Makurdi, the Benue State capital Thursday wore a sombre look as the arrangements for the burial of 72 persons massacred by Fulani herdsmen is in top gear.
Traffic on major roads within the town is scanty apparently because of the work-free day declared by the state government in honour of victims of the attacks.
As at 6.am, security operatives had taken positions around Ibrahim Babangida Square, venue of the state funeral.
Over 50 canopies were being set up at the main bowel of the square while platforms where the remains of the victims will be laid on state, were being constructed.
Addressing journalist on Wednesday night, the Governor, Samuel Ortom, described the victims of the massacre as “heroes of the state anti-open grazing law,” and vowed to go on with its implementation.
Mr. Ortom said the attacks on Benue communities were carried out by Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) and called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to arrest the leaders of the group.
He noted that the leaders of the group had threatened to unleash terror on the state in the wake of the assent to the Open Grazing Prohibition Law.
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“These people had threatened to cause mayhem when we started the implementation of the new law and I had drawn the attention of security agencies in the country to the threats,” the governor said.
“We have no land to give to anybody to establish a cattle colony. When I wanted to start a farm, I went to my village to look for land but there was no free land. You can’t get free land anywhere in this country and so the best way to rear cattle is through ranching.
“Benue people are predominantly farmers and there is no way they can operate side-by-side with pastoralists who also need the same space to graze their cattle,” Mr. Ortom said.
The governor said the cemetery where victims of the massacre will be buried will become a monument in the state and will be preserved to show generations of Benue people what happened.
In October 2017, Mr. Ortom had meet with President Buhari, and complained to him about threats to unleash violence on the state by leaders of MACBAN.
Drawing attention media reports by MACBAN’s National President, Abdulahi Bodejo, and National Secretary, Saleh Alhassan, the governor had said the duo had called their members to declare war on the state.
“It is not the first time that National President of the group, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo and its National Secretary, Saleh Alhassan have made inflammatory statements against the implementation of the anti-open grazing law of Benue State,” the governor had said at the time.
“Since the law came into being, he said officials of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore have embarked on legal action as well as all other forms of threats and smear campaign against Governor Samuel Ortom in a desperate bid to scuttle the implementation of the law which will commence on November 1 this year.
“The law is not against any individual or group. It is neither aimed at sending herdsmen out of Benue State.”
Rather, Mr. Ortom had said the new law permitted grazing of livestock only within ranches and prohibited the movement of animals from one destination to another in except by rail, trucks and other vehicles. He argued that the measure was taken as a permanent solution to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders with the attendant destruction of lives and property across the state.
Besides, the governor said the law also protects livestock and ranches and stipulated severe punishment for any person convicted for rustling cattle or any other animal kept in ranches.
Continuing, Mr. Ortom at the time said, “Going by the misplaced outbursts of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, it is clear that the group has not bothered to read the law which has been published in national dailies or deliberately refused to understand the provisions of the law even after it was published.