The Benue Mothers who were drawn from the three Senatorial Districts of the state made the call on Monday while addressing journalists in Makurdi, the state capital.
While calling on President Buhari to cancel the planned imposition of grazing reserves on Nigerians, the group led by a former federal lawmaker, Rebecca Apedzan, called for a National Ranching Policy.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address the nation and caution Fulani herdsmen to stop the killings. We know that if he makes the address directly to Fulanis and means every word of what he says, they will listen to him,” they said.
“The President should, as a matter of urgency, announce the cancellation of his plan to impose grazing reserves on Nigerians and instead evolve a National Ranching Policy.
“The Federal Government should also throw its weight behind Southern Governors’ Asaba declaration against open grazing.
“President Buhari should motivate security agencies and direct them to be professional and neutral in the discharge of their duties.”
PRESIDENT BUHARI IS FOR SOMEBODY AND NOT FOR EVERYBODY
Being the text of press conference by Concerned Benue Mothers on Monday, May 31, 2021.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press
We the Concerned Benue Mothers are here with very heavy hearts to address you on issues bothering us as a people, Benue State and Nigeria as a nation. As mothers of this state and the nation, we owe our children the duty to voice our feelings when we see things going wrong and those who should speak have chosen the path of silence.
We owe this country the duty to call its leaders to order and counsel them when it has become apparent that the leaders we elected are not doing what is right. We have no other country than Nigeria.
You are much aware of the worsening security situation in the country being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen who have killed thousands of Benue people and in other states. You are equally aware of the attitude of the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari who is not bothered to see women and children being killed daily by Fulani herdsmen. We are left with no other option than to conclude as many others have said, that the President is happy to watch his kinsmen turn Benue and other parts of the country into killing fields.
A few days ago, we woke up to the news that President Buhari has vowed to create grazing routes and establish grazing reserves in the 36 states of the country next month whether anyone likes it or not. His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu was the one who announced the President’s decision. We are wondering if this is the same democracy that we all fought and got in 1999 leading to the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as elected President in 2015. Has Mr President forgotten that this country is now being run by the Constitution and not decrees? What about the Land Use Act which vets all lands in State Governors? Has the Act been repealed? From where is President Buhari deriving his authority that he feels he can impose draconian and dictatorial policies on Nigerians and expect us to applaud him?
The other time, the Buhari Presidency introduced Cattle Colonies, it took the courage of patriotic Nigerians like Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom to rise and reject the conquest agenda. The President later dusted the programme and renamed it as Ruga, but again, our eagle-eyed Governor and other patriots saw through the veil and kicked against Ruga. The President reluctantly canceled the Ruga programme.
Today, the entire country is speaking with one voice in opposition to open grazing of cattle while embracing ranching which Benue has been leading the campaign since 2016. All Governors of Northern and Southern Nigeria have taken a unified stand to ban open grazing. Shockingly, President Buhari has come out to mock the Governors and is threatening to impose grazing reserves on the people of this country. The words of his Media Adviser, Femi Adesina last year that people should choose between holding unto their lands and death are still fresh in our minds.
This is unacceptable! Nigeria is not practicing despotism. Ours is a country structured on the principles of federalism and democracy. We did not vote a tyrant as President. We believed that we voted a man with the right experience and discipline who would will be for all of us and defend us not just his ethnic group. What crime did we commit by going out in large numbers under the Sun to vote for President Buhari that he has now chosen to reward our love with hatred and our ballots with bullets?
From all indications, President Muhammadu Buhari is for somebody and not for everybody, contrary to his words on May 29, 2015 when he took the oath of office.
We want Mr President to remember that our children and grand children also deserve a decent future; a future they will no longer be afraid to go to bed with the thought of being slaughtered by rampaging herders. The humanity and conscience in President Buhari should make him to think about the thousands of children whose parents were killed by herdsmen and are now in internally displaced persons camps for four years as orphans! Don’t such children deserve to live in a country they call their own? What about the hundreds of widows whose husbands were slaughtered by herders and thrown to the birds to feed? Don’t they deserve to return to their lonely homes to start life in the dehumanizing way?
At the last count, Benue had over one million displaced people!
We Concerned Benue Mothers Say No to Grazing Reserves and any similar policy that seeks to enslave our people and hand our lands to killer Fulani herdsmen!
We have also observed a disturbing trend where Fulani militia attack our people but the Federal Government comes out swiftly to absolve them of any blame. A recent example was when Governor Ortom was attacked on his farm by those who say that he is standing in their way to conquering Benue and other parts of Nigeria. The terror group known as Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM came out to claim responsibility of the attempt on the Governor’s life. Yet, the Nigerian Police Force exonerated the group. The police high command deployed an investigation team to Benue which confirmed the identities of the culprits as armed Fulani herdsmen. The police made arrests and took the suspects to Abuja only for the Inspector General of Police to go to Aso Villa a few days after and declare that those who wanted to kill Governor Ortom were not Fulani people! What a shame! This is condemnable. Is the Nigerian Police now a Fulani Police Force and no longer for the protection of all Nigerians?
We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address the nation and caution Fulani herdsmen to stop the killings. We know that if he makes the address directly to Fulanis and means every word of what he says, they will listen to him.
The President should, as a matter of urgency, announce the cancellation of his plan to impose grazing reserves on Nigerians and instead evolve a National Ranching Policy.
The Federal Government should also throw its weight behind Southern Governors’ Asaba declaration against open grazing.
President Buhari should motivate security agencies and direct them to be professional and neutral in the discharge of their duties.
We also expect Mr President to call his appointees to order to stop assaulting the sensibilities of Nigerians. What the Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami said comparing the ban on open grazing with spare parts business was insensitive, condemnable and akin to fanning embers of crisis. The other aide of the President called Garba Shehu denigrates anyone who holds an opinion contrary to that of the Presidency. This is gross negation of the tenets of democracy. In democracies where government is of the people and for the people, leaders of such countries listen to constructive criticism in order to improve.
We call on the international community and lovers of peace across the world to show interest in what is happening in Nigeria, particularly in the Middle Belt region where killings of innocent people by herders have become a common sight.
Benue for instance, is the food basket of Nigeria and for many years, farmers have been displaced from their ancestral lands. The ugly scenario has resulted to food crises and is set to take a more dangerous dimension if not stopped now.
We expect the Federal Government to fulfill its promise to assist the Benue State Government in resettling the displaced people back to their homes. The longer the IDPs stay in the camps, the worse their plight will get.
We also want to urge our sons and daughters who are still sitting on the fence to wake up and speak against the evil being perpetrated in our land. This matter is not only about Governor Samuel Ortom. Benue sons home and abroad who think that they are not affected by the crisis must know that we are all casualties whether we are at home or not. They should raise their voices to condemn the injustice being visited on us. This is no time for politicking. They should send relief materials to those in IDP camps and also solicit the support of international donor organizations to come to the aid of our people.
Finally, we wish to call on Nigerians who love justice, peace and equity, to rise and condemn what is happening to the innocent people of Benue State. The killer herdsmen are still here with us. They have resorted to guerrilla warfare. They now attack our people in their sleep and leave their familiar trademark of death.
Enough is enough!
Thank you all and God bless Nigeria.