Benue Killings: I Warned Governor Ortom, Simon Lalong

The raging controversy over the killings of 73 people in Benue state is yet to go down. The Plateau state, Governor said he warned his counterpart Governor in Benue state, Samuel Ortom, against implement the the state anti grazing law recently passed into law.

The Plateau governor felt vindicated by the gruesome killings in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of Benue State by herdsmen, saying that he had forewarned Ortom against enacting the law,

Lalong, who made his remarks when he spoke to State House correspondents in Abuja after meeting with the president, said he told Ortom when the law was being enacted that he should consult widely and secure the opinions of stakeholders before going ahead.

According to Lalong, he deliberately ignored suggestions on enacting the same law in his own state because he knew it would be counter-productive to enact a law banning open grazing without preparing land for ranching.

He also said ranching involved certain policies which would require the federal government’s interventions, hence, enacting any law on grazing would require stakeholders’ consent.

He also said he warned Ortom while enacting the law to be cautious and ensure that he explored every option before proceeding to implement it.

“To be frank, I told them. Even the governor of Benue State, I told him when he was doing the law. I said he should just be careful and take other steps before implementing the law.

“But he said his own concept was different and for us in Plateau, our concept was different.
“I informed him that I would not have a law before consultations. If l stopped them (cattle herders), what is the alternative for them? You need to have consultations and allow people to buy into the concept,” he said.

Speaking on how he achieved peace in his once volatile state, Lalong said whereas he inherited an endemic farmers-herdsmen crisis, he gave all stakeholders in Plateau a sense of belonging and in the end, both the herdsmen and the people of Plateau State resolved to embrace peace.

According to him, he carried out extensive consultations which lasted for three months. The bye-product of the meetings, he said, was the relative peace in Plateau State today as well as improved relations between the herdsmen and farmers.
“You take everybody as your own. In Plateau State, I did that because l inherited a protracted crisis when I came to office. Most of the lingering crises were between the farmers and herdsmen, we took three months to do consultations and the Plateau people agreed that we must embrace ranching even with the Fulanis.

“Today, you see a good relationship between farmers and herdsmen,” he boasted.
Unlike Ortom who had distanced himself from the idea of cattle colonies being proposed by the federal government, Lalong described it as a welcome development, explaining that the colonies were broader than ranches because they will accommodate rearing of all manner of livestock farmers.

He also said having cultivated the habit of investigating any proposal before taking a decision, he opted to visit the Federal Ministry of Agriculture along with his team on agriculture, including the Commissioner for Agriculture on Wednesday, to investigate what the colony concept entailed.

According to him, at the end of the meeting, he found that the proposals on the cattle colonies were worthwhile and desirable.
“When I got the briefing from them, I was convinced about the colonies. They said the difference between colonies and ranching is that one is bigger than the other.

“You get a big field, get investors and demarcate it. Somebody will ranch sheep, somebody will ranch cattle. Government will develop the place, put grass there and anybody coming in must pay and you can’t force any land on anybody. It’s voluntary land,” he explained.
Lalong also disclosed that the herders that lead the cattle were not the actually owners of the cattle and that most of the cattle belong to those he described as “big men”.

“Nobody says that the idea of the colonies is only for Fulani herdsmen. It is everybody’s business, either you are tending cattle, sheep, goat or even chicken. If a Fulani man is grazing 100 cattle, I’m definitely sure you’ll find out that he is not the owner. You would find out that he owns only four or five cows while the rest belong to somebody else – a big man,” he stated.

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