Makurdi — A group, Mzough- u-Tiv, has described as unacceptable the content of a pamphlet being circulated in Benue following the launch of Exercise Ayem Akpatuma by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai in the state.It contended that the wordings depicted that the exercise was to provide cover for herdsmen to take over their land.
The group's President General, Chief Edward Ujege, who made the reservations during an interaction yesterday with newsmen in Makurdi, claimed that the Tiv version of the publication suggested that the ethnic nationality was the target of the exercise, whereas the attacks cut across the entire multi-ethnic state.
According to him, "this profiling of the Tiv people is also unacceptable. The military has also assumed very wrongly that Benue people are responsible for cattle rustling which is not the case. The act can only be undertaken by professionals in cattle rearing. And it is a basic knowledge that only herdsmen engage in that business."
Ujege claimed that there was no reference to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law 2017 in the flyer which addresses the fundamental issues of making both the farmers and the herders coexist peacefully.He continued: "The military is not only silent on the law, but has encouraged open grazing with all its concomitant consequences. This silence points to the fact that they are not in support of its enforcement.
"The message in the flyer, issued by the Department of Civil Military Affairs, Army Headquarters, underscores basic assumptions and erroneous impressions. "It is clear that the military has acknowledged that the herdsmen are responsible for the large-scale killings and massive destruction in our land.
"Yet, without addressing issues of justice, reparation and compensation, they are compelling Benue people to accommodate the perpetrators of these heinous atrocities."
But in a quick reaction, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 707 Special Force, Makurdi, Major Olabisi Ayenyi, dismissed the insinuation, saying his organisation was a federal agency saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and property as well as the territorial integrity of the country.
His words: "We are not saying that the Fulani herdsmen should not obey the anti-open grazing law enacted by the Benue State government. All that the Army needs to do here is to ensure that no resident is killed or displaced from his/her home. That is all we are doing. We want to ensure peaceful coexistence among the herders and farmers."
"Let me inform you that we have arrested some Fulani herdsmen that wanted to attack Governor (Samuel) Ortom's farm in Guma and with all these successes, you should know that Exercise Ayem AKpatuma is not in support of any group."