The Governors of Benue and Nasarawa State have again met, to proffer workable solutions to the lingering crisis involving ethnic nationalities and herdsmen/farmers along border communities between the two states.
The latest meeting, among series of such meetings, called at the instance of the Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, held at Yelwata, in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, on Wednesday.
Engineer Sule stated that the meeting became necessary following renewed conflicts along border communities in Nasarawa State, involving on the one hand, Alagos and Tivs, over boundary demarcation and on the other hand, Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers.
While acknowledging the support and cooperation of his Benue State counterpart, Governor Samuel Ortom, in convening the meeting, the Nasarawa State Governor, in his speech during the meeting, identified critical issues that if adequately addressed, would ensure return of lasting peace along the border communities.
Engineer Sule noted that, as the chief security officer of the state, he became worried when in the midst of combating the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with mitigating the hardship occasioned by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the crises along the border communities erupted.
The Nasarawa Governor identified boundary disputes and frequent excursion by the livestock guards from Benue State, who allegedly, crossover into Nasarawa State to arrest Fulani herdsmen.
While calling on the Fulani herdsmen resident in Nasarawa State to avoid grazing in disputed areas, Engineer Sule appealed to the Benue State Government to tamper justice with mercy, if herdsmen ventured into such disputed areas.
He further warned herdsmen not to crossover into Benue State because of the anti-open grazing law operating in the state.
“But I will ask further that Sir, in case anybody runs to a disputed area, let’s try to tamper justice with mercy, and try to find a way to keep them back rather than go through the rigorous anti-grazing law,” the Nasarawa Governor pleaded.
Engineer Sule used the opportunity of the meeting to once more thanked President Muhammadu Buhari, for deploying the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Special Forces to Lafia, to assist in combating banditry and other criminal activities in the North Central.
On his part, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, equally identified the inability to conclude boundary demarcation between the two states, as well as activities of criminal elements, as responsible for the conflicts along the border communities.
While denying any knowledge of the incursion of Benue livestock guards into Nasarawa State, to arrest Fulani herdsmen, Ortom directed security agencies in Nasarawa State to henceforth arrest and prosecute any livestock guard that crosses over into Nasarawa State to arrest Fulani herdsmen.
Governor Ortom cleared the air on certain misconceptions about the anti-open grazing law operating in Benue State, stressing that Benue State is not against the Fulani rearing cattle but that they must comply with the law which bans open grazing.
He appealed to all concerned to sheath their swords and to embrace peace, as according to him, the two states have no business with conflicts.
“Crisis and destruction will only bring pains and fear and our people will continue to live in poverty.
“As two Governors responsible for the security of lives and property, that’s why we are here. I want to appeal to us, let us sheath our swords for the benefit of our two states,” Ortom stated.
Governor Ortom while commending Engineer Sule for taking proactive steps to address issues of security, joined his Nasarawa State counterpart, to commend President Buhari for intervening by deploying additional NAF Special Forces in the North Central to assist in the fight against criminality.
A communique was issued at the meeting, which had in attendance, Deputy Governors of he states, Secretary to the Government of both states, members of the State Executive and Security Councils of the two states, other top government functionaries from the two states, members of the State House of Assembly representing border communities of the two states, Chairmen of local government councils sharing borders, traditional rulers and community leaders as well as representatives from border communities of the two states.
Part of the resolution at the meeting was that Deputy Governors of the two states and National Boundary Commission should speedily work towards concluding the demarcation of borders between the two states.
Also, that livestock guards should not cross the border into Nasarawa State while performing their assignments.