Taraba State Government; Rivers State Government; Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, and civil rights groups on Friday berated the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, over his statement on the killings by suspected herdsmen in the country.
They said that the statement showed that the minister was insensitive to the plight of the victims of the violence carried out by suspected herdsmen.
For instance, Ortom took a swipe at the minister, describing him as one of the people misinforming President Muhammadu Buhari.
Dan-Ali, in an interview with State House correspondents, had identified the blockage of cattle routes across the country as the remote cause of the killings by herdsmen.
He also identified the implementation of anti-open grazing law in some states as the immediate cause of the killings.
The minister had said, “Whatever crisis that happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of the farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be a route whereby the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation.
“If you go to Bayelsa or Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block the shoreline; does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law.”
Ortom, who spoke to journalists in Makurdi, condemned the minister for his advice to states to accommodate foreigners.
He described the statement as ‘unfortunate’, adding that the minister should proceed and hand over his state to foreigners. Ortom added that he would not surrender his state to any foreigner.
He further explained that the minister’s statement was tantamount to granting immunity to herdsmen and their cattle.
The governor frowned on the manner by which the Federal Government was twisting the killings in the state through several statements credited to officials of the government.
He said, “I heard a statement credited to the Minister of Defense, saying the killings in Benue were as a result of the anti-open grazing law. I can’t see him saying that kind of thing. If he said so, I would have asked him what he has done about Fulani herdsmen going about with AK47s.
“I will not surrender my land to foreigners. You can go and do that in your own state. It’s sad that those who are supposed to be assisting the President have instead, turned round to misinform him, all for their selfish interests.
“As a state, we are ready to accommodate those who are genuine and come to our state legally, whether foreigners, to do business. But if you are in Benue, you must respect the laws of the land.
“I see the statement as an insult to the collective leadership and sensibility of the people of Nigeria, for a minister of defence to ask Nigerians to accommodate foreigners who illegally enter the country to cause problems.
“I am now beginning to see that they have given immunity that is the prerogative of President, Vice-President, governors and deputy governors to herdsmen, who kill and to their cattle. Cattle in Nigeria now have more immunity than humans. This is very unfortunate.
“Also, a few days ago, they said that those responsible for the killings in Benue were members of ISIS. All these are diversionary moves by the government.”
Ortom insisted that the anti-open grazing law had come to stay in the state, while advising the President to caution his cabinet members against making inflammatory statements.
Minister’s comments, surprising- Taraba govt
Also, the Taraba State government described the minister’s statement as unfortunate.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Darius Ishaku on Media and Publicity, Mr. Bala Dan-Abu, wondered why the Federal Government was justifying the killings going on in the country instead of finding a solution to the problem.
He stated, “State governments are constitutionally empowered to make laws for the good governance and peaceful coexistence in their states.
“The killings were there before the laws came into being. The laws are part of the solution to end the killings. We are indeed surprised that the minister could say that.
“The Department of State Services, in its report, said the killings were done by Islamic State in West Africa and the minister is blaming the killings on blockage of cattle routes and anti-open grazing laws. So, who do we believe?”
Minister’s statement, insensitive – Rivers govt
Similarly, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, said it was insensitive on the part of the minister to blame the blocking of grazing routes and the promulgation of anti-open grazing law for the killings by herdsmen.
Wike, who spoke through his Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Emma Okah, said, “So far, there is no indication that the state government is planning to create grazing routes or cattle colonies in the state. The statement by the minister only smacks of insensitivity on his (minister’s) part.
“Assuming that grazing routes were blocked, should killing become the next action? We are not in a jungle; we are a society of enlightened people. If there is a problem, people should come together and find a solution to it and not take up arms and kill innocent people.”
Forget cattle routes, Tiv groups tells FG
President General of the Tiv Cultural and Social Association in Taraba State, Chief Goodman Dahida, challenged the Federal Government to stop theorising the killings but look inward to find a solution to the problem.
He advised the Federal Government to forget about cattle routes and grazing reserves, which he said were no longer feasible, but rather adopt ranching.
Dahida said, “Nigeria’s population in the 1950s and early 60s, when these so-called cattle reserves and routes were created, was barely 50 million. Today, we have over 200 million people in Nigeria.
“This idea of cattle routes will not work today. Whatever name they will want to use to justify the killings will not work. It is even good that Dan-Ali has come out to tell the world why the Fulani are killing us.
“Nigeria is not the country with the highest number of cows in the world, but we don’t hear of killings in other countries.”
Dan-Ali indirectly justifying herdsmen’s killings—Youth group
A civil society group, Youth Lead Nigeria Movement, also described Dan-Ali’s statements as insensitive, noting that he was indirectly justifying the killings.
The National Coordinator of the movement, Pelumi Olajengbesi, said on Friday that the government should address the problem and not worsen the crisis.
He said, “The minister’s statement on the Fulani herdsmen killings in Benue and all other affected states goes down in history as one of the most insensitive utterances of this administration.
“By blaming the killings on the implementation of the anti-open grazing law in some states, he implicitly put the blame on the victims while tacitly making a case for the perpetrators.”
Lalong rejects cattle colonies in Plateau
Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on Friday rejected the proposal by the Federal Government for cattle colonies to be established in the state.
He also described as “false, malicious and highly mischievous”, reports in the social media that he had carved out parts of Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Bokkos local government areas for the creation of cattle colonies.
Lalong, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Dan Manjang, advised all peace-loving citizens of the state to “discountenance such mischievous information” and gravitate towards issues of unity, rather than those that divide them.
No grazing routes in Bayelsa –Commissioner
The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Doodie Week, said there had never been any grazing route traversing the state.
Week said, “I am not aware of any grazing route traversing Bayelsa. I do not have such in my records and I have not also been made to know that there are grazing routes traversing the state.
“The state has a subsisting policy that every cattle should go to Bayelsa Palm which is a ranch. So, we are not envisaging creating any route for grazing.”
Osun rules out grazing routes, insists on ranching
The Osun State Government also ruled out the possibility of creating a grazing route for herdsmen as a way of addressing the killings and destruction of farms and other property being perpetrated by suspected herdsmen.
Osun State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Adelani Baderinwa, who said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Osogbo on Friday, said ranching was the only option the state could consider.
He said the state government had set up a ranch – Oloba Farms – in Iwo, saying the government could consider similar ones to solve any problem that might arise from livestock production in the state.
The commissioner said, “There is this story that grazing routes used to exist all over the country and I am not sure if it passed through where the State of Osun is located or not. They said development has overtaken this. We are not thinking of creating a grazing route in the state.”
Oyo, Edo back ranching
The Oyo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Oyewole Oyewumi, also noted that he was not aware of any grazing route passing through the state, saying, “We have made our position clear and what we support is ranching. We are willing to support anyone that is willing to establish ranching.”
The Edo State Government also said that it was not aware of any grazing route in any part of the state.
It also said that it had no plan to have one, as it was working to encourage the development of private ranches in the state.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Monday Osaigbovo, said, “I do not really know the meaning (of what the minister said). I don’t know about any grazing route.”
Kogi gov knocks critics of cattle colonies
But the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, berated critics of the cattle colonies proposed by the Federal Government.
The governor spoke on Friday at the state’s Agricultural Expo as part of the activities to mark his second anniversary in office.
He said that the criticism that had greeted the proposal arose from lack of intellectual capacity to realise that the cattle colonies, apart from ensuring the increase in meat production, would increase the internally generated revenue of the state.
“Kogi State has the culture of tolerance. We are accommodating. We have people of different ethnic backgrounds. We have been living peacefully with the Igbo and the Hausa. We have been tolerating our Nupe brothers. Why can’t we tolerate our Fulani brothers whose meat we are eating every day?” he stated.
Although neither Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State nor any top official could be reached for comments on the issue of grazing routes, it was learnt that grazing routes once existed in the state.
It was also learnt that the routes had been taken over by farming activities.
The state government, late last year, allocated 5,300 hectares of land in Jibia Local Government Area for cattle colony as part of the steps to avert friction between herdsmen and farmers, but investigations did not reveal if the state was planning to have grazing routes now.