The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Benue State, Mr. Mike Gusa has stated that since the enactment of the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition, Ranches establishment Law 2017, the rapidity and number of attacks on communities by suspected herdsmen have reduced.
According to him, the law has helped to bring down the herders’ attack in the last two years as compared to 2016 and 2017, despite serious opposition to the law. Recalling circumstances that resulted in the enactment of the law, Gusa said between February 2013 and May 13, 2017, Benue State experienced 46 attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen, resulting in the death of over 1,541 people and massive destruction of properties including, farmlands in 15 local government areas out of the 23 local government areas of the state.
The value of the property lost, he added was put at a conservative estimate of over N400 billion. He also stated that the local government areas affected within this period were Guma, Logo, Ukum, Kwande, Buruku, Gboko, Tarka, Katsina-Ala, Makurdi, Gwer West, Gwer, Ogbadibo, Otukpo, Agatu and Apa.
“In several Agatu villages on February 29, 2016, over 500 villagers were reportedly killed and over 7000 were displaced in 10 villages including Akwu, Aila, Okokolo, Adagbo, Odugbeho and Odejo,” he stated.
This, he recalled caused the Benue State Executive Council to sponsor a bill to State Assembly to enact the anti-open grazing Law, which Governor Samuel Ortom assented to on May 22, 2017, but directed that the implementation should be suspended for six months to give owners of livestock time to adjust to the new law.
“Reacting to the law one week after, the Fulani Socio-cultural group, Miyetti Allah addressed a press conference in Abuja and vowed to resist the Law. The group also made spurious claims of being the original inhabitants of the Benue valley, concluding that the planned attacks were a struggle over the resources of the valley,” he said.
According to him, the efficacy of the law has been tested in law court with amazing results, adding that from November 1, 2017 to October 27, 2020 more than 400 herdsmen have been arrested for violating the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017.
Gusa said: “Out of this number, 261 persons have been convicted, 21 persons have been discharged, 36 cases are still pending, while investigation is ongoing in other cases. Most of the convicts were able to pay fines and were released while many who could not were sent to jail ranging from six months to two years.”
“Within this period, 7,629 cows and 210 sheep as well as other livestock have been impounded. The law has also witnessed the arrest, arraignment and conviction of five cattle rustlers. The convicted rustlers were mostly of Fulani extraction, who confessed to the crime in open court.
“Besides, the law has ensured the arrest and arraignment of people irrespective of their ethnic groups or religious affiliation.”