Following comments credited to the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, suggesting that the anti-grazing law and the arming of the state militia were responsible for killings in Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom has lashed back, and warned that if the nation’s Defence Minister could make comments ascribed to him, no one was safe.
Said Dan-Ali at the State House while briefing journalists on Thursday: ““Whatever crisis that happened at any time, there has to be remote and immediate causes.
“What are the remote causes of this farmers/herders crisis? Since Independence, we know there used to be a route whereby these cattle rearers use.
“Cattle rearers are all over the nation, you go to Bayelsa, you see them, you go to Ogun, you see them. If those routes are blocked, what happens? These people are Nigerians, it’s just like you going to block river or shoreline, does that make sense to you?
“These are the remote causes. But what are the immediate causes? It is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians, we must learn to live together with each other, that is basic.
“Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!”
Reacting in Makurdi, Benue State this Friday, Ortom said: “Well, it is unfortunate but I want to console myself that this thing is not coming from the Honourable Minister, but if it did, I will say that it is very unfortunate.
“The solution to the security challenges we have in this country is not in sight having those kind of people in power who are not able to give quality advice and to also proffer solutions to the security problems we have here.
“Take for instance, if you say it is because of the law that killings by herdsmen are going on in Benue, is there any law prohibiting open grazing in Adamawa State? Is there any law in Plateau State? Is there any law in Kaduna, Ondo, Bayelsa, Imo, Ebonyi, Delta or Edo States? In Edo state, cattle have taken over even schools.
On the curious revelation by the Department of State Services (DSS) that the terrorist group, Islamic State in West Africa, was involved in the carnage in his state, Ortom says
“The other day, a report came from DSS that the ISIS Terrorist Group Organisation is taking over and I also heard that the minister was quoted as saying we should accommodate foreigners; foreigners who come here illegally should be accommodated?
“So if a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is coming out to encourage our citizens to do illegal things, I now begin to see why they have given immunity that is the prerogative of the President and the Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors to herdsmen who kill and even cattle.
“Cattle in Nigeria have immunity more than human beings. This is unfortunate and I look forward that he will apologise to us and retract what he said because it is an insult on our collective leadership. It is wrong and let the minister know that,” he stated
On Thursday, the Defence Minister queried the decision of some states to set up and arm forest guards adding that killings were on both sides, in apparent reference to rampaging killer herdsmen and state militia groups.