Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom on Monday night in Abuja said his state did not ceded any land to Fulani herdsmen.
He was reacting to allegations levelled against his administration following the peace agreement between the Agatu people in his state and the Fulani herdsmen.
According to him, his political detractors are behind the allegation that he ceded land to the Fulani herdsmen.
The governor spoke with State House correspondents after meeting behind closed-doors with Athe Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja
He said: “It is not the people who are saying this. The people who are saying this are outside Agatu. This was a peace pact that was brokered by the Agatu people and the Fulani herdsmen. And myself and Governor of Nasarawa State were there to moderate and allow them.
“And the insinuation that part of the land was conceded to Fulani is false. It is being instigated by our political opponents who have nothing to tell the people. They want to use that to instigate the people against our government. But they cannot because we are sincere, God-fearing and truthful.
“We have ensured there is peace in our land. As I talk to you, in my own local government, the herdsmen are moving freely. But they are being monitored and they are relating with the farmers very well. In 2013, my house was raised down in one day alone and more than 50 of my kins men were killed and my rice farm was burnt.
“But since I came in as a governor, I have brokered this peace and everything is moving on well. The Agatu people told us they are tired of the crisis and want to live a normal life. And for those Fulani herdsmen who were born and bred in Agatu land should come back and live with them. But the foreign herdsmen who are violent and have been causing destruction should not come near their territory.
“This was an understanding between two groups. It is not that any land was ceded to any Fulani herdsman and all that. But the truth of the matter is that we must learn to be peaceful. It is only when we have peace that we can begin to improve our states, local governments and the country.
“When there is violence, we don’t know the extend it can take us. So it is false, it was perpetuated by those who want to run our government down. I can assure you that we are on ground and we are working with the people and the people are working with us. We will always be there to protect their interest.”
Ortom said he was at the State House to pay solidarity visit to the vice-president and to wish Mr. President, who is on vacation, good health and safe return back to continue to lead Nigeria.
He added: “We pray that God will continue to help this administration that came at a time that Nigeria is passing through recession occasioned by bad leadership by past administration.”
The governor also challenged those wishing Mr. President dead to go and confront God who made President Muhammadu Buhari.
“It wasn’t his making. When that time came, God made it possible, just like some of us, it was God that made it possible for us to be here and nobody can remove us until the time that God’s programme for Nigeria is completed and God decides what to do next.
“For me as Governor of Benue State and a major stakeholder of this country, I will continue to implore our people to be law-abiding and always do things that are right because it is the law that is protecting all of us, the strong, weak and whoever. But when we as leaders begin to champion the course of disobeying the laws of the land, then we are calling for anarchy, which will not be good for any Nigerian.
“Nigeria is the only country we have. Definitely, we don’t want to be like Syria and other countries that have gotten themselves entangled in various calamities. And I want to implore those who are bestowed with leadership, especially those who have taken oath of office, to obey the laws of the land, to protect the laws of the land and to live by the oath of office they have taken instead of playing politics of extreme and causing things that can bring major disaster to our country,” he said
On how successful his trip to South Africa was, he said: “Very successful, I must say that I went there on the invitation of some of our investors who are in South Africa and we are looking at investing in agriculture taking on the entire value chain from seedling to cropping to harvesting to storage to processing and to marketing.
“I have gotten quite a number of them who will be visiting me third week of February. And I believe a lot of good things will come out of that.
“My state is also endowed with solid minerals. Just needed the exploration, which I have gotten investors who are going to do this and thereafter go into processing of these solid minerals.