Some days back, Agatu, Benue South, Benue State and the entire Nigeria was taken aback. When the news of an unfair agreement ceding some Agatu land to Fulani herdsmen as grazing reserves and grazing routed broke out. An agreement the Governor of Benue State later confessed that he was hypnotized by Governor Almakura of Nassarawa State. If you read the full content of the dubious agreement you will weep for Agatu people.
A network of concerned Benue South Citizens which is composed of statesmen, technocrats, clergy, youth and student union leaders recovered from the shock the news gave them. Mobilized themselves and was able to hold a press conference on the 27th of January 2017 to declare the evil agreement null and void. They are heading to the court suing all the signatories to the agreement (including Governor Ortom and Governor Almakura) as I type this.
Please read the full content of the press statement below;
BENUE SOUTH PEACE NETWORK
Press Statement on
Questionable Peace Agreements on Agatu
All Stakeholder groups here present, leaders of thought, and concerned people of Benue South here present, gentlemen of the Press, please accept our warm greetings.
Agatu is no longer news to the world; it is that bloodied theatre of wanton killings amounting to a modern genocide that Idoma, Benue State, Nigeria and Africa dare not forget in a hurry. We are here today not because another invasion is on but because foundations for something worse than the past massacre is being laid and we believe that all men and women of goodwill across the world must be told on time so that you can join forces with patriotic souls to halt the impending return of violence.
Recall that two agreements were recently signed under the arrangement of the Benue State Government giving out the whole ADAPATI ISLAND and vast portions of Agatu mainland OGUTO ADANYI – OGUMAGBO – BAGANA, for purposes of grazing area and grazing routes.
These agreements with very frightening clauses have come as a shocking development to all Nigerians and right thinking Africans especially since the last incidence of massacre of Agatu people by these same terrorists nothing has been done by the Benue State Government and the Federal Government towards commensurate Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Compensation. Justice is yet to be done as no single perpetrator has been brought to book. The condition of the dead, widows, orphans, wounded, displaced and deprived; as well as lands taken over by the terrorists, have not been addressed.
Attempting to broker peace in the light of the aforementioned pending issues is indicative of gross contempt for the value of Agatu lives and the sensibilities of entire Benue people. We state today categorically that Agatu lives matter as much as that of Fulanis and their cows, as well as lives of other Nigerians. The gift of life is a universal privilege by God and no group of people are higher shareholders. Any peace deal in Agatu must show clear reverence for the hundreds of innocent lives lost there.
- No Youth or persons of Agatu, Benue South and indeed the entire Benue State of Nigeria should take the law into their hands by engaging in any acts of violence as a result of anger over the two recent agreements signed which instead of bringing solution is rather a more deadly time bomb. As bad as this is, there should be no recourse to violence, and as much as possible, no street protests over this ugly turn of events.
- We urge all peoples of Agatu, Benue South, and entire Benue State, to roundly reject and distance themselves from the two agreements as the law abiding people of Benue South will soon use democratic means and the Nigerian Law Courts to declare the two agreements which plan to consolidate the injury, null and void and without effect whatsoever.
- We urge all people of Agatu, Benue South and entire Benue State to focus their energy on making the State and Federal Governments to do the needful aimed at restoring normalcy in Agatu which includes
- Bringing the perpetrators of the heinous murder and destruction to book,
- Rehabilitation and reconstruction of destroyed properties, farms and businesses
iii. Resettlement of IDPs including orphans, widows, widowers, wounded persons, and people whose properties, houses, farms and businesses were destroyed.
Our position here is not strange. All over the world people know that there can be no peace without justice and that papering over the wounds of Agatu people to force down “peace agreements” the way it is being done will only lead to something worse. This we must resist.
- “INDIGENOUS FULANI”
– We wish to call on all Agatu, Benue South and entire Benue State people to roundly reject the evil and dangerous concept of indigenous Fulani as there is not a single Fulani person that can prove indigeneship in any part of Benue State. All the Fulanis here have their origins and are known clearly as migrant herdsmen that come in, stay for a while and move away as their cattle business needs demand. Even those Fulanis that have been around from the 1940s come and go, and only see Benue State as a vast grazing land, not their home land! Granting them indigeneship by the means of agreements and pronouncements of Government Officials is a direct attempt to cause further animosity between Benue indigenes and the herdsmen.
- First and foremost, we must state that the two agreements clearly lack the capacity to bring peace as the basic conditions necessary for forgiveness and forging new mutual trust and partnership between the terrorized Agatu people and known and unknown migrant Fulani Herdsmen were not met.
- Secondly, the two agreements go against both the spirit and letter of the Nigerian Constitution, our extant Land Use Laws, Benue State Governor Ortom’s crystal clear POLICY POSITION on RANCHING as opposed to grazing reserves and grazing areas; therefore such agreements are not only sinister, suspect, ungodly, but patently illegal and anti-people, and must be quashed in Court.
- The multiple denials, counter claims and conflicting explanations around both agreements from government quarters and some signatories to the agreements give a clear indication that both agreements were obtained under duress, or through inducement, or both; and as such those agreements can only make the Agatu situation in particular and the general security situation across Benue State in general, more precarious and volatile as the citizens can no longer trust their leaders and actors in the State Governance.
- 30 MILLION NAIRA:
The amount of 30 Million Naira given to the entire ravaged Agatu community is a case of throwing guinea corn grains for starved chickens to fight over! It is, to say the least, a tactic of divide and rule, putting out bait that can precipitate internal wrangling as the people struggle to get a share, and of course, it is an insult on all the people that lost loved ones in the invasion as well as the leadership of the entire Idoma and Igede nations as well as Benue peoples as a whole.
It must be noted that since no prioritized list of worst affected people was attached to that money, it smacks of a wicked move to bribe the leaders of Agatu and pitch their people against them, thus making Agatu a national laughing stock.
DEMANDS FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE
- We demand that Fulani herdsmen withdraw totally from every inch of Agatu land until a widely accepted and mutually beneficial arrangement is reached.
- The long ignored call for rehabilitation, reconstruction and compensation be given the deserved attention and implemented by the State and Federal Governments.
- The political concept of “indigenous Fulani” be dropped immediately from the vocabulary of Benue State Government officials.
- That Governor Almakura of Nasarawa State should support the Fulani Herdsmen to utilize the already established grazing reserves in Nasarawa State and establish RANCHES on their vast lands,
- The rising role of Nassarawa Governor Tanko Almakura in Benue State in general and in these agreements in particular, is both unclear and worrisome, and should therefore, for the sake of lasting peace, be placed under high level security surveillance to forestall his further connivance with Fulani herdsmen in the invasion of Agatu and other parts of Benue State.
- That as Governor Ortom has said over one thousand times, all persons interested in farming Cattle in Benue State should establish RANCHES since there hasn’t been any single grazing area that did not produce bloodshed between indigenes and the migrant herdsmen.
Today it is Agatu, tomorrow it might be your own community. Any evil that migrates so seamlessly is not an evil that should be tolerated whether it is today at my doorstep or tomorrow at your neighbour’s doorsteps. It will reach you. That is why we call on all Nigerians to take the imposition of herdsmen on indigenous Benue communities with much more interest.
We must thank the Traditional Rulers of entire Benue South for being calm and mature over this matter. We thank them for refusing to be deceived and bribed. We particularly thank the Paramount Ruler of Idoma Nation, the Och’Idoma, HRH Agaba-Idu, Elais Ikoyi Obekpa for clearly distancing himself from these treacherous agreements.
We call on all Sons and Daughters of Agatu, Benue South and Benue State in general both in Nigeria and outside the country to use every democratic and godly means within their reach not only to resist and annul these agreements but to also stop the further alarming forceful spread of violent outlaw Fulani herdsmen to murder, intimidate and dispossess our people of their ancestral lands.
In this regard, we call on all Sons and Daughters of Benue State that are interested in bringing the two odious agreements to nullity to join constitutional forces with us as we pursue the case in court and in other fronts. An injury to Agatu is an injury to every Benue State citizen.
And lastly, it bears repeating that ours is not a call to arms, therefore we appeal again to all Youth of Agatu, Benue South and entire Benue State, to face this worrisome scenario without recourse to violence.
We must be mature and in full control of our emotions. We are being killed right on our land, so we know that the God of justice will fight for us. We will stick with the Law and with the Lord.
We will watch and we will pray. And we will not only win the battle over the slavery agreements signed over Agatu land, we shall also overcome this nightmare of incessant invasions by heavily armed and openly supported Fulani herdsmen terrorists.
We pray that our governments will talk in truth and walk in truth so that we can give them our unalloyed support.
Long live Agatu people!
Long live Benue South!
Long live Benue State!
Long live Nigeria!
- Comrade ABAH OWOICHO ABAH,
President, National Association of Idoma Students (NAIS)
- Comrade ENE IKE FRANCISCA,
Secretary, National Association of Idoma Students (NAIS)
- Comrade ADAKOLE INALEGWU DANIEL,
President, Idoma National Youth Forum (INYF)
- Comrade OMINYI ALO MOSES,
Igede National Youth Council (INYC)
- FAVOUR ENEWA ADAH PAUL,
Save Agatu Group (SAG)
- PASTOR DAN ELOYI,
Forum of Victims of Herdsmen Attacks Agatu (FVHAG)
- DR. SAM ABAH,
Benue Peace Option (BPO)
- COMRADE OCHOHEPO ABECHI,
National Association of Apa Students (NAAS)
- MR. ANDY E. OTUMALA,
Igede Frontliners for Development
- MR. MARK A. OKIDU,
Ohimini Progressives Action Group (OPAG)
- PASTOR DAVE OGBOLE,
ELDER, Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO)
- IBENU AKOBI OKPOLE,
Igede Patriotic Youth Movement
- ADAMA J ADAMA,
Apa Development Vision Front (ADVF)
Below are the pictures from the Press Conference which was held at Emadarl Guest Inn, Judges Quarters, Makurdi.