John Alechenu, Abuja
The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has revealed that clashes between farmers and herdsmen led to the loss of farm produce and property worth over N95bn within four years.
He said this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja, on Thursday.
According to the governor, the losses, which included those incurred by Fulani herdsmen, were recorded in clashes that took place between 2012 and 2016.
He explained that his administration’s decision to end the senseless killings and wanton destruction of property informed the passage of the anti-open grazing bill into law. The governor also revealed that threats issued by a splinter group of Miyyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association formed part of the last discussions he had with President Muhammadu Buhari when he paid him a visit at the Aso Rock Villa recently.
Ortom said no amount of threats or intimidation was strong enough to dissuade the state from implementing the anti-open grazing law with effect from November 1, this year.
He said, “What we have done is legitimate; it was an executive bill which we sent to the Benue State House of Assembly, we went through the due process before the law was passed and assented to by me.
“As many as are not ready to abide by our laws are free to move from Benue State to other states where open grazing is allowed.
“I have called for the arrest of Abdullahi Bello, the president and Sale Hassan, the secretary of the splinter group of Miyetti Allah who have issued threats. I understand that they are galvanising people at the border with Cameroon and in Nasarawa, but we will not be deterred. They don’t have a monopoly of violence or acquiring weapons; it is against the law. We in Benue are law-abiding people and we expect that security agencies will do their work.”
While explaining the reason behind the recent truce entered into with labour unions in the state, the governor said his administration had to borrow N8bn from commercial banks to settle two months’ salaries.
He stressed that the state’s wage bill, which currently stands at about N7.8bn, was not sustainable and that his administration was doing everything possible to bring it down to N4bn at the most.
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