Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Miyetti Allah Decries Anti-Grazing Bill in Benue

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association has called for the modification of the anti-open grazing law in Benue state for peace to reign in the state. The secretary-general of the association, Usman Ngelzerma, made the demand in an interview with the Punch on Monday, January 8.

 “I like the Benue State governor. He is a peace-loving person but he 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," Ngelzerma stated.

The secretary-general said a faction of the association, the Miyetti Allah Kautal, was behind threats issued before the attacks. He also accused the livestock guards employed by the state government to enforce the anti-open grazing law of high-handedness. Usman Ngelzerma alleged that the guards were extorting money from the pastoralists. 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 ressistance 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.” Meanwhile, former vice president Atiku Abubakar on Monday, January 8, threatened to sue a leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Paul Unongo, for accusing him of being a financier of the Miyetti Allah, an association of cattle breeders.

The Punch reports that Atiku issued this threat in a letter by his lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), asking Unongo to retract “the blatant and malicious falsehood” within seven days.

The former vice president, in his letter, referred to the publication on page three of Saturday Punch of January 6, 2018 (Vol. 7413), in which Unongo’s claims were reported. Unongo had claimed that he had interacted with Atiku and knew that the former vice-president was the most powerful person financing Miyetti Allah. Atiku had since denied the claim. 

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