BENUE State governor, Samuel Ortom, has raised the alarm over what he described as a renewed plot by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to influence the National Assembly to pass the National Grazing Reserves Council Bill.
Ortom, who raised the alarm in a statement by his spokesperson, Terver Akase, on Tuesday, May 2, called on the National Assembly to be vigilant and resist any last-minute attempts to pass the bill.
The governor, whose state had recorded several killings by suspected herdsmen, warned that the bill seeks to deprive Nigerians of their God-given lands in favour of pastoralists across the country.
He wondered why, despite public outcry, the Buhari administration has continued to send the bill to the National Assembly for passage under different names since it assumed office in 2015.
The governor noted that the passage of the grazing reserves law had taken priority over tackling insecurity in the country, adding that if the government had concentrated on the latter, the country would have been safer.
Ortom called on members of the National Assembly to act as true representatives of the people and resist any surreptitious attempts to mock millions of innocent Nigerians who have fallen victim to attacks by suspected herdsmen.
“We understand that those who are bent on taking over the ancestral lands of Nigerians to give to pastoralists are looking for the opportunity to hastily pass the bill which they have now renamed as National Grazing Reserves Council Bill,” he said.
“The proposed law has been in the National Assembly after it was reintroduced, and its sponsors, sensing the mood and suspicions of the people, have been trying to find the right moment to have it passed.”
If passed, the governor said the law would establish a council with the powers to take over land in any part of the country for grazing reserves and pay ‘compensation’ to land owners.
He said that beneficiaries of such “usurped lands will be pastoralists whose animals will enjoy unfettered access to the land”.
Stressing that the bill is a violation of the Constitution and the Land Use Act, Ortom urged the lawmakers to remain dogged in their rejection of the bill.
In 2016, the Senate rejected the controversial Grazing Management Agency Bill, which aimed to create cattle grazing areas across the country.
In 2017, the Federal Government introduced the National Grazing Routes and Reserves Bill, which was similarly rejected following concerns raised by well meaning Nigerians, particularly from the Southern part of the country.
The Federal Government also introduced Ruga, Cattle Colonies, and other programs aimed at creating settlements for pastoralists across the country.
Buhari approved recommendations of a committee to review grazing routes in 25 states in the country, including Benue, in August 2021.
However, the idea lost steam after Benue and other states kicked against the development.