Governor Ortom’s Agatu Land-Sharing Deal With Fulani And Matters Arising

By Bemgba Iortyom

I have observed with grave concern the land-sharing deal entered into by Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his Nasarawa State counterpart, Tanko Al-Makura, giving Fulani herdsmen access to open grazing rights in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue.

The communique issued at the deal and signed also by Gov. Ortom holds in part that;

” The indigenous Fulani Herdsmen will graze in Agatu land after the harvest season at the end of February 2017.”

And that, “The dedicated routes agreed by both parties for movement of cattle are Oguto Adanyi – Ogumagbo – Bagana.
“The above privilege is only granted to indigenous Fulani herdsmen who were known to the Agatu people before the crisis. This is to forestall destruction of farms and exhaustion of available green pasture.”

But there are a number of glaring inconsistencies observable from the rather hazy wordings of the communique, amongst which are;

  •  CONTRADICTION- The latest position of Gov. Ortom to grant open grazing access to Fulani herdsmen in Agatu is at total variance with his earlier stated avowal to adopt ranching as the solution to the Fulani/farmers crisis in the state. This is outright hypocrisy.
  • LEGALITY QUESTION-
    (i)Who are indigenous Fulani, and what law(s) qualify them for such status?

(ii) Is the Oguto Adanyi – Ogumagbo – Bagana grazing route a creation of any known law(s)?

  •  INSENSITIVITY- The provisions of the communique totally have failed to address the mixed-cropping needs of Agatu farmers who are now required to end their harvests in February. By the implications of the Ortom/Al-Makura Communique any crops still growing on Agatu farms after the February harvest is deemed pasture for Fulani cattle.
  •  VAGUENESS- The sweeping generalised wordings of the communique have failed to state how it envisages the forestalling of “destruction of farms and exhaustion of available green pasture in Agatu. This is an aspect of the crisis which ought not to have been left to such vagueness in any serious peace deal.
  •  BETRAYAL- Gov. Ortom has failed to provide funding for the Benue State House of Assembly to conduct public hearings which have been made a necessary pre-condition for passage of the anti-grazing bill lying at the Assembly for close to a year, yet the governor did not need a public hearing to concede open grazing rights to Fulani herdsmen in the state.

All over Nigeria state governments are adopting ranching as the preferred and most effective antidote to the menace of marauding Fulani herdsmen visiting mayhem on farming populations, as exemplified by Ekiti State that took less than three months to pass into law the anti-grazing bill which has made the state safe for its inhabitants.

Benue is so far the first state under the scourge of the herdsmen to have officially conceded to them open grazing access, even elevating them to indigeneship status, and it is hard not to consider this a betrayal of the trust of the people he swore on oath to give security and protection.

The Agatu treaty, as it stands, does not represent a peace deal for the people of Benue State, but is in a practically sense a willful negation of their wellbeing and safety and a ceding away of their vital interests by their own government.

Bemgba Iortyom writes from Makurdi, Benue State.

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