The Secretary-General, Miyetti Kautal Hore, Mr Saleh Alhassan, has demanded an apology from the Benue State Government for linking the association to the attacks and killings in the state.
Alhassan made the demand on Monday during his appearance on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.
According to Alhassan, the recent arrest of the Commander of the Benue State Livestock Guards, Aliyu Teshaku, has vindicated the association.
“Today, they have arrested Aliyu Teshaku who is alleged to be the Head of the Livestock Guard in Benue who is behind those killings. He is arrested now,” he said.
“People that killed the two clergymen and 17 others in the church are being tried in Makurdi and they are all Tiv people. And they are all members of the livestock guard working for Governor Ortom.
“So we expect by now there should be an apology from the Benue State Government to our association because we have never promoted violence. We have always advocated for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.”
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Apart from linking Tiv people to the attack on the Catholic church in Benue State that left two priests and 17 other worshippers dead, Alhassan accused the state government of propaganda against the association.
“I have always insisted that Governor Samuel Ortom is on a voyage of propaganda against our association,” he said. “And today, if you look at the arrest made in Benue, with respect to the perpetrators of the conflict there, you look at their ethnicity and background and you look at who is employing them, we have been vindicated.”
Alhassan’s comments come in the wake of attacks that have gripped the north-central state in which many people have been killed and many others displaced.
Allegations making the rounds say that the killings may be connected with the Anti-Grazing Law signed by Governor Samuel Ortom last year that led to a faceoff between the state government and herdsmen.
War of words
Since January 1, 2018, when suspected herdsmen attacked villages in Benue State killing 73 persons, Governor Ortom has repeatedly accused the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore of being responsible for the attacks, vowing not to go back on the prohibition against open grazing.
The governor has also rejected claims that the state government armed militia groups in the state and that it had a hand in the attacks.
To back its claim, the state government said it had documentary evidence linking the association to the killings and it engaged the police in a war of words earlier in the year over the failure to act on the evidence.
In April 2018, the state government filed a case against the association at the State High Court in Makurdi, accusing it of murder and widespread violence across 14 out of the 23 local councils of the state
On its part, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has rejected all allegations against it insisting it is a peaceful organisation.
As far as it is concerned, the prohibition of open grazing and subsequent actions by the state government are responsible for the violence, claims Governor Samuel Ortom denies.