…my job is to defend my people, says Benue governor
The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on Thursday said he warned his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, against implementing the state anti-grazing law recently passed into law.
Lalong said this in an interview with State House correspondents shortly after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said his position was that it was wrong to start implementing the law without proper alternatives.
He said, “To be honest with you, I advised him. I told the governor of Benue State when he was initiating the law, I said ‘look, why don’t you tread softly, just be careful, take other steps before you start implementation.’
“But you see, states are different; his own concepts are different and for us on the Plateau, it is different.
“I said I would not do the law before implementation. I have not developed the ranching areas so I cannot go and say I put a law, to stop who? If I stop the people, what is the alternative?
“So, I said ‘do consultations, allow the people to understand and buy into the concepts.’”
Lalong insisted that his administration would not implement the anti-grazing law.
He said there were levels of implementation which would require government intervention, provision of ranches as well as subsidy from the federal and state governments.
The governor said by the time every structure was on the ground, then the government could promulgate laws to regulate the implementation.
“Ranching as a concept; it is a policy and there are states realising the importance of the policy.
“I cannot wake up like some people said last year that I should go and do anti-grazing law. And I asked ‘anti-grazing law for what?’
“We are talking about ranching, we are talking about development of livestock business and I cannot use the word ‘anti’ to start driving people who are interested away. It is for those who are interested to come and get involved in it, “ the governor said.
But Ortom, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Tahav Argezua, said he was not at liberty to take the advice of Lalong.
He said that herdsmen had been attacking states, including Plateau, before the law was made.
He stated that Ortom had the responsibility to protect the lives of his people who voted him into office.
Argezua, in a telephone interview, said, “Benue killings was not as a result of the anti-open grazing law. Even before the law, there were lots of crises perpetrated by the herdsmen.”
He asked whether the law was in place when the herdsmen attacked Agatu, Kwande and many others places.
“Was it because of the law that Agatu was attacked by the herdsmen? What about Plateau, Adamawa, Ebonyi and Nasarawa states as well as other places that have been clearly attacked?” he asked.
“I think Governor Lalong is not appreciating what is on the ground. What is at stake in Benue State is a declaration of war against us.
“These people said that they were in the Benue valley before the Tiv and Idoma people and they promised to come and chase the people away. The issue at stake is the green grass.
“The Fulani people are using their position as president to pursue an agenda. All the heads of security apparatus in Nigeria are Fulani people. So they are pursuing an agenda to take the land so that they can graze freely.
“It is not whether there is anti-grazing law or not, it is a well planned programme which they have publicly announced.
“So, I don’t know what the Plateau governor mean, maybe he has link of interest otherwise if you advise someone, is the person not at liberty to take the advice or not.”
Meanwhile, a former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, has criticised the President for his alleged indifference to the killings in Benue State and other parts of Nigeria by herdsmen.
According to Okogie, a Commander-in-Chief does not treat a security matter with levity.
The retired Catholic Archbishop of Lagos stated that a truly responsible government was proactive on burning national issues.
Okogie said these in a piece sent to The PUNCH on Thursday entitled, ‘Butchers in Benue: What a Nation!”
Okogie said, “…It is reprehensible that while Nigerians are disturbed at the butchery in Benue, the President and his party are campaigning for votes in Abia State. We are thus being told in a rather crude and arrogant manner that the fortunes of the politician take precedence over security and welfare of citizens of Nigeria. Politicians who truly rely on the votes of the people to be in office respect the people because they know that the day of reckoning shall surely come.”
Okogie said the north-eastern part of Niger also remained “an expanding theatre of war as we read of the killer instinct and atrocities of terrorist herdsmen in Adamawa and Taraba.”
“He added that apart from Benue, other states in the Middle Belt were regular targets of the “bloody herdsmen.