Benue State government has denied insinuations by some people that governor Samuel Ortom has ceded lands belonging to the people of the state to Fulani herdsmen, saying such allegations were not true.
According to the chief press secretary to the governor Ortom, Terver Akase, the governor neither ceded land to herdsmen nor conferred indegenship on any individual or group of persons as reports have claimed, adding that the decision to allow herdsmen to graze cattle in designated areas in Agatu was jointly made by stakeholders in the two communities noting that Agatu and Fulani herdsmen have lived together for many decades both in Benue and Nasarawa communities.
He said, governor Ortom has repeatedly emphasised that ranching as practised in other parts of the world is the best solution to the crisis caused by cattle rearing in the country, a position he said the federal government also acceded to.
He noted that N100 billion was set aside by the previous administration for the establishment of ranches across the country, but the funds were diverted into private pockets, prompting the House of Representatives to move for the probe of some individuals.
“Though ranching remains the key to solving the herders/farmers crises, it is a gradual approach which demands careful planning and implementation.”
“The Ortom administration has already commenced the process with the open grazing prohibition bill awaiting passage at the Benue State House of Assembly.” he stated.
He noted that anyone who has visited Benue in the last few years or monitored reports from the state concerning the killing of innocent people and destruction of property worth billions of naira would understand and appreciate the urgent need for the return of peace and the prevention of further crisis between herders and farmers.
He explained that the recent peace, security and reconciliation meeting between governor Ortom and Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Almakura at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi, which was one of such efforts, led to a peaceful resolution between farmers/herders crises.
According to him security reports had shown that Fulani herdsmen from neighbouring countries who move to Nigeria are largely responsible for the killings and destruction that take place in some states including Benue.
“It was to avert the recurrence of the unfortunate situation that the communique issued at the end of the Makurdi meeting made a specific pronouncement that the privilege to graze cattle in designated parts of Agatu is “only granted to indigenous Fulani herdsmen who were known to the Agatu people before the crisis. This is to forestall destruction of farms and exhaustion of available green pasture.”