From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Benue State Government has insisted the recent amendment to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, which stipulates stiffer penalties, has come to stay.
The state government also called on Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to be law-abiding citizens and join hands to develop the state.
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Samuel Ortom on Animal Husbandry, Shehu Tambaya, made the call while reacting to a statement credited to the state chapter of MACBAN in which the association raised some pertinent issues concerning the law as amended.
Speaking on MACBAN’s appeal for reduction of fines for impounded cattle which was increased from N2,000 to N50,000 among other penalties, Tambaya said the price is even cheap considering the fact that Benue was first to enact the grazing law.
“As the first state to enact the law banning open grazing, Benue has to also set the pace for the fines as other states that came after Benue already have fines that are far much more than what Benue was charging at the initial stage.
“Why should Benue, which started this law, charge the cheapest? They (MACBAN) should understand this,” Tambaya said.
On the appeal by MACBAN that its members be considered as bonafide indigenes of the state, Tambaya said as a very amiable governor, who has the interest of everyone at heart, his principal has never discriminated against any tribe so long as the people are law-abiding.
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“Ortom is one governor who recognises everybody, including the Hausa Fulani and has demonstrated that by appointing some and others elected as councillors. So, one wonders why they are saying they are not recognised as indigenes.
“Majority of these Hausa Fulani live in the heart of the state capital like Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Lagos and Ikeja streets as well as Madico, all in Wadata area of Makurdi and North Bank 2,” he said.
Tambaya said the law does not discriminate against anybody as cattle belonging to Tiv, Idoma, Hausa Fulani, Igbo and other tribes have been impounded in the past for open grazing and some of them even charged to court and prosecuted.
The governor’s aide further added that cattle rustlers, who were Tiv, Idoma, Hausa-Fulani and other tribes, have been arrested and prosecuted in the past which, according to him, is a proof that the law is not discriminatory against any tribe.
He urged MACBAN to encourage its members to obey the law of the land by either ranching their cattle or seeking solace in other states if they must continue to openly graze their livestock.
“The governor has consistently vowed never to surrender the state to criminals. So, anyone who is criminally-minded can seek solace in other states.
“If truly MACBAN members are Benue indigenes as they have said, they should forget about the differences they have mentioned and join the government of Ortom to develop Benue State,” Tambaya said.