Benue leaders led by Governor Samuel Ortom yesterday declared that their state had no empty land to be designated as a cattle colony as being proposed by the Federal Government.
They made the declaration at a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa, Abuja on the recent violent attacks on communities in Benue State by suspected Fulani gunmen.
Ortom, who addressed State House correspondents after the meeting said: “I do not understand what colonies mean. Today, I was privileged to meet the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, and he explained to me that a colony is many ranches put in one place, restricted in one place. For us in Benue State, we have no 10,000 hectares to be allowed for that kind of a thing to take place.
“Other states have the land but we in Benue State don’t have and that was what led us to enacting this law.”
The governor insisted on the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore for the alleged inciting statement which caused the massacre of innocent residents of Guma and Logo local governments of Benue State.
“When people violate the law and they are not sanctioned it becomes a problem. These people should be arrested and investigated because there is enough evidence against them.”
The governor said Benue State was part of President Buhari’s constituency, therefore the residents also deserved government’s protection.
“We don’t have powers over the security of this country, except the Federal Government. It is expected that the Federal Government will support us to enforce our laws and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Ortom, who noted that “even before the anti-grazing law, killings were taking place more than what we are witnessing today” said the state government had found a solution in the new law to protect all.
“We are not sending anyone away from Benue State. The herdsmen, whether you are Igbo, Fulani, Hausa, Idoma or Tiv, you are free. Just follow the law, obtain permit and then do the ranch and you are protected,” he said.
The governor denied allegations that the state was arming militia groups, describing the development as a distraction from the main issues.
He said that as far back as 2015 when he took over as governor, he organised an amnesty programme which achieved the disarmament of over 800 youths.
At the meeting, President Buhari appealed to the government and people of Benue to exercise restraint, assuring that all the perpetrators of violence in the state would be made to face the wrath of the law.
He commiserated with the victims of the attacks and promised that the government would ameliorate their suffering. He said relevant agencies had been directed to cater for their needs.
“I appeal to Governor Ortom to restrain his people. I assure you that the police, the Department of State Service and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.
“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation,” the president said.
According to Buhari, the Inspector General of Police has been directed to relocate to the state to provide security for lives and property. He urged all Benue indigenes to trust the security agencies and report all suspicious cases of movements in the state.
Also present at the meeting were Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu; former Senate President, David Mark; former governor, Senator George Akume; and Senator Barnabas Gemade.
Others include Senator Joseph Waku; Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd); Brig. Gen. John Atom Kpera (rtd); former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa; Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Terkimbir Kyambe and lawmakers.