Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Wednesday said that he had received messages from Fulani threatening him over the anti-open grazing law recently enacted by his administration.
Ortom stated this when he addressed members of National Council of Tiv Youths who protested to government house over what they described as ‘outburst and unguided utterances against Tiv nation and the Indigenes of Benue state by leaders of Fulani cattle rearers’.
The governor said that he would not be intimidated by the threat coming from the Fulani, stating emphatically that the law has come to stay and that the full implementation of the law would commence latest November 2017.
Governor Ortom had a few weeks ago assented to anti-open grazing bill passed by the state assembly which prohibits open grazing of cattle and livestock.
The law had among others provided that anyone who engages in open grazing in Benue State and on conviction will now be liable to five years imprisonment and provided for monetary compensation in case of any damage to a property and imprisonment of two years of the livestock owner or manager in case of injury to any person in the state.
The governor said that the enactment of the law was necessitated following the constant attacks on farmers in the state by suspected Fulani herdsmen, adding that he has the constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property of residents of his state.
According to him, ‘just this morning (Wednesday) one Fulani called my wife and asked her to warn me that I (Ortom) am joking with them (Fulani), but my response when my wife told me this, is that am not joking, this law has come to stay.’
“I challenge anyone who has superior solution to the senseless killings of our people other than anti-open grazing law should bring it forward, before the passage of the bill by House of Assembly, due process was followed, every nationality living in the state; the Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas/Fulanis and others were invited to the public hearing”.
“Whoever chooses to live in Benue must obey the law of the land, there is no grazing in Benue, I was elected to protect lives and property of every resident of the state, not to preside over dead people”.
The governor expressed assurance that with the enactment of the anti-open grazing law peace would return to the state.
He also said that the enforcement of the law would commence between October and November 2017.
Earlier, the leader of the protesters, Mr John Akperachi while addressing the governor had regretted that no herdsmen have been prosecuted over the killings of farmers in the state since 2012.
Akperachi called on federal government to prevail on security agencies to arrest leaders of Miyeitti Allah for opposing the anti-open grazing law and laying claim to natural resources of the state.
The protesters carried play cards with various inscriptions; ‘Security: call Miyeittii Allah to order’, ‘Why value cows more that human lives’, ‘Our land, our ancestors, our possession!’, ‘ranch your cows now, respect the laws of our land,’ and ‘we say no to open grazing’ among others.