The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, and northern leaders have resolved to shut down business activities for two days to allow intensive security sensitisation against killer herdsmen in the state.
The south east zonal leader of the association, Gidado Siddiki, who briefed journalists in Enugu said the sensitization tour from august the 14th, will cover both market and every Fulani settlement in Enugu.
The group regretted the unfortunate killing of Reverend Father Paul Offu and pledged its commitment to work with security agencies in ensuring peace in the state.
He said, “In appreciation of the good gesture, which Enugu State has extended to us, we are prepared to join hands with the police, the military and other security agencies in ensuring maximum security in our neighbourhood.”
The Northern leaders, therefore, expressed their “profound appreciation to Enugu State Government for the peace that prevails in the state which according to them has helped in their business as well as “the peaceful co-existence they have enjoyed over the years.
Rev. Fr. Paul Offu was shot dead along Ihe-Agbudu Road in Awgu Local Government Area by yet to be identified hoodlums.
Following recent attacks rising from the farmers-herders’ conflicts across Nigeria, leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) have called for the collaboration of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in uniting the different religious groups in the country for peaceful resolutions.
The National Secretary of MACBAN, Baba Ngelzarma says the group is kicking off several stakeholder engagements to resolve the problem.
Speaking on Wednesday during a courtesy visit to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the nation’s capital, Abuja, the Miyetti Allah leader also re-affirmed the group’s commitment to supporting the police in prosecuting the killers of the daughter of the leader of Afenifere, Mrs Funke Olakunri.
Ngelzarma said that the cattle breeders association sought partnership with CAN to demonstrate its desire toward peace and mutual resolution of the lingering conflicts.
“MACBAN wishes to request the partnership of CAN in uniting the different religious groups in the country for peaceful resolution of the farmers-herders conflicts.
“We should unite against hatred and support all government initiatives toward solving the conflict.”
He said that Miyetti Allah acknowledged the increasing tension between farmers and its members in the last five years due to a scarcity of pasture overgrazing reserve as a result of climate change.
Ngelzarma said that the body was duly aware of the effort by the Federal Government in conjunction with state governors to address the farmers-herders conflicts through the 10-year National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) 2019 to 2028.
He said that the association had embraced the plan fully and had already trained her national and state executives on negotiation, peacebuilding and conflicts prevention in preparation for the plan.
A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Okon Abang has dismissed a suit filed by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.
The suit is challenging and seeking to restrain the 2017 Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment Law passed by the Benue State House of Assembly
The court, on Thursday, also awarded a cost of N100, 000 against the plaintiff to be paid to all the 14 defendants before any other step can be taken in the suit.
The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore had earlier approached the court with a prayer seeking a mandatory injunction of the court restraining the Benue State government from implementing the law as passed by the Benue State House of Assembly
Justice Abang predicated his decision on the failure of the plaintiff to comply with an earlier order of the court delivered 19 months ago directing them to file an amended originating summons.
Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law
The Benue State government on November 1, 2017 officially effected its ban on open grazing throughout the state.
This was after Governor Samuel Ortom on May 22, signed the anti-open grazing and anti-kidnapping, abduction, cultism and terrorism bills into law.
According to the governor, the anti-grazing law would put to an end to incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State.
He lamented the destruction of lives and property in clashes involving farmers and herdsmen over the years, and promised to promote ranching since it had proved to be the best way of rearing livestock globally.
The Presidency has said that Miyetti Allah is is legal stake holder in the affairs of the nation and as such should be accorded the respect it deserves.
This statement is in reaction to a controversy that followed a presidential spokesperson’s comment in which he likened the group, Miyetti Allah, to Afenifere and Ohaneze Ndigbo.
Spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, had said that the herders’ group should not be criminalised and should be seen and addressed by Nigerians with the respect accorded other socio-cultural groups.
Garba Shehu made the assertion on Thursday when he featured as a guest on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.
Reacting to the spokesman’s statements, the other socio-cultural groups in separate statements condemned the comments and criticised the Buhari-led administration’s decision to dialogue with Miyetti Allah, which have been linked to several cases of violence across Nigeria.
However, in his response on Friday, Garba Shehu said “Miyetti Allah, like any other trade, community, ethnic organization or interest group is a legal stake holder in our nation and should be respected. We maintain that the government needs to engage all stakeholders and seek partnership in building our country.
“The activities of Miyetti Allah do not benefit selected ethnicities or Muslims only, but everyone. Long before petroleum became the core of Nigerian economy, agriculture was the main source of Nigerian wealth. Cattle, hides and skin were a major part of Nigerian export.
“It is right to state that there are criminals among every group in Nigeria and in every country. There are criminals among the northern population as there are in the southern part of the country. It is not good to generalise blames. The government will engage each stakeholder and create dialogue between, and among, different groups.”
The President’s spokesman debunked claims that the government gave N100 billion to Miyetti Allah for dubious reasons, describing it as absolute falsehood.
“The issue of money was never raised at any of the meetings between the representatives of government and Miyetti Allah. If they had raised it, this government would have dismissed them as yet another dubious group, like the many making claims to be representing our trusting people but serving their own interests.
“We choose again to speak on this because it is dangerous for the public to ignore rumours aimed at inciting people against each other or against the government. The people spreading such rumours should be helped to see the truth and participate in nation building, and not become crisis messengers,” Garba Shehu Said.
He surmised that the President has stated time and again, that transparency and dialogue are essential for public enlightenment and nation building.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has likened the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Afenifere socio-cultural groups.
While appearing as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, he said the group isn’t linked to banditry activities.
“The Miyetti Allah group is like Ohanaeze Ndigbo or the Afenifere. It’s just a cultural group,” he said.
The presidential spokesman admitted that the Federal Government is engaging the leadership of the association.
The meeting follows reported attacks by herdsmen that have led to the loss of several lives and properties.
When asked if the Federal Government offered a large sum of money to MACBAN to appease them, he simply denied it, saying: That is an absolute falsehood. In all of those meetings, nothing like money was discussed.”
According to the presidential spokesman, the meeting was for the leadership of the group to prevail on its erring members.
He explained that the existence of some miscreants in a group does not entirely mean the entire members of the association are criminals.
“There are criminals with the Yoruba race and you cannot say because there are Yoruba criminals, then Afenifere is a band of criminals,” he stated.
The Incorporated Trustees of Mdzough-U-Tiv, a socio-cultural association of the Tiv people, have filed a N550 billion fundamental rights suit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria as compensation for damages for the victims of attacks by herdsmen in Benue State.
Others listed as respondents in the suit, filed at a Federal High Court in Abuja, which has the President-General of Mdzough-U-Tiv, Mr Edward Ujege, as plaintiff, are the Incorporated Trustees of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore; Abdullahi Bodejo, Saleh Al Hassan; Garius Gololo and Husaini Bosso.
Apart from the demand for monetary compensation, the plaintiffs are asking the court for an order directing President Buhari to provide adequate and effective security and protection to all surviving victims and members of the affected communities in their ancestral homes and everywhere in Benue State.
The suit chronicled attacks by “armed herdsmen” in the state leading to the wanton destruction of lives and property including schools, hospitals, worship centres, markets and farmlands belonging to the various communities where the attacks took place.
The trial judge, Justice I. Ekwo ordered the substituted service of the court processes on the respondents through newspaper publication and fixed hearing October 24, 2018.
The Publicity Secretary of Southern Peoples forum, Isuwa Dogo, has accused leaders of Miyetti Allah of engaging in and sponsoring terrorist activities.
Dogo made these claims on Monday, on Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily. According to him, local Fulani residents are not responsible for the incessant killings across the country but the Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore are the ones responsible for sponsoring killings and attacks.
“Those who are doing the killings are terrorists. They are not the local Fulani that lives among us and inter-marry. They are after us from village to village, killing people.
“The local Fulani man does not know of the existence of Miyetti Allah and they are not part of it. All these people that call themselves Miyetti Allah are simply cattle traders and terrorists. They are the ones sponsoring terrorism and they are not different from Boko Haram,” he said.
The Southern Peoples Forum Leader also claimed that there is no conflict between farmers and herders hence his disapproval of the tag farmers-herders clash.
“There is no farmers-herders clash. They burn the villages, kill the people, destroy everything, is there a clash there? With sophisticated weapons, people are eliminated. This is a planned genocide of the Middle Belt people.”
The Secretary-General of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Usman Baba-Ngelzerma in response, however, debunked Dogo’s claims noting that the group is not and will never support senseless killings. ‘We are not criminals,’ Baba-Ngelzerma stressed.
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.”
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.
The secretary-general cited as examples, the latest of such in which at least 100 persons were killed in Plateau State and the previous incidents in Benue and other states.
He condoled with families of deceased in the Plateau killings “whether herds or farmers”, distancing the attack from members of his group.
Saleh insisted that the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is a peaceful organisation, and there is no member of the group who carries arms.
On the Plateau killings, he claimed the crisis was being sponsored by some politicians to divert attention from the corruption offences they were charged with.
While the allegations have not been proven to be true, the secretary-general alleged further that the security agencies “are aware but the question is are they capable of stopping the conflict?”
“We have armed militia that will block highways, kill Fulani people, roast hundreds of cattle in a terrain like Plateau State that is not like a rainforest or where you have trees. These things are purely political like the anti-grazing law in Benue,” he claimed.
Asked about the way forward, Saleh said, “What is needed now is for the security agencies to arrest the perpetrators of this crisis and their sponsors and let us stop the pretence.”
“The agenda to exterminate the Fulani people on the Plateau is not going to work because they are not aliens; they are indigenous in that place,” he insisted.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has dissociated itself from the purported statement on the recent killings in Plateau State by the Chairman of the group in the north-central region, Danladi Ciroma.
According to the National Secretary of Miyetti Allah, Mr Othman Ngelzarma, who appeared on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Tuesday, such comments do not reflect the true position of MACBAN.
“The statement made by the zonal chairman should be credited to him,” he said. “That should be his personal opinion because I believe he should be an indigene of Plateau State.”
Mr Ciroma had described the attack on the communities in Plateau as an act of retaliation for the killing of 300 cows belonging to members of the group.
But the national secretary faulted the comments and condemned the attack which left at least 100 dead and several others displaced.
He also commiserated with those who lost their loved ones to the attack, as well as the government and people of Plateau State.
Ngelzarma added, “It is so wicked, it is condemnable. We don’t condone it, we do not like it. It is really unfortunate and we sympathise with the communities in that area.”
Reacting to the allegation that some members of the association go about heavily armed, he noted that such persons should be treated as criminals.
“Whoever is holding a dangerous weapon up to the level of AK-47, we consider that person to be a criminal as far as we are concerned.
“We know these are prohibited arms that should not be held by any other person apart from the security operatives. Apart from that, I don’t think it is allowed for anybody in this country to hold a dangerous weapon as AK-47,” the MACBAN stressed.
The Secretary-General, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Mr Usman Baba-Ngelzerma, has accused the Benue State government of enacting the Anti-Open Grazing law to promote hatred.
Baba-Ngelzerma stated this on Thursday during an appearing on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.
“There is a law in Benue that has not solved a problem. Instead of solving it, it has further aggravated the ember of hatred in Benue State,” he said.
According to him, the essence of establishing laws was to create peace and harmony rather than conflict, but the opposite is the case with the anti-open grazing law.
Baba-Ngelzerma’s comments come amid continued attacks and killings in the north-central state, popularly known as the Food Basket of the Nation.
He believes the core essence of the law has been defeated as farmers and herdsmen have all recorded losses and casualties.
“On the eve of the implementation of the law, the governor said it is a win-win situation. But today, let us reflect and see,” he added.
“Who is a winner out of this law? Nobody is a winner, the farmers are not winners, so also the pastoralists are not winners. Even the government is not winning because people are losing their lives by the day, people are taken out of their comfort zone, kept in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps.”
The MACBAN’s leader, therefore, called on the state government to provide another alternative that would accommodate both parties and prevent further loss of lives and properties in the state.