The governor accused the Nigerian government of paying lip service to its fight against insecurity.
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom says he will rather die than surrender his land to the Fulani ‘who have made over a million homeless (people) in his state’.
Ortom disclosed this on Tuesday in Markudi, the state capital, while receiving the mission team of the Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors without Borders.
The governor accused the Nigerian government of paying lip service to its fight against insecurity.
He maintained that the Muhammadu Buhari-led government has the capacity to arrest killer herdsmen but has chosen to look the other way to fulfil an alleged agenda of ethnic cleansing.
He said, “Our people are dying, our women, mothers are being raped, our children can’t go to school, they are suffering.
“These criminals, they display themselves on social media, claiming they are here for an agenda to drive our people away and take over their land and also kill them. And they are here courtesy of Federal Government but for me, if they come, then I’m ready to die than to surrender my land to Fulani men. If God didn’t protect me, then I need no help from anybody.”
“The spate of insecurity has also led to increased internal displacement which is now commonplace in most parts of the nation’s food basket as statistics continue to swell on what seems to be a daily basis with many more communities sacked from their ancestral home by the persistent attacks with no hope in sight for their safe return home,” the governor added. (Sahara Reporters)
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom on Saturday took a swipe at his Kaduna counterpart, describing him as “one of the real enemies” of Nigeria.
Mr. Ortom was responding to a statement credited to Governor Nasir El-Rufai, where the latter reportedly accused the Benue Governor of attacking the federal government to cover for his failure to secure Benue state.
“Nasir el-Rufai is a sycophant, ethnic champion and religious bigot who hates anyone who does not share the same faith with him,” a statement signed by Ortom’s spokesman, Terver Akase, said.
“He is among the very few persons who have misled President Muhammadu Buhari.
“El-Rufai is one of the real enemies of this country who do not hide their divisive tendencies by elevating nepotism and ethnicity above the good values that have held Nigeria together over the decades.”
Communities in Benue have recently come under attack from suspected herdsmen prompting Ortom to accuse President Buhari of working with Fulani to take over Nigeria.
The Presidency, in response to Ortom’s comment, has expressed disappointment in the Governor.
Read Ortom’s full statement on El-Rufai:
EL-RUFAI IS ONE OF THOSE WHO HAVE MISLED PRESIDENT BUHARI
We read the statement credited to Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai in which he accused Governor Samuel Ortom of using the insecurity in his state to attack the Federal Government in order to cover up what he termed as the Benue State Governor’s failure.
We want to believe that El-Rufai was wrongly quoted. A man who has failed in several aspects as Governor of Kaduna has no moral justification to accuse another Governor.
A Governor who has divided the good people of Kaduna against one another by not hiding his hatred of indigenes of the state on account of religion and ethnicity is not qualified to judge another Governor on any issue whatsoever. A Governor who chose a Muslim deputy in a state where Christians have a huge population is certainly not one to preach unity and peaceful co-existence.
El-Rufai’s attack on Governor Ortom is merely to make him look good before the Presidency. He has apparently fallen out of favour at the Villa and wants to use Governor Ortom as a launch pad back to reckoning. How has he handled his own problems in Kaduna? This is a man who has insulted almost every prominent Nigerian including the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and former President Olusegun Obasanjo; a man who is his former boss and one who brought him to limelight.
Nigerians have not forgotten the unprintable things El-Rufai said during Goodluck Jonathan’s time as President. He insulted the then President and publicly supported terrorists attacking parts of the country. His statements on the abduction of Chibok girls and several other acts of terrorism are still fresh in our minds. El-Rufai is on record to have said repeatedly that Fulani people must retaliate any wrong done to them no matter how long it takes.
Is Governor Ortom responsible for El-Rufai’s inability to ensure peace in Kaduna State where bandits have taken over some communities while kidnappings and killings occur on daily basis?
El-Rufai admitted to paying Fulani herdsmen whom he invited from other West African countries in the name of stopping attacks in Southern Kaduna. Since he made the confessional statement, attacks on the people of Southern Kaduna have escalated. This is why he wants men of good conscience like Governor Ortom to be silent to pave way for the conquest and expansion agenda to succeed.
Kidnapping has become a common crime in Kaduna State under Nasir el-Rufai. Aside the much celebrated cases, it has been estimated that at every given time, not less that 300 persons are abducted in Kaduna by kidnappers who are always identified as El-Rufai’s kinsmen. He pays them billions to embolden them. He has turned the state into one of the most unsafe places to live in Nigeria today.
Talking about taking someone seriously, if other Nigerians take El-Rufai seriously, we in Benue do not do same. A man who has no regard for humanity does not deserve our attention.
Nasir el-Rufai is a sycophant, ethnic champion and religious bigot who hates anyone who does not share the same faith with him. He is among the very few persons who have misled President Muhammadu Buhari. El-Rufai is one of the real enemies of this country who do not hide their divisive tendencies by elevating nepotism and ethnicity above the good values that have held Nigeria together over the decades.
Nasir el-Rufai doesn’t possess the credentials to counsel anyone on payment of salaries and the welfare of workers. This is a Governor who recently sacked 4,000 workers for no just cause. He ought to be ashamed of himself. What happened to the lofty promises he made to Kaduna people in 2015?
The Kaduna Governor should know that only two days ago, the people of Benue State met at a stakeholders meeting in Makurdi and unanimously passed a vote of confidence on Governor Ortom in recognition of his performance. That meeting was attended across party lines with leaders of All Progressives Congress, APC also present.
El-Rufai and his conspirators must note that Benue State will not repeal the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, no matter the amount of blackmail, hatred and threats they wage against Governor Ortom.
We advise the Kaduna State Governor to focus on addressing the numerous problems he has created in his state and leave Governor Ortom to lead Benue in peace.
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has said that the suspension of Ruga settlements plan by the Federal government is victory for all peace-loving Nigerians.
The governor who stated this in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, posited that the rejection of the Ruga settlement model was not personal but rather a struggle by the people of the country against impunity and injustice.
“Governor Ortom commends President Muhammadu Buhari for heeding the call of the people for the suspension of the Ruga settlement patterns.
“He says the decision to suspend the Ruga programme shows that President Buhari has heard the voices of the majority of Nigerians on the matter.
The governor while citing the Bible Book of John 8: 32: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” maintained that truth has prevailed on the Ruga issue.
He, however, enjoined the Federal government to take a step further to encourage pastoralists and other livestock owners to embrace ranching as the best model of animal husbandry. (The Sun)
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BenueState Governor, Samuel Ortom, has described President Muhammadu Buhari’s overall performance during the live programme on NTA, on Wednesday night, as shameful and a confirmation that he had lost control to cabals in his government.
The governor said this, yesterday, at NKST Church, Buruku, while interacting with officials of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), during his reelection campaign in the local government area.
The governor, who was reacting to the televised comments on president Buhari on the matter, said the poor outing gave credence to what the president’s wife had said that he has lost control and a cabal has taken charge.
On the planned cattle routes by the Federal Government, Ortom insisted there are no cattle routes in his state and stressed that even if there were such routes which were gazetted, he would have de-gazetted them, as the current population of the state had made such routes untenable.
“At the time such routes were contemplated in the 60s, the entire population of the country was about 40 million, while the current population is about 200 million, thereby, foreclosing the possibility of such routes.”
The governor, who said he battled and overcame financial, social vices as well as security challenges during his first term, said his focus on these areas impacted negatively on his performance, adding that if given a second mandate, the end of his administration would be better than his rough beginning.
Governor Ortom said the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled federal government failed to forestall attacks on the state by Jihadists, who openly declared their conquest and occupation agenda on the state and, thereafter, failed to give the people justice when they demanded it. “This development coupled with the deliberate neglect of Benue people, by not giving them strategic positions in government, prompted me to seek an alternative platform on which to pursue my reelection.” (The Sun)
Benue State Government said it has lost over N400 billion worth of property to renewed militia herdsmen attacks on communities in between 2015 and 2018.
Governor Samuel Ortom, who disclosed this when he briefed newsmen on the achievements and challenges of his administration in three years, at Government House, in Makurdi, said the estimate was arrived at following the preliminary report of the assessment of damages caused by the crisis.
He said the continued herdsmen attacks on the state has caused untold hardship on every resident either directly or indirectly adding that the loss is much and difficult to recover from.
He insisted that the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 is the peoples’ legislation.
“I have no regret. Why should I have any regret doing the will of my people? They trusted me and gave me their votes and I will not betray what they want. I’m doing what they want and I’ve no regret,” the governor stated.
He commended his colleagues from Ekiti, Taraba and Abia States for keying into the ranching law, saying it is the right way to go even as he called on Nigerians with a better alternative to bring it on the table to find a lasting solution to farmers and herdsmen crisis in the country.
Ortom challenged the Defence Minister, Dan-Masur Ali, to come out and tell Nigerians why there are killings in Zamfara, his home State and other states in the country, like Kaduna, Adamawa, Plateau, Enugu and Kogi, among others, where there is no anti-open grazing law. He also wants the minister to apologise to Nigerians over his comments. (The Sun)
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has declared that people of the state will support the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari only if the president’s policies and interests are in line with the yearnings and wishes of people of the state.
Besides, the governor also ruled out a widespread rumour about his plot to defect from the governing All Progressives Congress to another political party.
Governor Ortom disclosed this during an interaction with journalists at the government house in Makurdi to mark this year’s democracy day anniversary.
He said if it were for the massive killing of innocent people by armed Fulani herdsmen, the issue predates the present administration as it started way back in 2011.
“Benue will vote for President Buhari if his policies and interests are in line with the yearnings and wishes of the people, and let me tell you the issue of herdsmen killings predates the present administration it started before we came in”.
“There are reasonable Fulani herdsmen that have come out to adopt the ranching which we have promulgated since last year as the last resort to solve this problem. For us, we have identified Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has been responsible for the ongoing killing in the state. Even the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN have agreed with us that ranching is the best way to go”.
He flayed widespread rumour that he was planning to dump the APC to another political party saying those who initiated the idea are those who are out to blackmail him and push him away from the party.
“I am in APC, let it be clear to the doubting Thomases that I am still in APC. I could have issues but that does not deny me of being a member of the party”.
“Those who initiated that rumour are people who are out to blackmail me and to push me away. I am not going anywhere I will remain here, they should wait for their time but for me, I am still here and if there is any course for me to defect, I will make it public”.
Ortom who presented a catalogue of his scorecard in the last three years said, the greatest challenges that confronted his administration is the threat to security caused by the invasion of the land and killing of hundreds of people by armed Fulani herdsmen.
He said that state has decided to carry out low key celebration because of the attacks and killings, adding that between January and now, over 495 persons have been killed by the invaders.
“There are 180, 000 Internally Displaced Persons in eight camps covering Guma, Logo and Makurdi local government areas, 500, 000 others living with relatives or in uncompleted buildings, 80, 000 displaced children with 2, 442 pregnant and 2, 766 nursing mothers”.
The governor said at least 198 herdsmen are facing trial in various courts for gross violation of the anti-grazing law. (New Telegraph)
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged fresh plot by a group of herdsmen under the auspices of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to attack and kill him.
The governor, who disclosed this while speaking with journalists in his office at the Government House, identified former MACBAN Coordinator in the state, Alhaji Garus Gololo, as the alleged leader of the killer herdsmen, which he said have been threatening his life.
Ortom said he had reported the planned attack on him to security operatives. He expressed optimism that the killer herdsmen will not succeed as God who gives and takes life is with him and cannot die in the hands of Fulani herders who are against him for promulgating the anti-open grazing law.
“There are threats to my life and I have reported that to the security agencies that one Gaurus Gololo and his team, who are members of MACBAN, are planning to attack me. But I always said life belongs to God.
It is God that gives and takes life. So, my life is not in the hands of any Fulani man who is not happy with the promulgation of the anti-open grazing law in the state.” Herdsmen recently attacked and destroyed Ortom’s farmhouse in Gbajimba, Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
Meanwhile, the governor yesterday reconciled with his predecessor, Dr Gabriel Suswam, whom he has not seen eye-to-eye with since assumption of office about three years ago.
The gesture, according to the governor, is for the common good and development of the state. This followed a reconciliatory meeting convened at the instance of paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, to mediate in the protracted face-off between the two politicians of Tiv extraction.
The peace meeting, which took place at the palace of the Tor Tiv, started about 5p.m. last Sunday and spilt over to the early hours of yesterday. In attendance were traditional rulers from both Sankera and Minda geopolitical axis from where the ex-governor and his successor hail from.
Although, journalists were barred from the meeting, sources privy to the discussions disclosed to New Telegraph that the Tiv monarch expressed deep sadness over the continued disagreement between the two illustrious Tiv sons, whom he said are supposed to be attracting development to their people instead of being at loggerheads, hence the need to hear from both sides and reconcile them.
Suswam, it was learnt, had told the Tor Tiv that when he handed over to Ortom in 2015, he told him to feel free to approach him on any issue concerning his government, but what followed was the setting up of a panel to probe him and noted that the panel came out with frivolous allegations against him and that the governor went ahead and reported him to the EFCC and ICPC while all his appointees were sacked.
But Ortom, the source said, denied ever petitioning the two anti-graft agencies on Suswam. The governor also said he did not detail the EFCC and ICPC to seize Suswam’s property, stressing that “they are doing that as part of their duty.”
Speaking with journalists on the outcome of the meeting in his office yesterday, Ortom said he personally agreed to put behind his animosity against his predecessor and work together for peace and development of the state.
He quoted the Tor Tiv as attributing some of the challenges confronting his administration to their inability to synergise and work together as a team. According to him, the monarch stressed the need for them to bury their hatchets and contribute their quota to the development of the state and Tiv nation in particular.
“The meeting was convened at the instance of the Tor Tiv and I was there, former governor Gabriel Suswam was also there and, principally, it was a peace meeting. The Tor Tiv told us he noticed that for a while, the relationship between me and that of the former governor is not good and he needed us as his Tiv prominent sons to work together, that whatever is our differences, we should sheathe our swords and work together for the common good of the people of Benue State.
“He also attributed some of the challenges we are having today in Benue as a result of our inability to synergise and work together as a team and we agreed to work together to see how we can make Benue better than where we are,” the governor said. Ortom debunked claims that the reconciliation was because of 2019 political calculations, saying for now he has suspended all political activities pending when the killings by Fulani herdsmen is put to rest and thousands of internally displaced persons return to their ancestral homes.
In another development, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, has directed security agencies to begin the immediate arrest and prosecution of Fulani herdsmen caught carrying guns and other dangerous weapons across the state.
The governor gave the directive at a stakeholders’ meeting aimed at dousing the tension triggered by the incessant herdsmen-farmers clash, which was attended by the representatives of farmers, Fulani herdsmen, security agencies and other stakeholders, at the House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Ibadan. Ajimobi also directed the immediate registration of herdsmen and possibly their cattle to separate genuine pastoralists from criminal-minded herders, as well as the convocation of a monthly stakeholders’ meeting at the state and local government levels.
Besides, the governor said that a surveillance unit would be created under the Oyo State Joint Security Outfit, Operation Burst, to curtail the menace of cattle rustlers, murderous herdsmen and farmers who may take the laws into their own hands by poisoning cattle grazing on farmlands. He said: “Fulani people are good people; if not I will not allow my only son to marry a Fulani lady. We must separate criminals from the good people.
“Why will a herdsman be carrying a gun? Henceforth, any herdsman found with guns should be arrested and prosecuted. Owners of cattle found grazing on farmlands and destroying crops should also be arrested and prosecuted. Any farmer that poison cattle should also be arrested and prosecuted.” Also, the Tor Tiv has pledged the support of the traditional rulers and the entire people of Benue to the Nigerian Army as its conducts Exercise Ayem Akpatuma – Cat Race in the state.
“We welcome the exercise. We believe it will help peace to return to Benue which has suffered series of attacks from herdsmen,” the traditional ruler said as he received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai yesterday.
He, however, said the people were apprehensive of the exercise, recalling the clashes between the army and Tiv people at Zakibiam in the past and called for adequate enlightenment on the exercise. Ayatse said that the herdsmen attacks which affected Guma, Logo, Gwer West, Makurdi, Kwande, Katsina-Ala and Agatu Local Government Areas of the state had resulted in the loss of lives, property and farmlands. (New Telegraph)
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has told his counterpart in Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, to ‘mind his own business’ and not to interfere with the issue of Benue.
Ortom handed this warning to the representative of Lalong at the stakeholders’ meeting with the National Economic Council Technical Committee on Herdsmen/Farmers’ Crises Resolution.
The stakeholders were led by the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi.
Ortom said his deputy, Benson Abounu, informed him about the discussion between him and Lalong, where the Plateau State Governor reiterated his warning to Ortom not to go ahead with the Benue State anti-open grazing law.
Ortom said, “My deputy told me that he had a discussion with Lalong recently at a function, where he (Lalong) said that he had to apologise to me over his statement because of pressure on him, saying, he stands by his earlier statement.
“He also told the people that he introduced this woman (pointing at the woman on the high table) in this committee to me, whereas, this woman was introduced to me by Nasir el-Rufai, not him.
“Thank God he has a representative here; please tell him to stop interfering with the affairs of my state; let him mind his business in Plateau and I will mind my own business here.
“I am the governor here (Benue); how can he say that he warned me? Who is he to warn me? He can only advise me.”
Lalong had at the peak of the herdsmen’s attacks on Benue State told newsmen in Abuja that he warned Ortom against the new law.
The stakeholders’ meeting held at the new banquet hall of the state government house on Sunday night.
The meeting, which dragged into the early hours of Monday, had in attendance some National Assembly members, religious leaders, traditional rulers and opinion moulders.
Speaking at the meeting, the Chairman of the Benue State Traditional Council, HRM Prof. James Ayatse, questioned the credibility of the committee since some of its members had at one time or the other taken position on the Benue crisis.
According to him, the governors of Plateau and Kaduna State – Lalong and El-Rufai, respectively – had made cynical statements concerning the crisis and asked, ‘how do we get justice?’
“While in pains, a Benue delegation visited President Buhari and the only consolation he could give us was to say, ‘In the name of God, accommodate your fellow countrymen.’ With this statement, how will my people get justice?”
The paramount ruler charged the committee members to be neutral and discharge their responsibility with the fear of God.
Other who spoke at the meeting included the Catholic Bishop, Makurdi Diocese, Wilfred Anagbe; a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mike Aondoaka, (SAN); and a former commissioner in the state, Mrs. Rebecca Akpedzan.
Others were the President General, Mdzough U Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege; a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Benard Hon; the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Benue State, Rev. Akpen Negua, and a second-class traditional ruler, Chief A. Abomtse.
All the speakers condemned what they termed the lacklustre attitude of the Federal Government to the crisis and insisted that there was no going back on the new law. (Punch)
• Confirms policeman, farmer killed in fresh herdsmen attack in Guma
Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
BenueState Governor, Samuel Ortom has asked those who are complaining that he is talking too much about the killing of his people by suspected herdsmen to give him justice,vowing that only justice can make him keep quiet on the matter.
This is even as the Governor confirmed that two persons including a policeman were killed and several othersmissing after herdsmen attacked Guma Local Government area of the state between Wednesday and early hours of Thursday.
He said: “People who are saying that I am talking too much should give me justice and I will keep quiet. These people are not just grazing but are coming to take over our land. And they want me to keep quiet. How can I keep quiet? As long as there is no justice, I will continue to shout, talk and sing.”
The Governor who played host to former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso at the government House in Makurdi yesterday disclosed that, “as I talk to you, Benue is still under siege. Even security agents that were sent are being killed by these people. Only yesterday, somebody from my local government was slaughtered and burnt. That is the new dimension to the killings.”
Ortom who lamented that the attack was happening at the time the farmers were harvesting their crops maintained that the onslaught was not just about land for grazing but a coordinated attack to impoverish the people and ensure that the state did not live up to its name as the food basket of the nation.
“Benue remains the food basket of the nation. This is happening at a time the farmers are harvesting their crops. We look forward that the resolution of the senate would be implemented. These people are not just grazing but are coming to take over our land,” Ortom noted.
Earlier, Senator Kwankwaso who led members of his Kwankwasiya Foundation to pay a condolence visit to the government and people of Benue condemned the January 1 attack in which over 70 people were killed.
“We are here to condole with the government and entire people of the state over the loss of 73 people. I join the good people of the country to condemn those who perpetuated the killings and similar acts in Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa and other states of the country. I believe it’s time leaders join hands to condemn the act and ensure such acts doesn’t happen again in the country,” the governor said.
Kwankwaso who also announced a donation of 1,200 bags of rice to the over 80,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are now placed in six camps in the state urged the federal government and security agencies to ensure that the unwarranted killings across the country is stopped. (The Sun)
Benue State prides itself as the food basket of the nation. With abundant farm produce in every nook and cranny, its claim is barely in doubt. But, no thanks to the bloody attacks of cattle herders, many indigenes of the state are discouraged, these days, from going to the farm. In this interview with HENRY AKUBUIRO at the Benue State capital, Governor Samuel Ortom calls on the cattle herders to abide by the new state law on ranching as a way of providing lasting peace in the agrarian state or risk jail. Besides, against the backdrop of mounting responsibilities for state governments in the federation, the governor reiterated that more allocations should be channeled to the states than the Federal Government receives at the moment.
Some state governors are calling for greater allocations from the Federal Government as against what they get at the moment, in fact, to get more than what the centre is getting. How would a state like Benue react to this?
You see, the Federal Government, apart from Abuja that it manages, every other thing in the thirty-six states is managed by the states and, in fact, most times, Federal Government projects are duplication of what the states are doing, especially these constituency projects that you have all over from the National Assembly. You go to a community, and you have three clinics; what are they doing there? It doesn’t make sense. But we [governors] are in touch with the grassroots, with the people; we are here with them. They see us; we interact with them; and we have feedback from them on what they need. But we do not have that money to execute projects that will have direct impact on the people. And sometimes, for the projects sited by the Federal Government, no thorough work is done, no feasibility studies are done, and, especially, when there is no synergy with the state government, it becomes a big problem. So, you see that the burden of governance is more on the states than Federal Government. We will prefer a situation where the Federal Government is deeply involved in coordinating policies and coordinating uniformity and creating the enabling environment with the states so that we can function. When it comes to funding, the states need more than what the Federal Government needs.
You have just called on Nigerian writers to partner with you on advocacy for ranches for cattle herders, how far do you want this to go?
I want it to go to all the nooks and crannies of this country because the menace of herdsmen attack is not just on Benue people but it is on other Nigerians as well. We decided to champion the cause of restoring peace, orderliness and security for our own state, and I appreciate the fact that other states are already keying into this programme. That is a global best practice for cattle farming or livestock farming and by the way livestock or cattle farming is a business. You do it to get income to sustain yourself just like we here are farmers and we farm to sustain ourselves, so it should not be done at the detriment of other people. While we are living, we should also respect the rights of other people to live. It should not be at the expense of others, and so I would want this thing to go beyond Benue State, because when it happens to another state, I won’t be a happy man. I know what we suffered between 2012 and 2016. We have estimated that we lost more than N95 billion worth of goods and property, excluding human beings that died. N95 billion! If you go to the rural areas, you see schools, churches, hospitals, houses, farmlands, all that destroyed. In 2013, I lost my rice farm and farm implements. My ancestral home was razed; my entire village was razed; more than 50 people were killed in one day. So, this is a very big challenge.
For us to have arrived at sending an executive bill to the House of Assembly, we fasted and prayed, and God gave us that wisdom to have a permanent solution to this problem. Go to America; go to Europe; go to Asia; and even here in African, Kenya and Tanzania are doing it: ranching. I was in Swaziland, a small country, four years ago, and the country’s major earning is beef, but they ranch. So, why can’t we ranch in Nigeria? Where is the land with the upsurge of population? In the 1950s, when people argue that they had cattle routes and grazing areas, the question is:“What was the total population of Nigeria? [It was] less than 40 million people. Today, in 2017, I can approximate it to be over 200 million, because the projection in 2012 was 170 million. So, by today, we should be over 200 million. But what is the land mass now?What was it in 1950? It’s still 923, 000 square kilometres, even less with the ceding of Bakassi to the Cameroon. So, we have a lesser land mass than what used to obtain when we were less in population than now. So, it’s unfortunate that we have kept sealed lips and, honestly, I feel so sad; but I will continue to do what is right, as far as I know, as a person. Even if I die today, I know I have done the right thing. I am championing the cause of ensuring that we have ranching, which is the global best practice, and is the only solution. I have challenged herdsmen; I have challenged any one, including Miyetti Allah, that I am calling for the arrest of the leadership of Miyetti Allah, Kautal Hore, who took us to court for a law that we legitimately passed, and is threatening to invade our state. A law that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria permits us to put in place! A law that seeks to protect lives and property! A law that seeks to bring peace to our people! Then, you take us to court.
I have said that the security agencies should arrest them for threatening me and my state that they would make the law not to function. I am waiting to see who will trespass. I am waiting to see who will not respect that law in Benue State. I have said it, I am not forcing anyone to live in Benue State. If you want to do open grazing, you can go to any other state that land is available. For me, here we are farmers and we cannot pay salaries as at when due today, so we want to have food on the table for everyone, and we have massively encouraged our people to go into agriculture, and they have done that. There is no single hectare of land available for grazing in Benue State. If you want to stay in Benue State, we are not sending you away –you can stay, but if you have cattle, you must ranch them. If you don’t ranch, the law will catch up with you, and you will be sent to jail. There is no two ways about it. And we are not just talking about cattle –we are talking about livestock –so pigs, goats and all of them are all involved. So, I want as many Nigerians that can support us in advocacy and let people understand, because the misconception is that the law is targeting individuals or Fulani men or certain ethnic groups and so on; it’s not right. The law seeks to ensure peace for every one living in Benue State, including Fulani herdsmen and any other person whatsoever. We want peace. And so, if the herdsmen ranch, the law will protect them from cattle rustlers. There are stiff penalties waiting for cattle rustlers. So, we would appreciate this, whatever you can do within your powers, to reach out to many as are ready to listen to us –please, do –and I believe that God will bless you, because we have suffered enough, and we think that this law is the solution, and I have challenged anyone out there who think that there is a better option of ensuring peace and security for Benue State to bring it on the table. We are ready to call Benue stakeholders to review the whole thing again. But outside that, if they cannot challenge us with a superior policy that will restore peace, they should keep quiet and respect our views.
Why is it inevitable to hand over private schools to the owners as you have proposed?
We have to make adjustments to meet with the economic realities in which we have found ourselves today as a government. It’s no longer news that we cannot pay salaries as at when due, and we are trying to shelveresponsibilities that are making it impossible for us to pay salaries as at when due. If you go out there, private schools and mission schools are doing better than what government is doing, so why should we continue to sponsor them? That is the point. We have discussed with owners of schools, and that was our agreement with them. We feel that we are better off so that government can concentrate more on its schools instead of having half-baked graduates from these schools. We should concentrate on our schools and lay a sound foundation for our children. We want to go back to those days that government schools were respected –that is what motivated us and we are going to do it.
Can you achieve it within the time frame you set between now and January 2019?
It’s a process that we have to start. Others did not do it, but we want to do it. I think it’s the way out. Government schools will still continue, but if you want to go to a private school, you go there. Even as it is now, people are going to private schools so it doesn’t stop anything. We will continue.
How are you able to provide dividends of democracy against the backdrop of economic recession experienced in the country for quite some time?
We are prudent, and it has helped us. Here in Benue State, we are very prudent with the little resource we have. One, as a government that has the fear of God, we promised the people even before we came in that we would ensure truthfulness, equity, fairness, justice, transparency, accountability and selflessness. We are not looking at what we can get, but what we can impact on the people. And so that has guided us. Despite the challenges we have, the little that comes in –initially, things were not as bad as they are today, and we were able to channel to those projects. That is why we have impacted today on several communities. When it comes to education, today Benue State University has been paid up to date. When we came, they were on strike for months. We negotiated with them, and because of the attachment we have in promoting education and developing education, we have paid them up to date. At the primary school, we were able to secure N3.8 billion loan to match with UBEC and, today, we have N7.6 billion to promote primary education. Construction of new classroom blocks, provision of instructional materials, provision of desks and all that is going on all over the 276 council wards in Benue State. Some are completed; some are ongoing; some will soon be completed. We are renovating our secondary schools to bring them to a standard that our children will be proud.
In the health sector, we have been able to record milestones. The School of Nursing that was shut for five years have been resuscitated, regained accreditation just the same with College of Health Technology, Agasha, and for students of the College of Health Sciences at the Benue State University who were stagnated, medical students that were stagnated for 12 years, a course that could have been completed in six years, for 12years they were there. It was this administration that came with the determination that ‘look we must put this behind us’. We went further and secured all that was needed to get the accreditation. We got it, and, as I talk to you, within two years, we have been able to graduate four sets of medical students who are now medical doctors –152 medical doctors from the Benue State University. On infrastructure, we have constructed several roads linking up communities in the state. We took over from the past administration many uncompleted road projects; we have been able to do some of them with the little resources we have. I can go on and on in empowerment and all that. In all sectors, we have tried. In electricity provision, we have done a lot, they are on record and I hope that the Media Adviser will give you a brochure that we published recently. So far, prudence has guided us and for us we are selfless, it’s not what we get, but it’s what we can do to impact on the people.
What is Benue doing to improve on rice production, given that it is a rice producing state, and there is a redirection at the federal level for us to be self-sustaining in rice production?
We have done so much since we came in two years ago. In fact, we were almost losing our honour as the food basket of the nation. When we came in we put agriculture top on our priority list and today we have gone back. We have been able to partner with the International Fund for Agriculture Development, IFAD, we paid all the counterpart funding that was needed and massively the impact of IFAD on Benue State agriculture is noticed in almost all the three senatorial districts. We have been able to provide fertilizer on time. We have been able to encourage the people to go back to agriculture, because that is one area that we have comparative advantage and, in the face of difficulties in funding, we feel that food should be on our table and, so, massively, we have encouraged our people. In rice production, we have done so well and we are willing to close the gaps. If you go out to various communities in Benue State, you will see massive rice cultivation and we are looking forward to a bountiful harvest this year. In soya beans production, we are doing very excellent at it. It is just the market that we are looking for. Maize, sesame seed, yam, and cassava are there.
In fact, Benue State is blessed. The land is arable, more than 98 percent of it, and with the River Benue and Katsina Ala passing through Benue, we are also taking advantage and encouraging our people that, now, that we have a law guiding that, the Fulani herdsmen will no longer be a threat to agriculture they should go back to the farm and not just restrict themselves to rainy season farming they should go into dry season farming taking advantage of the rivers we have in Benue State and the canals and the streams and, of course, some few dams and so, that is what we are doing. And that is why we have to thank God that we have a law in place now. We will no longer be molested when we go to farm. And I want to appreciate the real Miyetti Allah whom I invited and after explaining to them our predicament that look the land is no longer there, and I had offered to provide security and provide the mobility to take them round Benue State to see things for themselves, to see any area where there is one hectare of land for open grazing. And they appreciated it and embrace this law and advised their members accordingly that, truly, what the governor is saying is true, and it’s a reflection of what the people want. And so, we are very much appreciative to the Almighty God for giving us Benue State, for giving us, this land, and we are ready to not just feeding Nigeria; we are ready to feed Africa. (The Sun)