Benue farmers, herdsmen comply with ceasefire pact
Benue farmers and Fulani herdsmen yesterday said they have started complying with the ceasefire agreement brokered Monday by their representatives in Makurdi.
The two groups said they have begun the process of calming nerves to ensure that affected people return to their homes and businesses.
Chairman of the All Farmers Association in Benue State, Aondona Hembe Kula, told our correspondent that he went round the affected areas yesterday in Guma, one of the worst hit, to access compliance on behalf of his members and was delighted that everyone was making effort to allow peace to reign.
“Though the destruction done to my members’ occupation (farming) is massive, I can tell you that farmers are happy with the development. We are now working to see that in the next two weeks they go back to their homes and farms,” he said.
Kula added that the heavy presence of soldiers in the area as he witnessed during his outing showed the extent of the federal and state governments’ concern to restore peace.
He said: “I have seen the deployment of soldiers in Guma.”
Secretary of the Myetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Garus Gololo said they had started talking to their youths to shun any act capable of stalling the peace process. Although he welcomed the peace moves and said his members accepted the initiative wholeheartedly, he faulted representatives of the cattle breeders, saying they were not recognised under the umbrella of MACBAN.
“We are happy for the peace pact and we have started talking to our youths, we held a meeting today (yesterday) with over 1000 of them. But, how could Alhaji Bello Bodejo and Engr. Saleh Alhssan sign an agreement on behalf of cattle breeders when they have their own organisation known as Myetti Allah Kautal Hore when they have not discussed with any Fulani person,” Gololo queried. Similarly, locals in Guma have expressed excitement over the move and prayed that the process is sustained to ensure a lasting peace.
One of them, Desmond Terlumun, told our correspondent that there is a level of compliance already in motion by the villagers who are eager to return to their homes and occupation.
“There is a level of compliance. People are very happy with the development and if the leaders are able to sustain it, we will be glad. As farmers, we want to go back to farming,” he said.
In the same vein, a member of the Benue Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Committee who signed the agreement on behalf of the state farmers, Chief Abu King Shuluwa, said contrary to a report that the farmers had rejected the peace deal, the Tiv farmers are happy with it.
“The Tiv people are happy over the development and there is no more fear in them. They want to go back home and we are working towards it. I saw a report that the farmers have rejected the deal but that is not true. How can an unknown person say he is speaking on behalf of Benue farmers when a respectable chairman of the committee, retired Brig-Gen Atom Kpera represented the peoples’ voice,” Shuluwa said.
On his part, Chief Sunday Oyigadu, the Ad’Agatu who represented the Agatu people at the peace meeting believed that the process is in motion and would certainly succeed. Meanwhile, residents in the state capital who had been scampering for safety in the past few months over rumours of Fulani attacks say they had relaxed since the peace deal was entered. Special Assistant to Benue State Governor on Fulani Matters, Shettima Mohammed, said he is also using his office to educate his people about the new development, assuring that there is a level of compliance with the peace pact that is going on at the local level.
Meanwhile, more soldiers have moved into troubled areas of the state in the past few days. Crisis torn localities such as Guma, Logo, Agatu, Gwer, Ukum and parts of Makurdi have seen massive deployment of soldiers. Villagers said they have seen increased activities of the soldiers .
“And they are really working since they arrived,” a resident of a bordering village to Nasarawa told our correspondent on telephone. Military authorities in the state are yet to respond to calls and messages about the deployment. The air force helicopter deployed to the state for surveillance has consistently been hovering over the state in recent times.