Reacting to a statement made by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, who on Thursday January 25th, said that the anti-open grazing law was largely responsible for the herdsmen killings around the country, Governor Samuel Ortom, says it seems herdsmen and their cattle, now enjoy same immunity from prosecution enjoyed by the President and Vice-President.
“These people (herdsmen) are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis,” Mansur Dan Ali had said.
Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, who lamented that the federal government valued the lives of cattle more than humans, went further to disclose that it is “an insult to the sensibility of Nigerians” for the Minister to say such.
The Governor who spoke to newsmen in Makurdi, the state capital, said;
“we have not committed any offence. The open grazing prohibition law protects both herdsmen and farmers and ensures that they live in peace. That is the only way to stop the killings.
“All these running around and going back and forth will not save this country. Let us accept the facts, let us be truthful to ourselves and the people we serve. Let us leave selfishness outside governance. Let us ensure equity, fairness and Justice for all citizens.
“That is what we call for. Let us stop manipulating our ways thinking that others will not see. We are all human beings who are created by God just like any other person who is in leadership position today.
“So, it is amazing that the Federal government is playing to the gallery instead of coming out to confront this monster that is before us, waiting to consume the entire country. It is unfortunate.
“Today you talk about ranching in some states, grazing reserve in some other states and tomorrow you talk about colony. I don’t understand. Globally, what is being practiced is ranching. So why are we running away from this, why are we running away. And why are we diverting attention. The other day, they said I own 6,000 militia. Let the federal government come and show me that militia. I was the first Governor in Nigeria, on assumption of office, that initiated the process of amnesty which I granted to several youths who turned in more than 700 rifles and several other weapons. I disarmed them because they were using it against the people and I felt that these were young men we could give a new orientation. That is what we did.
“So it is laughable for anyone to say today that Ortom owns 6,000 militia. How about the herdsmen who are displaying these weapons and guns, sophisticated weapons openly, where are the security agencies, why are they not arresting them? Everyday you wake up with statements to divert attention. I heard and I saw the Minister of Defence after their security meeting yesterday, while briefing the press, saying it was the law prohibiting open grazing that brought the killings in Benue state. I said to myself, it cannot be the Minister of Defense.
“This is somebody who worked and retired from the army after attaining the rank of a General. This a Minister, who is educated and has traveled far and near round the globe. How can he say that?
“Maybe he was misquoted or something because I cannot see the Minister of Defense saying that kind of thing. But if he actually said it, I would ask him, ‘Honourable Minister of Defense, if you said that kind of a thing, where were you as the Minister of this country, when herdsmen were carrying AK47 and weapons that are higher than AK47 and were going about killing my people and you want me to keep quiet.
“And I begin to wonder, the other day the federal government came out with a pronouncement that it was ISIS a terrorist group in West Africa that was attacking Benue people and on the other hand I was told that the Minister said that we should accommodate foreigners.
“What a country? Foreigners come in without valid papers and they come to take over your land and you surrender it to them? Minister I will not do that in Benue state, we will not surrender our land.
“You can go and do it in your own state and not in Benue state. These people who are supposed to be assisting Mr. President are there for their selfish interest, misinforming him, misdirecting him instead of guiding him to do the right thing.
“Killings are going on in the states and they are talking about law. Is there any grazing law in Adamawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Enugu, Kwara, Zamfara states and several others? Is there any law prohibiting open grazing in these places?
“So if that Minister said that, I think that the people around President Buhari are the wrong set of people that should be there to help him run the country.
“It is really unfortunate, it pains me, for people to come and start dancing on the blood of those they are supposed to protect. Innocent people, pregnant women that were slaughtered and a Minister will come out and say this kind of thing, it is unfortunate, really unfortunate.
“If you say it is because of the law, is there any grazing law in those states where herdsmen and cattle have taken over even schools. It is provoking, it is like dancing on the graves of those people who were murdered and slaughtered in this state. It is unfortunate that you have these kind of people who are entrusted with the responsibility of providing security for our state.
“I had thought that immunity in this country is enjoyed by the President, his Vice, the Governors and their Deputies. But if the Minister actually said what I read in the papers, it means they have provided immunity for herdsmen who kill and maim and rape our women. They have also provided immunity for cattle in Nigerian which is very wrong.”