Benue: Alia mandates complete enforcement of law against open grazing

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The 14-day ultimatum set to herders involved in open grazing has gone, according to Rev Fr Hyacinth Ali, Governor of Benue State.

The moment has come, he said, for the state’s security services to fully execute the law prohibiting open grazing.

This was stated by the governor during a news briefing at Government House, Makurdi’s Old Banquet Hall, on Wednesday.

Under the guidance of his deputy, Dr. Sam Ode, Governor Alia revealed that the decision was made by the State Security Council in response to the significant migration of herders into the state.

During the 14-day ultimatum, he added, the security council kept tabs on the armed herdsmen and reviewed the findings of a seven-person panel presided over by the state’s Operation Whirl Stroke Force Commander.

Ode conveyed the council’s contentment with the findings, stressing that the legislation did not target any specific demographic.

In spite of this, the administration issued a warning that lawbreakers would face prosecution irrespective of who they were; it was revealed that the majority of the herders in the state had withdrawn peacefully throughout the past two weeks.

Regarding the anti-open-grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law of 2017, which is still in effect in the state, the Commissioner of Justice and Public Order, Barr. Fidelis Mnyim, explained that anyone wanting to rear cattle in the state must ranch their cattle. Anyone caught engaging in open grazing would be subject to the full force of the law.

In addition, Major General Sunday Igbinomwanhia, the Force Commander of Operation Whirlstroke (OPWS), revealed that the Benue State Security Council had appointed a seven-person committee to devise strategies for carrying out the ultimatum to remove armed herdsmen from the state. Igbinomwanhia described this move as a non-kinetic method of conflict resolution.

Operation Whirlstroke and all state-based security agencies will carry out the State government’s full command, Gen. Igbinomwanhia said, expressing satisfaction that the majority of herders had complied.

He went on to say that certain criminals had entered Kwande local government, and that Operation Whirlstroke had cleared the area.

He clarified that the current situation in Ukum local government was not an assault on any of the towns, but rather a confrontation between two militia groups in the region over reasons that are still unclear; thirty militiamen from each side lost their lives in the fighting.

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