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The umbrella body of cattle breeders in the country, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, has said the anti-open grazing law in Benue State Government, aimed at regulating cow grazing in the state, must be modified for peace to reign in the state.
The Secretary-General of the association, Usman Ngelzerma, said this during an interview with The PUNCH on Monday.
Ngelzerma said, “I like the Benue State governor. He is a peace-loving person but is working on wrong advice. The approach he took is wrong. You cannot change the way of life of a people like the way you turn off a light switch.
“We don’t wish for the crisis to continue but let us give it (the law) another look. We don’t like the killings; we will never condone the killing of people. Give the farmers their rights but consider the pastoralists too.”
Ngelzerma, blamed a faction of the association for issuing threats before the latest attacks in Benue State.
He fingered the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which endorsed the then President Goodluck Jonathan in the build-up to the 2015 election, as being at loggerheads with the Benue State Government.
The secretary-general alleged that the livestock guards, employed by the state government to enforce the anti-open grazing law, were high-handed and were extorting money from the pastoralists.
Ngelzerma claimed that the fighting between the herdsmen and the livestock guards led to the January 1 killings in five communities in the Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state in which over 20 persons were murdered.
He said, “The livestock guards have constituted themselves to the police and the court at the same time. They impose penalties on herdsmen, fine them huge sums of money before releasing them. That was the situation before this crisis erupted.
“I was told that shortly before this crisis, the guards went to make some arrests in a particular community and they met stiff resistance from the Fulani because they were already tired of the persistent harassment from the guards, not the police or the DSS, army or constituted authority.
“This was what led to the violence and unnecessary deaths that followed which we do not condone.”
The MACBAN boss urged the National Assembly to quickly pass the Grazing Reserve Bill into law, which will lead to the creation of grazing reserves and ultimately stop herdsmen from encroaching on farmlands.