Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, Taraba State Government, Rivers State Government and civil rights groups on Friday berated the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, over his statement on the killings by suspected herdsmen in the country.
They said that the statement showed that the minister was insensitive to the plight of the victims of the violence carried out by suspected herdsmen.
Ortom took a swipe at the minister, describing him as one of the people misinforming President Muhammadu Buhari.
Dan-Ali, in an interview with State House correspondents, had identified the blockage of cattle routes across the country as the remote cause of the killings by herdsmen.
He also identified the implementation of anti-open grazing law in some states as the immediate cause of the killings.
The minister had said, “Whatever crisis that happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of the farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be a route whereby the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation.
“If you go to Bayelsa or Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block the shoreline; does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law.”
Ortom, who spoke to journalists in Makurdi, condemned the minister for his advice to states to accommodate foreigners.
He described the statement as ‘unfortunate’, adding that the minister should proceed and hand over his state to foreigners. Ortom added that he would not surrender his state to any foreigner.
He further explained that the minister’s statement was tantamount to granting immunity to herdsmen and their cattle.
The governor frowned on the manner by which the Federal Government was twisting the killings in the state through several statements credited to officials of the government.
He said, “I heard a statement credited to the Minister of Defense, saying the killings in Benue were as a result of the anti-open grazing law. I can’t see him saying that kind of thing. If he said so, I would have asked him what he has done about Fulani herdsmen going about with AK47s.
“I will not surrender my land to foreigners. You can go and do that in your own state. It’s sad that those who are supposed to be assisting the President have instead, turned round to misinform him, all for their selfish interests.
“As a state, we are ready to accommodate those who are genuine and come to our state legally, whether foreigners, to do business. But if you are in Benue, you must respect the laws of the land.
“I see the statement as an insult to the collective leadership and sensibility of the people of Nigeria, for a minister of defence to ask Nigerians to accommodate foreigners who illegally enter the country to cause problems.
“I am now beginning to see that they have given immunity that is the prerogative of President, Vice-President, governors and deputy governors to herdsmen, who kill and to their cattle. Cattle in Nigeria now have more immunity than humans. This is very unfortunate.
“Also, a few days ago, they said that those responsible for the killings in Benue were members of ISIS. All these are diversionary moves by the government.”
Ortom insisted that the anti-open grazing law had come to stay in the state, while advising the President to caution his cabinet members against making inflammatory statements.