The attention of the three main Socio-Cultural Organizations in Benue State: the Mdzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omi Ny’ Igede, has been drawn to a publication in ThisDay newspaper of Monday, 7th May, 2018 on page 60, titled: “Buratai: Army will secure Nigeria better with good policies and laws.” In the said publication, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai was quoted to have advised some state governments to take a critical look at some policies and laws being implemented in their states and possibly make a review of them in order to resolve crises bedeviling the country.

The report further quoted him as saying the laws should be reviewed in such a way that everyone is given a sense of belonging. By implication, General Buratai’s position is that even terrorists like ISIS, Boko Haram as well as other categories of militants should be given a sense of belonging in our country and Benue State in particular after being chased out of other climes.

We also read in the Blueprint newspaper of Tuesday, 8th May, 2017, particularly on page 3, wherein one Isaac Ikpa under the VIEWPOINT section titled: “Farmers/herders crisis: Reflecting on Buratai’s sermons in Benue,” commended the Army Chief for his counsel and described the ranching law of Benue State as “obnoxious and draconic.” 

While we commend the revered Chief of Army Staff for his concern and dogged fight for a peaceful Nigeria, we however fault his counsel because the duty of the Nigeria Army is to provide security for lives and property especially when such security cannot be guaranteed by the Police or other sister security agencies. In other words, the Army or military is the last resort as far as dealing with security challenges of this nature in the country is concerned.

The truth of the matter is that the happenings in Benue State predate the enactment of the Benue State law to prohibit open grazing and establishment of ranches. Indeed, there are many other states across Nigeria where these murderous acts are presently occurring, for which no such laws have been enacted. These include Adamawa, Zamfara, Ondo, Kaduna, Plateau, Cross River, Enugu and Edo state.
Such statements coming from a highly placed person like General Buratai, are capable of igniting nerves and may be an invitation/encouragement to militants to act, whereby the statements made by General TY Danjume becomes weighty.

It will therefore be wrong for General Buratai who is known for his professionalism and gallantry in dealing with such situations to delve into counseling state governments on reviewing their laws and policies when mercenaries alleged by the highest leadership in the country to be aliens are killing innocent Nigerians. 
Even if review of such laws and policies were to be considered as counseled by the Chief of Army Staff, that would have been suggested after the military had chased out the “Muamar Gaddafi trained militia” herdsmen out of the states in question. Suggesting a review of such laws and policies to accommodate everyone means giving a backing to the aliens and other criminal militia herdsmen for their actions.

For Mr. Isaac Ikpa, it is really worrisome for someone to describe a law that conforms to international best practices of rearing animals as obnoxious and draconian. If we are quick to copy democracy from developed climes like the United States of America, why are we hesitant and even resistant to copying a modernized way of animal husbandry which is even practiced in African countries like South Africa, Swaziland among others?

On Mr. Ikpa’s position that it is natural for a man to resist and oppose any attempt to render his source of livelihood useless, we want to suspect that he is also an agent of the militia herdsmen and their sponsors. This statement in our candid view is an open declaration of support for the act of terrorism going on in our dear state. We want to put it on record that Sharia Law enacted in Zamfara pushed many out of business but they never reacted this way. Rather, they relocated out of Zamfara to where they could do their legitimate business. Ours should not be an exception.

We agree that Governor Ortom rears cattle in ranches as encapsulated in the view point, but we want to state categorically that this predates the Governor’s days as Governor of Benue State. He had practiced ranching for several years before he became governor and for somebody to insinuate that he is encouraging ranching because he has the resources to practice same is unfair and misleading.

We state unequivocally that the enactment and implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, fulfilled all due processes and is not in any way in conflict with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The law is a creation of Benue people and even Governor Ortom has no powers to decide otherwise. The ranching law came as one of the many options to end farmers and herdsmen crisis in the state which had been on for decades and anybody ascribing it to the Governor’s personal or political interest is insulting our collective sensibilities and we must condemn that in its entirety. 

While we appreciate the Northern Governors Forum, National Economic Council, NEC and all other Nigerians for accepting that ranching is the right way to go in the 21st century as championed by our dear Governor, we also call on security agencies to help enforce provisions of the law for peace and stability in the Food Basket state and for robust agricultural activities to further give credence to Benue’s appellation as Food Basket of the Nation.

Chief Edward Ujege
President-General, Mdzough U Tiv
Barr. Amali Odoya Amali
President, Idoma National Forum
Chief Ode Enyi
President-General, Omi Ny’Igede
9th May, 2018

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