•Tension builds as herdsmen occupy farms in Imo village
•Our security strategy is working, says Air Chief after meeting with Buhari

ABUJA — A  Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a suit filed by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore challenging the 2017 Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment Law passed by Benue State House of Assembly, while Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, described the ruling as victory for justice, democracy and rule of law.

Herdsmen along with their cows wait for buyers at Kara Cattle Market in Lagos, Nigeria, on April 10, 2019. – Kara cattle market in Agege, Lagos is one of the largest of West Africa receiving thousands of cows weekly due to the massive consumption of meat in Lagos area. (Photo / AFP)

Tension is rising in Obokofia, a community in Ohaji/Egbema local council of Imo State as herdsmen were said to have vowed to remain in the community’s lands after the deadline to vacate.

On Wednesday, some herders shot sporadically into the air to scare community people and to resist the ultimatum given them to leave the community.

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The tension in Imo is building as President Muhammadu Buhari met with security chiefs in Aso Rock in Abuja, with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, saying the strategy adopted by security chiefs to tackle insecurity in the country was working.

This is even as former Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, said Nigeria was now facing the truth on account of the controversies trailing the Ruga settlement proposal for herders across the country, which the Federal Government has suspended.

Court dismisses Miyetti Allah suit against open grazing law

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, while dismissing the  suit filed by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore challenging the 2017 Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment Law passed by the Benue State House of Assembly,  awarded a cost of N100,000 against the plaintiff to be paid to all the defendants before any other step can be taken in the suit.

Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore had approached the court seeking a mandatory injunction against Benue State Government from implementing the laws as passed by Benue State |House of Assembly.

Delivering judgment yesterday, Justice Okon Abang held that the failure of the plaintiff to comply with an earlier order of the court to amend their originating summons was a fault on their part.

The order, according to Mr Abang, was made in December 2017 by a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Bamidele Quadri.

He had ordered the plaintiff to amend their originating summons as there was no valid originating summons before the court.

Justice Abang said the judge had given the plaintiff five days to comply with the order of the court but the plaintiff brought the summons before the court on May 31, 2019.

With this, Mr Abang held that the plaintiff was nonchalant, developed a carefree attitude and did nothing for upwards of 19 months.

He stressed that the plaintiff treated the court order with disdain and levity.

“For 19 months, since December till date, the plaintiff failed to file the amended originating summons following an order of a judge of the Federal High Court to do so within five days. The plaintiff was in court when this order was made but failed to comply or appeal the order. No valid originating summons was filed by them.

“For them to have not done anything for 19months, they should have themselves to blame. The court order remains valid. If the originating summons is not filed, there would be no way the defendants would file a counter-affidavit.

“The purported originating summons filed on May 31, 2019, is a nullity and should not have been filed.

“In the eyes of the law, there is no valid originating summons filed by the plaintiff. Why did the plaintiff not comply with the court order if they know they have a good case?

“The court should not only bark but should also bite and break bones where necessary, but, not the bones of the parties involved in the matter. The matter is also an abuse of court processes, where the court process is abused, the suit should be dismissed.

“The plaintiff’s suit is hereby dismissed with a cost of N100,000 to be paid to all the 14 defendants before taking any other step,” the judge ruled.

Dismissal of Miyetti Allah suit is victory for justice, democracy, rule of law – Ortom

Governor Ortom, reacting to the ruling through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said it was a victory for justice, democracy and the rule of law.

He commended the country’s judiciary “for proving once again that it is indeed the last hope of the common people.”

“The judgment affirms the fact that the law was duly enacted and it is in the interest of all Nigerians who wish to go into livestock business in the state. The government and people of Benue State appreciate individuals and groups, as well as all other well meaning Nigerians who supported us while the case lasted.

We are restating the commitment of his administration to ensuring that the implementation of the ranching law guarantees peace in all parts of the state, the governor urged Miyetti Allah groups and other livestock owners to embrace ranching which is the global best practice of animal husbandry.

Tension in Imo

Vanguard gathered yesterday that tension has engulfed Obokofia community, following the insistence of the herdsmen to remain on the community’s lands.

Despite intervention of the Ohaji/Egbema Transition Committee chairman, Damian Ezeru, which calmed down the situation, the herders have stayed put in the community.

Tension was worsened after a security meeting scheduled for yesterday could not take place as the TC chairman was said to be in an official meeting alongside his colleagues with the governor of the state, Emeka Ihedioha. It was learned that the security council meeting will now hold today.

A source from the community told Vanguard:“The herdsmen are still in the community. They have not left. They are prepared for us but we don’t want to fight them. We want peace in our land. I want to ask, how can somebody come to your land and you tell him to leave and that person starts threatening to kill you?

“What sort of intimidation is this? We want them to move out of our farmlands. This is very bad. Do they want us to suffer as a result of lack of food to eat? This is too much. We want them to stop. We can’t continue like this.”

On Wednesday, Vanguard reported the drama between Obokofia community and herdsmen where the herders shot sporadically in the air to put fears in the members of the community just for them to continue their grazing activities.

As a result of the incident,  the Transition Committee chairman of Ohaji/Egbema, Ezeru Local Government Area, who confirmed the development, intervened and promised to hold a security council meeting, with a view to ending the looming danger.

Imo govt sues for peace

Contacted, Special Adviser to the governor on Media, Steve Osuji, said: “On the herders and farmers crisis, we just appeal to people to respect each others’ rights. Don’t invade people’s farms and destroy them. We will continue to engage the leadership of Hausa community in the state to advise their people to live peacefully with their host communities.”

Nigeria now face-to-face with the truth – Okogie

Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of the controversial Ruga settlement project,  former Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, in a statement titled “Face-to-face with truth,” described the presidential decision as an act of injustice.

Arguing that it was the height of duplicity for the Presidency to tell Nigerians that Ruga was the solution to the problem of violent herdsmen, the Catholic cleric said: “Nigeria professes to be a representative democracy. As we write, some figures put our population at 200 million. So, we pride ourselves as being among the largest democracies in the world.

“Since the different arms of government cannot contain 200 million people, we elect some of us to represent us in the legislature and the executive arm of government. These representatives of the people have the obligation to consult and report to the people before they act in government. This is what is termed ‘democracy’ – a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

“But can we find truth in the governance of this country? Is there truth in Aso Rock or in any of the state government houses? Can it be found in any of the local governments? Can it be said that there is truth in our country’s National Assembly?

“Is it not the case that those whom we elect to represent us take us for granted? Those we hired to serve us have become our masters? And they are despotic?  We are fed with a steady diet of lies. We are told lies during campaigns when candidates who are utterly unpatriotic and lacking in good character are packaged by campaign organizations and presented to Nigerians as God-sent.

“As soon as they get into governance, they begin to break their campaign promises. We were promised peace and prosperity. But we are offered insecurity and poverty. The length and breadth of our vast country is covered by a thick veil of injustice.

“When you are citizen of a country where government has repeatedly demonstrated its insincerity, its readiness to tell lies and mix duplicity with insolence, it would be reckless to believe pretentious promises. The honesty deficit of government in Nigeria is very high. Promises of change have turned into change of promises. This is a government that tells us Boko Haram is “technically defeated” while Boko Haram continues to kill our poorly-equipped soldiers. This is a government that writes off any other report concerning what happens here in Nigeria as false. Take for instance, reports on Fulanisation, nepotism, daily bloodbath across the country and so on.

“This is a government bedeviled by a self-inflicted credibility crisis that it needs to address before it can accomplish anything meaningful and useful. But its spokespersons prefer to indulge in insolence. That is why this government cannot be engaged in any productive dialogue. A democracy where there is no dialogue, where it is an offence to disagree with government policy, is a democracy that has lost its soul.

“The latest act of injustice is the proposed and now “suspended” project of Ruga settlement. It amounts to the height of duplicity for the Presidency to tell Nigerians that this is the solution to the problem of violent herdsmen. We are dealing here with a strain of duplicity that is rendered more tragic by the arrogance of government spokespersons.

“As has become the stock in trade of image makers at the Presidency, whoever disagrees with any policy of this government is treated with disdain. And that is coming from a government that claims to have been democratically elected!

“The statement that emanated from the Presidency on Sunday, June 30, 2019, rather than offer a credible explanation, served insolence on a platter It amounts to a gratuitous insult on the intelligence of those who know the history of this country to say: ‘Ruga settlement that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families, simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organised place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products.’

“This statement, widely reported in the dailies, is insensitive to our need to overcome suspicion in this country. Our history, especially in the pre-colonial era, shows how such ‘settlements’ for ‘migrant pastoral families’ have been used to dispossess people of their ancestral lands, used to disturb peaceful co-existence in our multi-ethnic country.

“Have we not been told in recent memory that if we want peace, we must give land to violent herdsmen? Why is it that a government that lays claims to democratic credentials would simply refuse to address the concerns of the people of Nigeria? Indeed, there is another name for this policy. It is a ‘your land or your life policy.’

“The fact that some state governors have accepted this Ruga Settlement proposal does not necessarily mean they are acting in the interest of their people. Who does not know that the political fortune of a state governor in Nigeria is tied to ‘loyalty’ to federal might? And who does not know that when asked to make a choice between his political fortune and the good of the people of his state, many a governor would chose the former?

“When those who speak for a government said to be democratically elected insult those who hold dissenting opinions, it is not those who are insulted that are diminished, it is the government that is diminished. But while we expect insults from government spokespersons for writing this, we are reminded of the immortal words of Uthman Dan Fodio: ‘Conscience is an open wound healed by truth.’ When shall truth be spoken by this government?”

RUGA policy is provocative, divisive, says Dickson

On his part, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State kicked against the controversial Federal Government’s Ruga policy, describing it as provocative, divisive and unhelpful to national unity and cohesion.

The governor spoke on the first day of the interdenominational prayer and fasting service for the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state on Wednesday night.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, Dickson  said that Bayelsa under his leadership will not give out any inch of its territory for the establishment of any such Ruga settlement as proposed by the Federal Government.

He said:  “I said it some days ago and I’m saying again that Bayelsa will not be a part of Ruga. That is a most provocative, divisive and unhelpful policy. We call for the immediate cancellation of that policy.

“Under me as leader of this state,  Bayelsa will not have even an inch of land available for any Ruga settlement. It will not be allowed and will be challenged.

“People should be encouraged to go into ranching as a business and not be moving around causing problems and mayhem. That’s what we will support, not Ruga settlements. Do we have Ijaw fishermen settlements in other states?”

The governor said that the next governor of the state should be a person of courage, who should be able to speak out on critical issues affecting the state

He stressed that anybody aspiring to occupy the office of governor of Bayelsa State should be able to speak out, say the bitter truth on critical issues irrespective of those involved.

Our strategy is working – Air Force chief

Claiming that the strategy adopted by security chiefs to tackle insecurity in the country was working, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, also said the armed forces will continue to work harder to ensure that the citizenry and the territorial integrity of the country were secured.

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This came on the heels of the 30-day ultimatum by Arewa youths, under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, to southern leaders to accept the suspended Ruga Project and President Buhari to implement the programme.

The coalition, which accused the President of “deceitfully wobbling” over the security situation in the North, also chastised some northern leaders for fraudulently promoting agitations for power shift to the South in 2023.

Speaking to State House correspondents after the routine security meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential villa, Abuja, the Chief of Air Staff said the security heads will continue to work with the strategy they had put on ground because it was producing results.

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On the outcome of the security meeting with the President, he said: “The meeting is all about the security of Nigerians and Nigeria, and the message coming out of that meeting is that the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security forces will continue to work much harder to ensure that every Nigerian is secured and the territorial integrity of Nigeria is not undermined by anybody.”

Asked if the service chiefs were considering to change their tactics, he said:  “I think the strategy has already been changed and from what we are seeing, the current strategy is working. What we are going to do is to ensure that all hands are on deck and every Nigerian equally has a role to play by passing relevant intelligence to us.

“So far, the strategy that we have on ground is really working and that is the one we will continue to pursue.”

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