The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in the country has dragged the Benue state government to court in protest against the planned implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law recently enacted by State Government as a panacea to herdersmen/farmers clashes.
Governor, Samuel Ortom who disclosed this in an interview with correspondents at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi, said as a law abiding citizen, he was not perturbed 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, stressing that he believes in the rule of law and would never resort to violence in addressing security challenges.
“the enactment of the law was part of my 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.
According to him, labour had shown tremendous understanding with his administration in the past two years and that workers deserve their wages.
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.
According to the Governor, what comes from the federation as allocation to the state in addition to the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, was usually in the threshold of five to six billion naira with a deficit of over two billion naira, which is grossly inadequate to pay salaries of workers across board.
He further posited that the intervention from the federal government through bailout and Paris Club refunds had only succeeded in reducing the salary arrears significantly.
On labour’s suggestion for his administration to borrow money to offset arrears of salaries, Governor Ortom said there is a limit to borrowing, stressing that the state could not borrow more than what it can accommodate.