•Says herdsmen ready to live with farmers in peace
•Governor: Our law is in the best interest of all
•How Air Peace chairman, Onyeama, brokered rapprochement
George Okoh in Makurdi
The enactment of Anti-open grazing law in Benue State might have paid off as Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, an advocacy group promoting the welfare of Fulani pastoralists in the country, at the weekend, apologised to Governor Samuel Ortom over the various herdsmen attacks and killings in the state.
Aside apologising for the killings, the group also promised the governor that its people would henceforth live in harmony with farmers in the state, saying it was an assurance they had already undertaken.
Governor Ortom, who seemed relieved by the development, further clarified that the law was put in place to serve the best interest of everyone by way of ending the senseless killings of innocent people as well as encourage the idea of ranching as the global best practice of animal husbandry.
The development, however, came on the heels of a peace initiative brokered by the Chairman of Air Peace Airline, Chief Allen Onyeama, who reckoned there should be amicable solutions to the incessant killings in the state and beyond.
National Secretary of the Miyetti Allah association, Engineer Saleh Alhassan, who spoke to journalists in Makurdi, the state capital, during the peace meeting at the instance of Onyeama, expressed regrets of the herders’ group over the many killings in the state and pledged to ensure peaceful coexistence between herdsmen and farmers, moving forward.
Alhassan described Governor Ortom as a peace-loving man, who stood firmly for the emancipation of his people, even as he reiterated his assurance that members of the group would embrace the peace overtures by the governor.
In his response, Ortom reiterated that the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law by Benue State Government was to end the killings of innocent people and also encourage ranching as the global best practice of animal husbandry.
According to him, any person or ethnic group wishing to rear livestock in the state was free to come and acquire land and set up ranch in accordance with the provisions of the laws of the state.
The Governor noted that the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law was designed to protect both farmers and livestock owners, adding that legislation was not meant to promote crisis of any kind.
Onyema, who spoken earlier, emphasised the need for peaceful coexistence between farmers and herders in the state, saying he personally brought Alhassan to broker peace between Miyetti Allah groups and the people of the state.
Benue had been the epicenter of herdsmen attacks for many years but the killings increased at the dawn of this year, when some 73 people were killed on their way home from the crossover service to the New Year.
But in spite of the global outrage that attended the New Year killings, coupled with the mass burial that was given the victims by the state, the killings did not stop, a development believed to have further emboldened the governor about the need to enact and enforce the anti-open grazing law.
Although the law had attracted its own controversy as herdsmen, with similar thinking by the federal government, opposed the idea, because according to them, it could exacerbate the conflicts and increased the killings.
Indeed, this had also formed part of the election campaign issues, a situation many reckoned had enhanced the re-election of the governor, who despite alleged poor performance in terms of governance, defeated the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party he left a few months to the elections.
This notwithstanding, Ortom stood his ground and went ahead with the law, a move believed to have begun to yield results as incidences of attacks and killings in Benue had since subsided.