The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has appealed to Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, to consider its members as indigenes of the state by according them same treatment with citizens of the state.
At a press conference in Makurdi, the state capital, the Chairman of MACBAN in Benue State, Risku Mohammed, said the plea became imperative in the face of the newly amended anti-open grazing law of the state which jerked up the fine on an impounded animal from N2000 per cow to N50,000.
Mohammed also complained that the association as one of the stakeholders was not involved in the public hearing before the amendment of the anti-open grazing law.
“We are bonafide citizens and indigenes of this state because we vote. We are registered voters; we contribute to the economy of the state. Any administration coming to the state, our contributions have been there. We transact business and promote the dignity of the state and the country entirely.
“The livestock that we have is not a crime; it’s not a weapon but food that we have and also dispense to others. The whole state benefits from our livestock, so I’m appealing in that order that the N50,000 fine per cattle impounded as amended is not affordable to us.
“We have no other source of livelihood; our cattle are dying. The governor should not punish our race; I mean our ethnicity because our cattle which are part of our livelihood are diminishing. We are human beings and we have nowhere to go. We contribute to the positive development of the state and we are appealing that the state government should consider us,” he said.
The chairman who spoke through an interpreter, his secretary, Ibrahim Galma, further alleged that the amendment of the law which stipulated stiffer penalties for the offenders was a subtle means of chasing Fulani herders away from the state.
He noted that since the enactment of the law itself in 2017, the livestock farmers of Benue origin had continued to practice open grazing while the state government had continued to confiscate their own animals.
Mohammed added, “The law is not only applicable to cattle, it is for goats, pigs and also applicable to chickens. But none of these categories of animals have ever witnessed confiscation at the Government House quarantine centre and we have never also seen the indigene’s cattle confiscated.
“The law enforcers are always silent when it comes to that of indigenes. Mostly, it’s our (Fulani) livestock; we have never witnessed goats, chickens and pigs or any other animals belonging to indigenes confiscated. Up to date, these people’s livestock roam freely and graze openly.”
Our correspondent reports that the governor had at different times insisted that the law was a win-win for all stakeholders including the farmers and the herders.