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Benue: We’ve not done enough to cater for herdsmen needs so they’re killing – FG

As the Benue State Government has announced three days of mourning for scores of people killed and injured in various communities in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of the state by rampaging herdsmen,  the Federal Government has expressed concern that it has not done enough for the herdsmen.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh

At a meeting between the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, five state governors and security chiefs, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, declared that the Federal Government has not done enough to cater for the needs of the herdsmen.

Ortom also announced that those killed in the recent attacks would be given a mass burial,Thursday. This came as Southern and Middle Belt Forum called on the Federal Government to disarm all herdsmen across the country, forthwith.

The forum also called for the immediate removal of the Inspector-General of Police over his failure to apprehend perpetrators of the dastardly act. Governor Ortom  in a statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said: “The mourning period will be from Tuesday (today) to Thursday this week and ends with a church service for the victims at the IBB Square in Makurdi, followed by mass burial.

“Flags will fly at half-mast within the mourning period while work will close at 1p.m., on Tuesday (today) and Wednesday (tomorrow).

Thursday, which is the day for the church service and burial of the victims, will be a work-free day in the state.”

The governor who referred to those killed during the invasion as heroes and heroines, urged the people to pray for the repose of their souls.

Also, former army intelligence officer, Colonel Tony Nyiam (rtd), has flayed the Federal Government’s refusal to send soldiers after the Fulani herdsmen involved in the Benue killings, saying it was as an act of double standard.

Noting that soldiers were deployed against agents of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Niger Delta militants among others, he said the hesitation to send soldiers after the heavily armed herdsmen stood truth in its head. Nyiam spoke on a Channels Television interview programme yesterday.

FG hasn’t done much for  herdsmen — Ogbe

Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, expressed concerns over the growing wave of violent altercations between pastoralist and sedentary farmers, saying the trend must be halted before the elections.

At a meeting between the Minister of Interior, five state governors and security chiefs, Ogbeh, said that the Federal Government has not done enough to cater for the needs of the herdsmen.

“The farmers and herdsmen must not have their lives threatened by circumstances surrounding their professions. We do not want the farmer to lose his crops nor would we want anyone to. Over the years, we have not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development in the country. People ask the question: Why should government get involved? Why shouldn’t the herdsmen manage their own livestock?

“I am sad to tell you that in the last 50 years, until recently, we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we haven’t done much for herdsmen and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crises we are witnessing today.

“In Europe, every cow that is farmed gets a subsidy of Six Euros per day. We have done next to nothing for the cattle rearers here and as a result, their operations have become a threat to the existence of our farmers and that is what this communiqué will seek to resolve,” said Ogbeh.

FG planning cattle colonies, not ranches Ogbe added: “We are planning a programme called cattle colonies, not ranches, but colonies where at least 5, 000 hectares of land will be made available, adequate water, adequate pasture will  be made available. We also want to stop cattle rearers from roaming about.

The culture of cattle roaming about will be stopped. The cattle will be provided with water and adequate security by the rangers, adequate pasture milk collection even security against rustlers to enable them lead a normal life.

This has been done elsewhere in India, Ethiopia and even Brazil.” Declaring the meeting open, Dambazau had earlier established a nexus between communal and electoral violence, stating that “Knowing that general elections are fast approaching and considering the history of political and election violence in Nigeria, all necessary steps must be taken to ensure that the recently-witnessed crimes and violent conflicts are curtailed with utmost dispatch.”

The meeting which was ongoing at press time, was convened by Gen. Dambazau and has governors of Benue, Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa and Taraba in attendance as well as the Inspector-General of Police, D-G, DSS,  and Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC.

Famine looms This came as the state Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. James Anbua, lamented that Benue State will likely witness famine in the coming months as a result of  the invasion of Guma and Logo councils of the state by suspected herdsmen and the resultant displacement of the farming populace in the affected  communities.

Anbua who, yesterday, reacted to the sacking of the affected communities during the harvest season, said: “The implication of what we have at hand at the moment is far-reaching. The most significant part of it is that Guma and Logo councils are the hub of farming activities and food production in Benue State, so the displacement of farmers in these areas has created and left a huge gap in food production from Benue State.

“The invaders, apart from killing farmers, razed farmlands and food barns, including the much cherished Benue yam that is moved from  Logo and sold across the country.  Aside yam, cassava, sorghum, soya bean and rice farms were all razed by the attackers. Our worry at the moment is that Benue may likely witness famine because all that have been harvested and those yet to be harvested by our farmers were razed.”

The commissioner lamented that majority of the affected farmers sourced loans from financial institutions and invested same in their various farms, “so part of our worry right now is how those monies would be repaid when all the investments have been razed and destroyed by the invaders.

“In fact, our food security is currently being threatened. Guma and Logo are strategic to our food sufficiency drive. With the level of destruction in the two councils at the same time, there is no gainsaying that we are in trouble.”

The commissioner who bemoaned the attack said: “How can anyone claim that 1,000 cows were stolen from herdsmen, how possible can that be? How can anyone move that number of cows? It’s obviously not true, the man who made that claim and his cohorts should be arrested and made to face justice.

“It is only when that is done that the souls of those little children, pregnant women, the elderly and unarmed youths murdered in cold blood would rest in peace.”

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