PDP accuses Alia over persistent killings in Benue, calls for enforcement of Open Grazing ban

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

The Benue State chapter of People’s Democratic Party has accused the state governor, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia of using his non enforcement of Open Grazing ban to encourage the persistent killings of innocent people by Fulani herdsmen.

The State Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Bemgba Iortyom (Vande-U-Mbaiwer) who made this accusation in a press release he issued to journalists this afternoon added that the refusal of the governor to enforce the ban poses existential threat to the state.

The statement reads:

The recent mass influx of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle into Benue State indicates that Governor Hyacinth Alia is not enforcing the Prohibition of Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law enacted and put to operation by the Benue State Government in 2017.

The law was enacted to curb the menace of conflict between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and local farmers in the state, resulting from open grazing of livestock by the nomads which is usually attended by bloodshed, destruction of farms and displacement of the local populations.

The enforcement of the law from 2017 to 2023 was pursued vigorously using the Benue State Livestock Guards as the policing force, with the then Governor, Samuel Ortom, leading an advocacy campaign to keep global attention on the atrocities associated with the open grazing activities of the herdsmen.

This approach by Chief Ortom and his administration, while it did not totally eradicate the herdsmen menace, served to curb open grazing substantially, and as well kept hopes alive for that lands occupied by armed nomads would be reclaimed and displaced persons returned to their ancestral homes.

However, upon coming to power on May 29, 2023, Governor Alia declared a change in government’s approach to the herdsmen crisis, as he stated that he would not be addressing the crisis in the open public attention as was done by his immediate predecessor, Chief Ortom.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state recognizes the right of the governor to adopt approaches to governance as suit his vision, yet those may not be at variance with the duty imposed on him by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) in Section 14(2) to guarantee the security and welfare of the people as the primary purpose of government which he heads in Benue State.

PDP, therefore, questions how the ‘silent approach’ of Governor Alia serves the “security and welfare” of the people in the face of the record influx of Fulani herdsmen suspected to be armed and driving thousands of cattle across the state, in flagrant violation of the ban on open grazing which is still in force..

The party also is also aware that the Benue State Livestock Guards responsible for enforcing the ban on open grazing have not been paid their wages since Governor Alia assumed office, and their operational vehicles grounded, and this puts to question if really the governor is desirous of having them discharge their duties against the nomads violating the ban on open grazing in the state.

The party warns that the swelling numbers of suspected armed Fulani herdsmen and their cattle instreaming unchecked into Benue and trespassing on both private and public properties poses a grave existential threat to the people, considering the atrocities and havoc associated with the practice of open grazing.

PDP calls on Governor Alia to uphold his sworn oath to ensure the security and welfare of the people of Benue, by resuming enforcement of the ban on open grazing still operative in the state, as his continued silence over the situation only emboldens the offending herdsmen.

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