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Suswam denies fuelling Tiv, Fulani clashes

Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam

Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State has denied allegations levelled against him by the cattle breeders that he was fuelling the rift between them and the native Tiv and Berom people in Benue and Plateau states.

Suswam, who spoke to our correspondent in an interview in Jos, said rather than fuelling the crisis, he had been a bridge between the warring parties and had ensured that peace reigned among cattle rearers.

He accused the National Secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Mr. Sale Bayeri, of being behind the clashes.

Suswam said that Bayeri as a political jobber had been busy going round and collecting money on behalf of the cattle breeders from state governments, and pretending to be defending their interest, thereby stoking the embers of hostility between them and the natives.

The governor said, “Anybody accusing me of fuelling the crisis between the cattle breeders and the Tiv and Berom people is not sincere. It is rather people like Sale Bayeri, who has been going cap in hand to governors to collect money purportedly on the pretence that he was doing it for their welfare. I challenge people like Bayeri to come and tell the people how much they know about these clashes because it is people like him that are behind those clashes.”

However, Bayeri in an interview in Jos said that the governor was not as clean as he claimed to be.

He said that initially the governor was very active in troubleshooting between the native Tiv and the Fulani, but fell to the sentiments  of the Tiv, who have a strong revulsion for the Fulani, especially as he wanted to contest the next senatorial election.

He said that the Tiv had perceived their governor as a sell-out and so in order to gain their support he had to give in to their sentiments.

Bayeri challenged the governor to name the places and circumstances under which he (Bayeri) collected any money from any state government on behalf of the herdsmen.

The Miyetti Allah national scribe said,  “The thing is that he will never say when I ever went to him to assist me financially. If I ever did that and he has witnesses let him say when and where.

“As far as I know, I am concerned about the welfare of both the Tiv and the cattle rearers. More especially as early as 2009, Suswam was instrumental in setting up a Tiv/Cattle rearers reconciliation committee which was chaired by the Emir of Gombe, with me as the secretary. During that time he made a lot of efforts to ensure that there was peace. But later I discovered that he was not as keen as he used to be.”

Bayeri said that at the last meeting of the committee, it was agreed that a committee be set up by both Nasarawa and Benue state governments and that it should be provided with logistics like motorcycles to enable them to move into trouble spots and alert the police and traditional rulers, but that Suswam developed cold feet and did not keep to his side of the bargain.

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