According to New Telegraph, the invasion of the site located along Makurdi-Lafia Expressway, about 25 kilometres to Makurdi, the state capital, is already causing serious threat to the communities, which are mainly agrarian.
The development comes barely 2 months after the state government passed a law popularly known as “Benue Anti-Open Grazing Law” to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock.
It was gathered that herders were freely grazing their cattle on the parcel of land and other farmlands belonging to farmers in the area yesterday.
Reports further indicate that the herdsmen have also taken over other local government areas; including Ushongo, Otukpo, Gwer West, Makurdi and Guma; and hundreds of their livestock have been seen grazing on farmlands there.
Residents of the affected communities where the Fulani herdsmen are grazing their cattle including women and children, are now living under perpetual fear especially now that harvesting season is at the peak.
The major aim of the law , as enacted by the state government includes:
“to prevent clashes between nomadic livestock herders and crop farmers; protect the environment from degradation and pollution caused by open rearing and overgrazing of livestock, as well as create a conducive environment for large scale crop production, among others.”
But, the law, however, prescribes that “any person or group of persons who contravenes the law shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment or N1 million fine or both.”
Section 5 Sub-section (a) of the law provides that any person(s) found moving livestock on foot within or across urban centres, rural settlements or any part of the state commits an offence and is liable to a fine of N500, 000 or one year imprisonment or both for the first offender, while Sub-section (b) of the law says a second offender would pay N1 million fine or three years imprisonment or both.
Colonel Edwin Jando (rtd), Security Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom, could not be reached to comment on the development.
However, Alhaji Shehu Tambaya, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Herdsmen Matters, said Fulani herdsmen in the state had been sensitised on the need to embrace the anti-open grazing law.
He said that the law has come to stay, describing it as the only solution to end the recurring clashes between herdsmen and farmers.