The police have said they will arrest operatives of the Benue State Livestock Guards set up to enforce the Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law enacted by the state government.
But some Benue leaders including the President General, Mdzough U Tiv, a socio-cultural group in the state, Chief Edward Ujege, have vowed to resist any attempt by the police to proscribe the security outfit.
Already, some members of the outfit have been arrested and its office shut down by the police which described it as an illegal security agency.
The Force Public Relations Officer, acting DCP Moshood Jimoh, told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that the police were still hunting for the personnel of the security outfit.
He explained that their leader had been nabbed including Daniel Kyase, 35, Alhaji Adajo Tomza, 28; Msugh Teraki, 23; Julius Avaan, 37, and Sunday Cheche, 34, who were paraded in July, 2018, at the force headquarters, for allegedly being in possession of two AK 47 rifles and 436 rounds of AK47 ammunition.
The men were paraded alongside Benjamin Tivfa, a serving councillor in Fido Council Ward, Makurdi, who was arrested for allegedly supplying arms to some bandits.
Jimoh said, “People should know that the livestock guards is a criminal gang being used to terrorise innocent citizens in Benue State and such would not be allowed to continue.
“We have shut down their offices and we are arresting their members. Anywhere we see them, they will be arrested and prosecuted.”
“It is clear to every Nigerian that the head of the livestock guards is a wanted criminal and he has been arrested for the many crimes he committed in connection with the killing of a lot of innocent people in Benue State.
The force insisted that it would not permit the livestock guards to operate in Benue State despite a Makurdi High Court injunction restraining the Inspector-General of Police, and the Benue State Commissioner of Police from prohibiting or shutting down offices of the livestock guards.
When asked if the police would obey the restraining order, Jimoh said, “Our legal department is handling that; I’m not going to comment on it.”
Meanwhile, some key stakeholders in Benue State are set for a showdown with the police over the plan to disband the state’s livestock guards.
The stakeholders spoke through Ujege in an interview with our correspondent in Makurdi on Friday.
Also, a former Minister of State for Education, Prof. Jerry Agada, condemned the police action, declaring that the IGP did not mean well for the people of Benue State.
Ujege, who urged the IG to banish the thought of proscribing the state’s security outfit, said the Idoma National Forum and the Omi Ny’Igede, the umbrella bodies of the three tribes in the state, supported Governor Samuel Ortom in the establishment of the outfit.
“We will not succumb to the intimidation by the IGP to disband the livestock guards. The organisation was duly and legally established by an Act of parliament of the state House of Assembly. We support the move by Governor Samuel Ortom to reorganise the livestock guards in the state for ultimate service,” he stated.
Ujege added that the IGP had displayed open hatred for the Benue State people by calling for the proscription of the livestock guards, stressing that the action was uncalled for.
He added, “The constitution mandates all the state governments to make laws and I am surprised that the IGP could get involved in state matter.
“The Benue State House of Assembly has a right to make laws for the betterment of the people. Therefore, the anti-open grazing law was made as a result of the yearnings of the people. It wasn’t the governor that brought the issue of anti-open grazing law.
“I want to give credit to the socio-cultural group because we started it all, not even with this government of Ortom; we started it with the (Gabriel) Suswam regime and we requested it.
“We said ‘let’s separate farmers from the herders. Then, somebody brought the idea of ranching. So, it’s the people that called for it, not one person. The livestock guards are there to make the system work.”
According to Agada, the IG’s call for the proscription of the Benue livestock guards is a breach of the Nigerian construction.
He noted that the outfit was established following a bill sent to the State House of Assembly, adding that due process was followed.
“Thank God that the Benue State Government has taken the right step to stop the process of proscribing the security outfit by going to court.
“We will not accept any move by anybody to truncate the effort of our state government to bring peace and stability to the state. We will resist such attempt,” Agada said.