The Hon member representing Apa/Agatu Federal Constituency of Benue State, Hon Adamu Ochepo Entonu spoke to some news men in his office on the import of the newly passed anti-open grazing bill by the Executive Governor of Benue State, Gov. Sam Ortom. Exerpts:
The Executive Governor of your state has just passed the mush talked about anti-open grazing bill into law. What is your take on this?
I have to commend Gov. Ortom for embracing it. My community, Agatu LGA has suffered more casualty than any other community in Nigeria relating to issues between farmer and herdsmen. We have suffered a lot of casualties and we have always advocated for establishment of ranches all over Nigeria as a lasting solution to this perennial problems of farmers/herdsmen. To the glory of God anti gracing law is place in the State. It is a commendable fit by the governor.
It is the lasting solution to this problem. Anybody that wants to go into gracing should go ahead and acquire land for ranches.
It is the only solution to this perennial problem. They have been tormenting us for ages. It is the lasting solution. So if they want to go against the law no problem. The long arm of the law will catch up with them.
The herders are complaining that the law is harsh and that they might be forced out of business in the state if it is implemented. How do you see their concern vis-à-vis the pains inflicted on the people before now?
Can you compare the costly nature of whatever gracing they are doing with human lives? We have lost well over 1000 lives in Agatu. I just was to restrict my projection in Agatu because that is my primary constituency. We have lost a lot of lives; we have lost over 1000 since the beginning of this administration. On one particular incidence, I think we lost over 500 lives. Now even if it is going to cost them more to go into ranches, let them go ahead. How can you compare gracing or whatever to human lives? Are they comparable? They are not comparable in any way. The only solution to this type of problem is for this people to embrace ranching.
People say the indigenes have been living harmoniously with these herdsmen until recently. What is your take on that?
There has never been any mutual understanding between farmers and herdsmen in any community in Nigeria. Anybody telling you that is lying. There has never been any mutual understanding of any nature at all in any community in this country.
My brother I have been directly involved in this issue. Let me give you proverb. The rat in the house is the one that invites the one in the bush to come and eat food in the house. The rat in the bush does not know what is going on in the house. So the so called in-house Fulani men or herdsmen. They ascribe a name to them the indigenous Fulanis. This indigenous was the one that go to fraternize with the external ones who are very very aggressive. They bring them home to come and fight for them as mercenaries. This is the truth of the whole matter.
These external herdsmen or Fulani herdsmen, they are mercenaries in disguise and not herdsmen. The real herdsmen are the so called indigenous herdsmen. They are the ones that go to invite these their brothers as mercenaries from outside Nigeria to come and help them fight. It happened in my community. We saw them. The ones that were living with us all of a sudden became hostile and invited their brothers from outside to come and fight us. We saw them.
So there is no smoke without fire. The government has not done well in providing lasting solution. Federal government to be precise has not done very well in providing lasting solution to farmers/herdsmen clashes. Have you ever heard, quote me anywhere that any killer herdsman has been arrested or tried in any court of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria in spite of all the killings they have been embarking on. In spite of all the mayhem they have been inflicting on our communities.
How can you assess the role of federal government in this perennial problem?
Federal government has been playing with human lives; sorry to say this. They are just playing politics with human lives. These killer herdsmen, if you are lucky to fraternize with any of them. They will tell you that their brother is in power, so nobody can do them anything. And federal government has actually demonstrated this fit by their nonchalant attitude towards these killer herdsmen activities. They have never arrested or tried any of them. The best thing is to introduce this anti gracing law which will go a long way to stop this perennial problem of herdsmen/farmers clashes.
What do you want the federal government to do about putting a permanent end to it?
The federal government should go ahead and support any state government that put this anti-open gracing law into force. It should have the backing and support of federal government.
Thanks for your time.
You are welcome!