George Okoh in Makurdi
Residents of some communities in Benue State have raised alarm following the influx of over 5, 000 cows and some herdsmen in some parts of the state despite the banned on open grazing in the state.
Some of the residents in Ado, Guma, Kwande, Agatu and Logo local government areas of the state have been leaving their abode in drove to forstall any impending conflict with the herders.
Residents in these areas who pleaded anonymity told journalists that the increasing presence of the herds of cattle was frightening, adding that some people have already started relocating to other safer areas.
“With the movement of large herds of cattle in our community, we are afraid because it portends danger. We recall the incident of the past years especially how hundreds of people were murdered and many others have taken refuge in camps but yet to return home till now. Something should be done soon. The security operatives should be alive to their responsibilities,” a resident of Guma cried out.
Commenting on the development, Governor Samuel Ortom’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, alleged that the sudden influx of armed herdsmen in some parts of the state was “politically motivated.”
Akase, who stated this in a telephone conversation with journalists yesterday, alleged that some enemies of the state (though he failed to mention names) were behind the massive movement of herdsmen to destabilise the state government.
“We suspect that the influx of armed herdsmen with their cattle into Benue State is a move by some persons who are enemy of peace of the state.
“We may not be accusing a particular person but for political reason, some persons have given open invitation to herdsmen to come to Benue and it is rather unfortunate.
“But herdsmen themselves should remember that there is a law in Benue State which prohibits open grazing of livestock and any one who violates this law, which is very clear, such a person irrespective of his tribe, would be sanctioned according to the law.
“Nobody is above the law, the law is not the respecter of a person and whoever wants to do livestock business in Benue State should remember that there is a law in place which regulates the practice of animal husbandry. We want to tell the herdsmen who are coming with their large cattle that Benue State has a law and is very clear.
“So, whoever that is responsible for the influx of herdsmen is clearly not for the people of Benue State, because for the past one year, the government and people of Benue State have put heads together with support of the security agents to ensure that there is peace in all parts of the state and people are enjoying the peace.
“Even those who are in the IDP camps, a lot of them have gone home and then suddenly, someone made public statement, inviting herdsmen, telling them that Benue State is free land for them to do open grazing. It’s quite unfortunate, but we wish to inform those people that they would face sanctions if they violate the law of the land,” he further alleged.