The National Secretary, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, speaks with John Charles on the alleged killings by herdsmen in Benue State and the ban on open grazing, among other issues
The Benue State Government has accused your group, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, of being responsible for killings in Benue State. What is your response to this?
It is a blatant lie. Security agents have been making arrests, including the Tiv people that are killing themselves. We are not responsible for any killing, we don’t kill. We are a peaceful organisation. Ask Governor Samuel Ortom about the number of his security aides that have been killed. They are the ones killing themselves. The arrests made so far in Benue State show they (culprits) are all Tiv people; some are even undergoing trial while many are in jail.
Even the recent attack, which the governor claimed was on his life, was it not Tiv people that were arrested? Governor Ortom is a joker. We don’t take him seriously anymore, nobody takes him seriously because anytime federal allocation is approaching, he will start talking about herdsmen invasion. I think he has been reduced to a pun in the political chess game. When they (military) killed Gana, was he not crying openly? Was Gana a herdsman?
But in 2017 when the state government enacted the anti-open grazing law, your group addressed a press conference in Abuja and opposed the law, vowing to make the state ungovernable if it was not reversed. Isn’t this what is playing out now?
Yes, we opposed it and went to court. We are still in court and still opposing it; we will continue to oppose it because it is a negative law. You can not deprive us of our means of livelihood, it has never happened anywhere that somebody will just wake up one day and say that he would stop people’s means of livelihood. We are still opposed to the law, strongly and fundamentally. But we did not say we would make the state ungovernable. The text of the press conference is there; security agents were at the press conference. What we said was that we rejected the law and we are still rejecting it. It is an obnoxious law. You don’t threaten people. How many of his security aides have been killed? About three! Is that not enough to show people that the killers are around him?
Our people (Fulani herdsmen) have since left Benue. The only thing they do now is to go to Taraba and Nasarawa states to rustle cows. Are they (Benue people) not rearing cattle in Benue? Is it not Tiv people that are rearing cattle in Benue?
What is your association or the Fulani doing to put an end to the influx of armed herders from neighbouring countries who have given your people a bad name?
We don’t have armed Fulani. It is just a popular narrative they are pushing, thinking they will achieve political aims. But you have lawless people in the rural areas; are the Fulani responsible (for the lawlessness)? Is it the innocent herders that you would ask to police the country? No! Are we the Immigration, the Nigerian Army or the Department of State Services? When you see criminals, let them be arrested and taken to court. You don’t just criminalise an economic group. The way politicians are behaving in this country is very funny. Look at the crisis in the South-East where the Biafra or IPOB group is killing people everywhere, including policemen and other security personnel. Are they herdsmen? Considering the propaganda built around the crisis, you will know that it is IPOB that is behind it; they want to make the country ungovernable. We thank God that security agents are dealing with them now and they are running helter-skelter.
But there is this group, Fulani National Movement (FUNAM), which always claims responsibility for killings in Benue and the North-Central. Is this group not affiliated to yours?
That group is Ortom’s creation. I said it before and even challenged him (Ortom) to take me to court. The organisation doesn’t exist, it is part of the propaganda.
The governor cannot do anything and he has not done anything, he is owing pensioners and workers.
Let me tell you something, politicians are behind the killings going on in the country. As an investigative journalist, go and investigate these things. The crises have external sponsors. How many years have we been battling Boko Haram now? When you have an insurgency running for many years with sophisticated weapons, then you ask yourself some questions: are we manufacturing arms? They (security agencies) will arrest those behind the killings and suddenly they stop people from knowing them (suspected killers). Why are they hiding those that attempted to kill Ortom? Herdsmen are part of this country. Nobody can do anything about them, we have to accommodate them. They are not taking any land, they are just using the land resources. (To tackle the crisis), government should create an enabling environment for both herders and farmers. All the killings and burnings by IPOB, if the northerners had responded, can we be talking of herdsmen now? Do they think we don’t have the nuisance value to respond to what they are doing?
What is your organisation’s view on anti-open grazing laws made by some states?
We have been insisting that they (FG) must revive the grazing reserves which were there before the colonial era and government has responded. The Ministry of Agriculture should give us the grazing reserves which are predominantly in the North. This issue of ranching is a fluke, it cannot work. We have told the people that it cannot work, but they are talking about it. So many herders cannot do ranching, it is for commercial farmers. They must restore the grazing reserves; where they don’t exist, there is no need to create any because of the hostilities across the country. We know the existing ones, some were gazetted while others were not gazetted but were documented. At least, they (FG) have started developing them; all these RUGA and others are nonsense.