The umbrella body of cattle breeders in Nigeria, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, has said that peace will return to Benue state once the state government modifies its anti-open grazing law.
The state government last year enacted the law which is aimed at regulating open grazing of cows in the state. Governor Samuel Ortom had to come up with the law after many farmers in the state had clashed with herdsmen who lead their cattle into their farm to feed on and destroy their crops.
In an interview with Punch, the Secretary-General of the association, Usman Ngelzerma, said the state government cannot change the way of life of the herdsmen like a switch. He said the state government has to re-examine the antigrazing law.
“I like the Benue State governor. He is a peace-loving person but is working on wrong advice. The approach he took is wrong. You cannot change the way of life of a people like the way you turn off a light switch. We don’t wish for the crisis to continue but let us give it (the law) another look. We don’t like the killings. We will never condone the killing of people. Give the farmers their rights but consider the pastoralists too.” he said
Ngelzerma said a faction of the association, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which endorsed the then President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2015 general elections, is responsible for all the attacks being carried out by some members of the group. He also alleged that the livestock guards employed by the state government to enforce the anti-open grazing law, were high-handed and were extorting money from the pastoralists.
“The livestock guards have constituted themselves to the police and the court at the same time. They impose penalties on herdsmen, fine them huge sums of money before releasing them. That was the situation before this crisis erupted. I was told that shortly before this crisis, the guards went to make some arrests in a particular community and they met stiff resistance from the Fulani because they were already tired of the persistent harassment from the guards, not the police or the DSS, army or constituted authority. This was what led to the violence and unnecessary deaths that followed which we do not condone.” he said
The MACBAN boss urged the National Assembly to quickly pass the Grazing Reserve Bill into law, which will lead to the creation of grazing reserves and ultimately stop herdsmen from encroaching on farmlands.