Mass Burial of the 73 victims killed in the Benue attack in January, the Vice-President of the Association in an interview explained why the law may keep causing bloodshed if not rescinded as the farmers and herders are already coming to a compromise.
Bosso said the Association also wrote a letter, requesting for a land for rent, but their request was not granted.
“After signing the law, he invited the Miyetti Allah group and we told him not to implement the law. We told him to provide the land for these people and he refused. They started attacking them, collecting their animals, collecting money from them and that led to the crisis.”
There were never mentions of the association being responsible for killings or attack.
The Secretary-General also did an interview with the Punch, revealing the Benue crisis started as a result of extortion from herdsmen by the State Livestock Guards.
He said before the crisis erupted, the guards went to make some arrests in a particular community and they met stiff resistance from the Herdsmen because they were already tired of the persistent harassment from the guards, not the police or the DSS, Army or constituted authority.
This he said, led to violence and the killings, but he noted that the Association frowned at the violence.
He neither said the members of the Association carried out the attack nor did he identify the perpetrators,
Governor Ortom still holds his word that the Association is responsible for the killings in Benue State.
The Governor might have been misled by some mischievous Media house, who were more concerned with traffic and endangering lives of innocent people, rather than educate and inform. ETN24 has been tracking media misinformation and has a library full of the instances the media misinformed the public for traffic.
Isolating MACBAN has been the major reason the crisis is given ethnic colouration. Many say the Governor must, as a matter, of strategy show the Fulani people that he is at war with criminals, not a tribe.