Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has said that if the 2nd January 2, 2018 killings of dozens of people in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state by suspected Fulani herdsmen was meant to intimidate the state government to repeal the Anti-Open Grazing Law 2017, the murderers had failed.
Ortom stated this on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) Square in Makurdi, the state capital, while delivering a speech in a service to mark the mass burial of the 73 slain victims of the Fulani herdsmen invasion.
The governor, who said that the law must be implemented to the letter, emphasised that ranching was the best global practice in the 21st century, even as he maintained that the state would not accept cattle colonies on its land as advocated by the Federal Government.
He urged the government to arrest the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association because they had at several forums made incitive statements against the state, and that the recent killings were a pointer to the fact that they had executed their genocidal threats.
Further blaming the wanton killings of Benue indigenes on the absolute silence of the government and security agencies who were meant to protect them, he lamented that if the authorities had heeded to the reports he gave it concerning the threats of attacks which the Cattle Breeders Association had issued in resisting the implementation of the law, the killings would have been averted.
Also speaking, the Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese, William Avenya, who reiterated that cattle colonies were not acceptable by the Benue people, said that there was not enough land even for farming which is the predominant occupation of the people as such, only ranching is the solution.
Stressing further, Bishop Avenya, while blaming the wanton killings of Benue indigenes on the silence of the Federal Government, decried the non-presence of government in the state ranging from impassable federal roads, and infrastructural deficit, among others.
On his part, the UN Country Coordinator, Nigeria, Martins Okey Ejidike, while commiserating with the people of the state on their loss, stated that it is their collective loss and called for restraint on all parties.
Ejidike, while adding that the dead victims have been denied the fundamental right to life, urged the government to fulfil its obligations and bring the perpetrators to book to seek redress for the victims.
“We urge an enlightened approach to this matter that takes into account human rights, and we pray God to grant eternal rest to the lost lives and this impunity to end in Benue State as well as elsewhere in Nigeria,” he added.
Also speaking, the Chairman Benue State Council of Chiefs, Tor Tiv the V, HRM Prof. James Ayatse, lamented that the killings may very well be pointers of ethnic cleansing as claimed in many quarters.
The Tor Tiv, who said the killings have united Benue people who are bent on agenda of peace, agenda of liberty and freedom from their oppressors, called on goverment to arise and put an end to the wickedness and impunity perpetrated by the suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Speaking separately, Former Military Governor, Katsina State, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (Rtd), and Sen. Joseph Waku reiterated that the killings in Benue was a conspiracy against the indigenes, and that they cannot take it any longer.
“We have had enough of the senseless killings. Enough is enough.One of the survivors, Mr Akaater Azera, said that the Fulani herdsmen came in the night while they were asleep and started shooting sporadically and when his wife came out, they shot her dead.
He added that when he came out of his house he started running and they ran after him and macheted him on the mouth and leg but he survived.
By Damian Daga