Fulani Herdsmen under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association have dragged the Benue State Government to court.
The action is in protest against the planned implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law recently enacted by the State Government as a panacea to herders/farmers’ clashes.
Governor Samuel Ortom, who disclosed this yesterday in an interview with newsmen at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi, said as a law abiding citizen, he was not worried by the decision of the cattle breeders to seek to frustrate his peace efforts through legal means, positing that the state would slog it out with the group in court.
The Governor said he was waiting for the courts to tell him that it was unlawful for him to initiate a bill for the law and send to the State House of Assembly.
He said, “the enactment of the law is part of constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property including those of herdsmen; the bill seeks the establishment of ranches not just for cattle but for all livestock including pigs, goats and sheep.”
Speaking on the ultimatum issued by labour unions calling on him to clear the backlog of salaries owed civil servants or risk industrial action, Governor Ortom said he was still studying the letter and would meet with the organised labour to dialogue on the matter.
The Governor, however, noted that the accumulated arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities were due to the high wage bill he inherited from his predecessor, which was compounded by the shortfall in federal allocation to states, occasioned by dwindling oil prices.
He reiterated that his administration inherited N69b arrears of salaries and a monthly wage bill of about N8.2 billion which increased to N8.5b with the implementation of the new minimum wage for primary school teachers.
Governor Ortom said owing to the series of screening exercises and prudent management of resources as well as plugging of leakage by his administration, the state’s wage bill has been reduced to N7.8 billion even with overheads and pensions.
He further said about N40 billion was needed to clear the backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities.