HISTORY will indisputably salute
Governor Samuel Ortom’s courage for
assenting to the anti-open grazing bill in
Benue State. This step, more than any other
has demonstrated his ability to protect the
people of the state. Before the coming of the
law, the people lived in perpetual fear of
Fulani herdsmen who graze their cattle in
the state and kill peasants farmers almost on
daily basis, destroy their properties and take
over their ancestral homes.
“The law brings an end to the incessant
clash between livestock/herds rearers and
crop farmers in the state, who in attempts
to protect their respective interest, clash, kill
maim and destroy persons and properties,”
Governor Ortom said.
The governor went further to unveil the
penalty for open grazing: “Any person found
guilty of open grazing shall be sentenced to
five years imprisonment or a fine of N1,000,
000. It is an offense for livestock to stray to
the other person’s land. No open grazing, no
movement of livestock on foot within and
across Benue State and no livestock owner or
farmer shall carry firearms.”
What became the anti-open grazing law
today was an executive bill sent to the State
House of Assembly and was subjected to
all stages of legislation, including public
hearing before it was passed by the speaker
of the House, Hon Terkimbir Ikyange.
It is disheartening to know that by January
this year, the herdsmen had killed no fewer
than 3,920 in Agatu Local Government Area
of the state alone. The above figure, no doubt,
would be astronomical when the killings
in other local government areas like Guma,
Gwer West, Logo, Buruku, Ohimini, Otukpo,
Kwande and other local government areas
by Fulani herders are computed.
From 2010 when the carnage became
pronounced, the people had had the bitter
choice of always running from the farm to
prevent being killed by the herdsmen who
move with guns, daggers and weapons.
Despite that, several unlucky ones, including
the active farming population, women and
children, have met their untimely death in
the hands of the herdsmen in their sleep,
sometimes at the wee hours of the day.
However, the introduction of the new law
has changed the narrative as government has
taken the bull by the horns by carrying out
its primary function of providing security
and creating an enabling environment for
its citizens to lawfully carry out their lawful
activities. The people are now happy as they
move about with confidence knowing that
they would no longer be forced to wake up at
the middle of the night by disruptive sounds
of gunshots from invading Fulani herdsmen. As laudable as this development is, a sociocultural
organisation under the aegis of Miyetti
Allah Kautal Hore, MAKH, has disagreed
with the promulgation of the law by the state
government, arguing that it would hamper
their cattle rearing business.
Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Engr
Saleh Alhassan, at a recent press conference
in Abuja contended that the Fulanis were the
original inhabitants of Benue valley, stressing
that it was inappropriate to treat members of
the association as outcasts. He also stated that
the Economic Community of West African
States, ECOWAS protocol even allow the
Fulani community free movement into and
across the country.
Alhassan said: “We are ever ready. We
are peaceful people. What we don’t accept
is for people not to welcome us and want to
annihilate us. We will not accept that.
“We know our history. We know our root. If
you see us in the bushes, don’t think we don’t
have our history and particularly in Benue. We
are challenging the Tiv people. We were there
in the Benue valley before them…before they
moved from Congo and settled in Cross River
and later moved to the Benue valley. So they
met the pastoralists there. This is a struggle for
natural resources. You cannot beat us and say
we should not cry, No. Even God will not be
happy with that.
“The Nigerian state must recognise that the
Fulani pastoralist exists and as a socio-cultural
group that has a right to the shared resources.
We must be allocated land to do our cattle
grazing, which systematically we can settle
our families, change the breed of cattle they
need and improve on the technology of cattle
Similarly, president of the socio-cultural
association, Alh. Abdullahi Bello, described
the enactment as wicked, obnoxious and
He said it was wicked to criminalise their
means of survival and freedoms.
Bello urged the National Assembly to
intervene on the issue, stressing that inter-state
movement of pastoralists is synonymous to
inter-state commerce.
“Our association view the current attempt by
the Benue State government to criminalise our
means of economic livelihood of cattle rearing
through the enactment of an obnoxious antiopen
grazing law as the most wicked act any
government can do to us and our economic
“We want to state here that we reject that
repressive and oppressive law and will deploy
all the necessary legal means as enshrined in
the constitution to challenge it,” he added.
The association vowed to mobilise
herdsmen in the country to resist the law as
it was a deliberate attempt to enslave their
members,”through this wicked legislation ever
contemplated in the history of our nation.”
However, former Minister of Steel
Development, Wantaregh Paul Unongo
disagreed with the stand of Miyetti Allah
Kautal Hore, saying that all the people in Benue
wishing to transmit business in the state must
obey the anti open grazing law.
“People who advocate violent confrontation/
opposition to such a law, and people who say
they will not obey the law and even call on
their supporters to disobey the law are wrong,
unless they are interested in anarchy!” Unongo
According to Unongo, the legislation of
the law was a response to security challenges
confronting the people of the state and urged
the people of the state to subscribe to it, stressing
“Open Grazing in Benue State now, is illegal
and technically, anybody insisting on carrying
on with and actually proceeding to carry on
with open grazing is committing a crime. Open
grazing has been criminalised in Benue state,
that is the fact. This is the law now!”
Paul Unongo is not alone in the ranks of those
giving tacit support for the enforcement of the
anti open grazing law. Several other individuals
and organisations have done same.
Just recently, a coalition of socio-cultural
organisations in the state, comprising of the
Mdzough U Tiv, Idoma National Forum
and Omi Ny ‘Igede, which represent the
Tiv, Idoma and Igede tribes rolled out their
drums, supporting the objective of the antiopen
grazing law which they said is targeted
at bringing to an end the wanton destruction
of innocent lives of the Benue people in their
hundreds and thousands by the herdsmen.
Spokesman of the socio-cultural
organisations and president-general of
Mdzough U Tiv, Edward Ujege that the
new law is targeted at forestalling “the
continued devastation of the Bemue land
and to conform to global best practices for the
management of livestock, which is also in the
interest of cattle herdsmen.”
Ujege described the statement of the
leaders of Miyeitti Allah as an incitement
against the people of Benue, adding that its
assertion is ridiculous, preposterous and
complete falsehood.
The coalition, therefore, called on the acting
president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo to arrest
and prosecute the leaders of Miyetti Allah
for inciting herdsmen against the people of
the state, stressing if the federal government
fail to arrest them, any breakdown of law
and order and further destruction of lives
and property by the Fulani herdsmen
will be blamed on it for not living up to its
constitutional responsibility.
Alternatively, the group said if the
government is reluctant and unwilling to do
so, they will drag the leadership of Miyeitti
Allah to court over its claim of owning the
Benue valley.
They also vowed to seek the support of
other socio -cultural groups of other ethnic
nationalities in the country; Afenifere, Arewa
Consultative Forum, Ndigbo to institute
legal action against the leadership of the
Miyeitti Allah.
“There is neither historical, archeological
nor anthropological evidence to indicate that
the Fulanis ever inhabited the Benue valley at
any time before the advent of the Tiv people
or any other ethnic groups of Benue state.
“What is veritable and verifiable historical
fact is that the forces of the 1804 Islamic
Jihad led by the Fulani cleric, Usman Dan
Fodio, were overwhelmingly defeated at the
Ushongo hills in Tivland.”
Another organisation, which also joined the
fray is the National Council of Tov Youths.
Led by its president, John Akpereshi, the
body protested the position of Miyetti Allah
Kautal Hore in Government House, Makurdi
recently and urged the Fulani herdsmen to
comply with the law by ranching their cattle
as cattle breeding would not be allowed to
thrive at the detriment of the lives of Benue