Benue State Deputy Governor, Engr Benson Abounu has explained why the state government allocated grazing routes to Fulani herdsmen in Agatu local government.
Recall that last week, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his Nasarawa state counterpart, Tanko Al Makura visit Agatu, during which both parties agreed to designate Oguto Adanyi-Ogumagbo-Bagana as cattle routes for “indigenous Fulani” in the local government.
This decision has drawn wide condemnation from the public considering that Agatu has become a hotbed for violent clashes between herders and farmers with over 500 persons massacred last year.
However, the Deputy Governor in an interview granted a group of journalists at the Benue Governor’s lodge, Abuja, explained that the decision to provide routes for herdsmen in the area was made in good faith and with the best interest of the people at heart, adding that the position of the Government concerning the issue has not changed.
“The agreement to allow cattle of the Fulani people who are known to the Agatu graze on that piece of land does not transfer ownership of the island to the Fulani. It was a temporary arrangement to stop the Fulani massing on the Nasarawa bank of the River Benue from crossing over Agatu settlement area.
“The position of government on the issue of grazing has not changed. Governor Ortom has repeatedly stated that Benue land is for farming and not for uncontrolled grazing and that ranching remains the best solution to the farmers/herdsmen crisis.
“However, ranching cannot be achieved overnight; hence the need to find a compromise that will allow peace to reign and prevent further loss of lives and wanton destruction of properties. This is what Governor Samuel Ortom has sought to do in Agatu.” He explained.
He also reacted to the use of the phrase “indigenous Fulani” in the agreement saying a better word would be more appropriate.
“The people may have a point there. The use of “indigenous Fulani” for the Fulani in Agatu may be inappropriate.
“However, it never emanated from any of the two governors, rather, it came from the Agatu people who probably accepted as brothers the Fulani who were born and bred in Agatu. Probably, the word “settler” would have fitted more than the word “indigene”.” he said.
Engr Abounu also debunked the news making round that the Benue State government has ceded part of Agatu land in Agatu local government area to Fulani herdsmen, describing the development as “wicked, malicious, mischievous and most unfortunate.”
“At no time did the Benue state government cede any part of Agatu land to anybody or group of people. Governor Samuel Ortom has consistently said at every forum that Benue state would never cede any part of its land to anybody, no matter whom.
“The allegation, therefore, that the government has sold a part of Agatu land to Fulani herdsmen is totally untrue. It is wicked, malicious, mischievous and most unfortunate. Governor Ortom has never contemplated such an action and he would never do that.
He called on the people to have confidence in the Governor, saying as long as they were at the helm of affairs of the state, not one inch of Benue land will be ceded to anybody.