By Amos Aar
RATHER than Fulani herdsmen and their cattle exiting Benue State in droves following Governor Samuel Ortom’s suspension of the operations of the State Livestock Guards last week, the reverse seems to be the case as there is reportedly a high influx of herders into the state.
The livestock guards are charged with the enforcement of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law to prevent cattle rustling and grazing on farmers’ crops, the state government said.
Ortom had briefed journalists on behalf of the state government stating that the directive suspending the operation of the livestock guards was meant to allow Fulani herdsmen to exit Benue State safely with their cows to enable farmers plant their crops.
According to him, attacks on farmers by suspected herdsmen were hampering their farming activities during the current cropping season hence the state’s decision.
At the moment, there is a serious outcry by residents from different parts of the state that more herders are flocking into Benue with many people reportedly relocating from their villages for fear of impending attacks.
Residents of Ayilamo in Logo local government and Vaase in Ukum local government that share boundaries with Nasarawa and Taraba states respectively have expressed worry over the influx of large herds of cattle into the areas.
National Record gathered that herdsmen who allegedly crossed into the state through Nasarawa State have settled in a forest with their cattle in Tombo council ward of Logo local government, a development that has allegedly caused residents to relocate for safety. The situation is said to be the same at Vaase in Ukum local government area and some parts of Gwer West local government.
Reacting to the development, Special Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom on Security, Colonel Paul Hemba (rtd) told National Record in phone interview on Sunday that the state government was aware of the increased influx of herders into Benue but they will be arrested only after the expiration of the two weeks suspension of the livestock guards’ operation.
Asked what the conventional security was doing now that the herdsmen are coming into Benue instead of packing out as instructed by the state government, Hemba said, “the government gave the herdsmen two weeks and the two weeks have not expired. So, at the expiration of two weeks, the livestock guards will go after them”.
Although the All Progressive Congress (APC) has not reacted to the alleged influx of herders, but a party insider confided in National Record that “the so-called suspension of the livestock guards was merely a ploy by the government to deliberately inflict violence and blame it on Fulani herdsmen.
According to the source, the state has never been free of herders despite the anti-open grazing law and therefore there was no reason to for any moratorium for Fulani exodus from the state.