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Danger looms as Ortom, Abounu assign portion of land to Fulani herdsmen in Agatu

Written By Idoma Television on Monday, January 16, 2017 | 9:49:00 PM

By Andy Obeya 

Al - Makura's visit to Benue was to solicit grazing lands for herdsmen in Agatu Islands. 

I reliably gathered that this was hurriedly put together under the watchful eyes of Ortom and Abounu who initially supported the release of grazing lands unconditionally to herdsmen in Agatu (leaving the signing of agreements to the local govts and the Nassarawa Fulani leadership – while the Benue state government stood by as spectators instead of being the key player in a matter that involved security).
I am a bit worried because another information also suggests that this agreement was signed under duress (though I still need further confirmation) and it was at the insistence of the Local government sole administrator that a written agreement was even put together to show that the governments of the two states had agreed that herdsmen from the Nassarawa axis could cross over to the island to graze.

Why should herdsmen cross over to Agatu to graze in the midst of unresolved conflicts? Why were the critical stakeholders of Agatu and Benue left out of this back yard arrangement that affects Agatus and the people of the state? Why were they in a hurry to close discussions over grazing areas in a manner that could further raise dust within communities?

Ortom and Almakura will be in Agatu on the 19th of January to communicate the resolution of their joint security meeting to the people of Agatu. I have travelled through Nassarawa state and I have seen the lush, green, healthy vegetation of that land, why can’t Almakura make provisions for the herdsmen within his state? Why must it be Agatu grass or nothing else?

The Benue State Government is just trying to be clever by half. We are not buying the story being fed to us through state-sponsored social media “activists", Ortom and Abounu should not think that we cannot see that the voice is Jacob’s though the hands feel like Esau’s.

Mike Inalegwu may have signed that shoddy agreement, but Ortom and Abounu along with Almakura were the real deal makers. The only visit Ortom and Almakura actually owe the Agatu people is a visit to deliver a compensation package to aid their resettlement, rehabilitation and restoration not a visit to inform them their farmlands will be fed on by grazing cattle once again.

Abounu should also be calculative and slow in taking serious decisions such as ceding other people's ancestral lands for grazing purpose at a time when the memories and losses incurred by the people from the destructions last year are still fresh.

How will we know the herdsmen from Nassarawa? How would be differentiate them from the “foreigners” Hon Audu Ogbe claims are responsible for the onslaught against our people? What clause in this agreement protects the Agatus and their farmlands or properties from the visiting herdsmen?

All I see is the military taking over the Island should any trouble begin. The agreement puts the Agatu people and the other surrounding parts of Benue state in a kneeling position for there is no benefit in it for them. I hear Almakura, the Governor who kept mum while “foreigners” attacked the Agatu people is being pressured to get access for the “ Nassarawa herdsmen” into Agatu land because they are getting restive in Nassarawa state. Does he mean it is the Agatu people that deserve to have this group of restive herdsmen poured into the land?

Another argument raised is that the Agatu people cannot withstand the sophisticated arms of the “foreign herdsmen” so it is better to peacefully give them space to graze. And I ask: What is an act of war if invasion and decimation of a community by foreigners is not considered as one? Why is the onslaught by “foreign Fulani herdsmen” never considered as a declaration of war by the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

If an agreement is going to be made on grazing lands, it should be done in Agatu, with Stakeholders well represented not a backyard arrangement into which the Local Government sole administrator is drawn into at the last minute and then left to sign a poorly prepared agreement as the only representative of the governments involved.

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