The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association has revealed that the anti-open grazing legislation passed by the Benue State Assembly last year and its poor enforcement by state agents led to the killings in five communities in the Guma and Logo local governments where almost two dozen persons were killed.
According to Secretary-General of the association, Usman Ngelzerma, the law is unacceptable in its current form to the herdsmen as it encroaches on their centuries old way of life. Ngelzerma also revealed in an interview with Punch that the livestock guards were arresting cattle from herdsmen and demanding huge sums of money to have the cows released.
He said, “The livestock guards have constituted themselves to the police and the court at the same time. They impose penalties on herdsmen, fine them huge sums of money before releasing them. That was the situation before this crisis erupted.
“I was told that shortly before this crisis, the guards went to make some arrests in a particular community and they met stiff resistance from the Fulani because they were already tired of the persistent harassment from the guards, not the police or the DSS, army or constituted authority.
“This was what led to the violence and unnecessary deaths that followed which we do not condone.”
He also said, “I like the Benue State governor. He is a peace-loving person but is working on wrong advice. The approach he took is wrong. You cannot change the way of life of a people like the way you turn off a light switch.
“We don’t wish for the crisis to continue but let us give it (the law) another look. We don’t like the killings; we will never condone the killing of people. Give the farmers their rights but consider the pastoralists too.”
The MACBAN leader emphasized that the association did not support the killings.