By The Punch
Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for the escalating killings by herdsmen in the country and demanded decisive actions to halt the ugly development.
They said the President’s silence showed that he lacked the political will to tackle the problem head-on, demanding prompt actions by security agencies.
The lawmakers, who reconvened in Abuja on Tuesday after their Christmas and New Year break, spoke as they debated a motion on ‘Need for the Federal Government to Declare a State of Emergency on Security over Spate of Deadly Attacks in the Country by Suspected Herdsmen.’
The motion was jointly moved by Mr. Babatunde Kolawole and Mr. Dickson Tarkighir.
A large number of the lawmakers also supported the position of the Benue State Government that ranching of cattle would go a long way in reducing the conflicts between farmers and herders.
A member, Mr. Hassan Saleh, told the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, that the Monday meeting with Buhari in Abuja did not give any hope that a solution would soon be found.”
Saleh, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Benue State, described the government as having “failed woefully” in securing the lives and property of Nigerians.
He noted that a government, whose body language suggested that cattle had more value than the lives of its citizens, had failed the people.
Saleh told the plenary about the Monday meeting between the people of Benue State and Buhari over the attacks by herdsmen and the feeble reactions by security agencies.
He said the response the delegation got from the President did not indicate that any serious steps were being taken to contain the situation.
Saleh said, “What is happening is a failure of government right from Mr. President to all of us seated here.
“We met with Mr. President yesterday (Monday) and our takeaway was nothing. All he said was ‘go and investigate,’ (to security agencies).
“So, what is happening is that the political will to tackle this problem is not there.”
Another APC member, Mr. Orker Jev, observed that the lack of political will could be seen in the “fact that this government is not giving the herdsmen the same attention it has given to Boko Haram.”
Jev dismissed the excuse that the killers were foreigners as another sign of weakness by the government.
He said, “The political will is not there right from the Presidency. The government is not giving the herdsmen the same attention it has accorded Boko Haram insurgents.
“If the claim is that the killers are foreigners, is that not a failure of governance?
“Will you allow foreigners to come into your country, kill your citizens and you keep quiet because you have cultural affinity with the killers?”
Another APC member, Mr. John Dyegh, told the House that there was a “misrepresentation” of the anti-grazing law passed by the Benue State House of Assembly by some interests, who were opposed to it.
He informed the House that an impression was created that the state government’s intention was to chase the Fulani out of Benue, adding that “this is far from the truth.”
Dyegh said, “All the government did was to say that herdsmen could buy land, settle in the state and ranch their cattle.
“Nobody said Fulani people should leave Benue. This is where the misrepresentation comes in.”
More speakers, including Mr. Rotimi Agunsoye, Mr. Oghene Emma-Igoh, Mr. Sergious Ose-Ogun, Mr. Teseer Mark-Gbillah and Ms. Funke Adedoyin, condemned the killings by the herdsmen.
However, two members noted that both the government and Nigerians had not treated the herdsmen fairly over the years.
One of them, Mr. Sadiq Ibrahim, argued that while government, over time, provided comfort for other Nigerians, it left the herdsmen to their fate.
He stated that so long as state governors and Nigerians were unwilling to make sacrifices to protect the herdsmen by donating land to them, the violence would continue to occur.
Ibrahim opposed the idea of ranching, saying that the herdsmen did not have the technical know-how.
“The herdsman needs our pity. Nature has been harsh to him and government has not taken adequate care of him.
“We all have to make sacrifices in one way or another in order to address this problem holistically,” he added.
On her part, Mrs. Aisha Dukku, confirmed that a Fulani herder preferred to save a cow to saving his own life.
Dukku, who is an APC member from Gombe State, said, “Where is the N100bn that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave to governors to establish grazing reserves for cattle? Why is nobody calling the governors to account?”
Dogara, who had earlier welcomed his colleagues from the break, noted that the killings could be contained if security agencies were proactive.
He called on Buhari to constantly wield the big stick by sacking non-performing heads of security agencies.
“The accentuation of violent crimes is a chronic symptom of defects in our security architecture, which we must fix.
“I therefore call on Mr. President to apply maximum sanction on public officers who are derelict in the performance of their duties,” the Speaker added.
Members later passed the motion in a majority voice vote and set up an ad hoc committee to meet with service chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the Minister of Interior, Lt Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), for a r dialogue on the killings by herdsmen.
Fulani men attack Taraba community, kill traditional ruler
Armed Fulani men on Monday evening attacked Karmen community in the Ibi Local Government Area of and killed a traditional ruler.
Caretaker Chairman of the Ibi LGA, Bala Bako, confirmed the attack and killing to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Tuesday.
Bako stated that the Fulani gunmen struck when the people of the community gathered for a security meeting.
He said, “We have some security challenges in Ibi and we have been making efforts to ensure that ethnic groups in our domain accommodate and live in peace with one another.
“The Chief of Ibi also set up a committee to find solutions to the security challenges, and it was one of the meetings of the committee that the Fulani gunmen attacked, killing the traditional ruler.”
The caretaker chairman added that one person had been arrested in connection with the killing.
Speaking on the killing of eight other persons in Gishiri and Dooshima villages and one other at Danwaza village a week ago, Bako said the killers were the Fulani herdsmen who attacked the neighbouring Logo and Guma local government areas in Benue State.
“We share border with Benue and Nasarawa states and most times the Fulani men crossed from Nasarawa, attacked us and went back, he added.
Benue, Plateau lost 14,000 people to attacks –Lalong
The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, has stated that herdsmen have killed about 14,000 people from both Plateau and Benue states in recent times.
Lalong said this on Tuesday during a condolence visit to his counterpart in Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom, at the Government House, Makurdi.
Lalong, who was represented by the Plateau State Commissioner for Town Planning, Mr Festus Fwanter, led about 30 persons from Plateau to Benue State, including members of the Plateau State Elders Forum.
Lalong said, “We are both the food basket of the nation and we have both lost over 7,000 people each to herdsmen attacks, as what happened in Guma, Logo and other parts of Benue State is also happening in Bassa, Jos North and Jos South of Plateau State; and still happening till date.’
“Plateau and Benue should set aside all our differences to find a lasting solution to these killings.”
Ortom, who commended the government of Plateau State for the visit and stated that Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue states had challenges that bound them together. They include poverty, underdevelopment and insecurity.
He added that anything that affected one state had affected all the three states, stressing that the challenges were beyond them.
Victims may opt for self-help
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria however warned that if the Federal Government continued to fail in its responsibility of protecting the citizenry against attacks by Fulani herdsmen, they might resort to self-defence.
The organisation also advised the government to jettison the planned cattle colonies and come out with a better alternative.
The CBCN also noted that Nigeria appeared “to be under siege from many forces, while innocent citizens in different communities throughout the nation are being attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed.”
The position of catholic clerics was contained in a statement signed by its President and Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, and Secretary/Bishop of Gboko, William Avenya; which was obtained by our one of our correspondents on Tuesday.
The CBCN statement read in part, “If the government is incapable or unwilling to protect the lives of its citizens before marauding herdsmen, people might be tempted to resort to self-help in defence of their lives and property.
“While thanking God and the Federal Government for the successes so far recorded in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East, we are appalled by the repeated occurrence of other ugly incidents that are tearing communities apart.
“The recent mass slaughter of unarmed citizens by the armed herdsmen in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba states has caused national shock, grief and outcry.
“This will, no doubt, lead to a complete breakdown of law and order in the country. To forestall this, government should rise up to its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of her citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not recur.”
The Catholic clerics said government with the array of intelligence officers at its disposal, should take measures to unmask the perpetrators of the dastardly acts and their sponsors, disarm them and bring them to book.
“We believe that if there is some degree of political will, our public authorities can take adequate steps to put an end to these human tragedies and save the country from the calamity of a civil war.
“It is wiser and easier to prevent a war than to stop it after it has broken out. We, therefore, urge all aggrieved parties to seek reconciliation through dialogue and mutual forgiveness. Above all, we passionately appeal to them to beat their swords into ploughshares.”
Stop herdsmen, ex-governor Ohakim tells Buhari
A former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, has asked Buhari not to destroy the country by allegedly keeping quiet while Fulani herdsmen kill and maim people, especially in the North-Central region.
Ohakim, who spoke in a statement by his media aide, Collins Ughalaa on Tuesday in commemoration of the 2018 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, added that the President’s reaction to the killings in Benue State was not enough.
The ex-governor, who wondered why the military had yet to tackle the menace by the Fulani herdsmen, stated that the way the Federal Government handled the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra should be applied to the killings by herdsmen.
Ohakim said the security situation in the country had placed the burden of the unity of the country on the armed forces, urging them to step up their game.
The statement partly read, “Ohakim calls on the President, governors and other elected leaders at all levels to elevate the Armed Forces Remembrance Day from a mere ritual of speech making and laying of wreaths to formulating better welfare packages and conditions of service to the soldiers who risk all to protect the country.
“He expresses shock at the rising tide of insecurity across the country, wandering why the menace of herdsmen should not be tackled with the kind of speed and force the Armed Forces tackled the Indigenous People of Biafra.
“He calls on President Buhari to improve on the security of lives and property, especially in areas where herdsmen now ride roughshod with impunity. He said a situation where herdsmen always overrun communities without a whimper from the Presidency in a country that has a President calls for worry.”
IPOB calls Igbo govs Fulani stooges
The Indigenous People of Biafra on Tuesday tackled the South-East governors and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo for their silence on the killings by herdsmen across the country.
The group described the Igbo governors and the leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, as stooges of the Fulani hegemony.
In a statement in Anambra State by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, the group wondered why the Igbo leaders kept quiet over the killings by herdsmen while they were quick at proscribing innocuous IPOB.
It maintained that the unfolding scenario had shown that the Igbo leaders were taking orders from the Fulani oligarchy.
The statement read in part, “In view of the ongoing unwarranted killings, including the massacre of innocent citizens throughout Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen, we the Indigenous People of Biafra and our leadership worldwide, wish to ask South-East governors and Nnia Nwodo-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo why they have maintained a cowardly silence?
“Why didn’t they command their fellow northern governors and Arewa Consultative Forum to proscribe or ban the activities of Fulani terror herdsmen as northern governors and elders commanded them to do during Operation Python Dance?
“It is on record that Okezie Ikpeazu and other South-East governors, with the support of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, openly announced in Enugu that IPOB peaceful activities had been proscribed.
“That singular pronouncement by Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State gave impetus to the military to hastily label IPOB a terror group.
“What Fulani herdsmen have been doing is mass murder and orchestrated genocide, yet the anti-IPOB voices from the South-East have fallen silent.
“They are scared of making the same demands the northern politicians forced them to make in the case of IPOB.
“This has clearly shown that South-East governors and Nnia Nwodo-led Ohanaeze are opportunistic charlatans that will do anything to please the North in return for power and wealth.”
Resist colonies, Abia monarch tells state govts
State governments, especially in the South-Eastern part of the country, have been advised to shun moves to claim their parcels of land for cattle colonies.
A traditional ruler in Abia State, Eze Chinedu Emelike, the Ezimba of Eziama/Mgbaja Autonomous Community of Ossah Ibeku, Umuahia, gave this advice on Tuesday at the end of the community’s New Year festivities in his palace.
He said, “Government’s effort to colonise the people and their land is in the works, which should not be allowed. The Federal Government is attempting to coerce the states to donate land for colonisation and no longer ranches as the earlier debate went.
“Now, there is general insecurity in the land. The situation is now bad, especially with planned and sustained effort by Fulani herdsmen to destabilise the country.
“Initially, we were told that they were migrants who strolled into the country to kill at will. Today, they have formed associations and supported by the government. They perpetrate killings and nobody is apprehended.”
The monarch called for the restructuring of the country, adding, “It is a good plan on how to live together.”