By The Nation
The Senate yesterday took serious exception to the killings in some parts of the country, which some members said showed the failure of the service chiefs and heads of other security agencies.
While some senators demanded the sacking of the service chiefs over the matter; others called for a practical way of tackling the problem.
The government, they argued, should not shy away from seeking foreign assistance to deal with the problem.
The debate followed a motion moved by Senator Sulaiman Adokwe (Nasarawa South Senatorial District) on the killings in his constituency by suspected herdsmen.
In Nasarawa State, the death toll in herdsmen attacks on some Tiv communities was said to have risen to 70 yesterday.
Also yesterday, the Army said four suspected herdsmen were killed by troops of the 72 Special Forces Battalion at Teguma Local Government Area of Benue State.
Praying the Senate to initiate action to halt the killing of his constituents, Adokwe said it was obvious that the herdsmen were determined to wipe out his people.
Those mostly targeted were of Tiv ethnic nationality, he said, adding: “I like to draw the attention of the Senate to the ongoing crisis in the Southern senatorial district of Nasarawa State. Throughout the weekend and up to the moment that I am speaking, herdsmen have unleashed terrorist mayhem on the people of the senatorial district, leaving many dead, numerous persons wounded and thousands of internally displaced persons. Their victims are largely the Tiv speaking ethnic nationalities with a reported death toll of 32 persons and we are still counting.
“The real tragedy is not in the well co-ordinated and simultaneous carnage across Awe, Obi, Keana and Doma local government areas of Southern senatorial district but the tragedy lies in the fact that for four days running, this mayhem continues unhindered, unchecked, unstopped by any arm of the law and security enforcement agencies.
“Indeed, right under the noses of the armed forces and the police, this killing is sustained unabated by sheer negligence or refusal to act by the security agencies. It is very sad that in Nigeria, with all the security forces a whole senatorial district will go on being punished by the militia and no action is coming from government. This is a sad commentary.
“We woke up yesterday to see that the entire city of Abuja was under siege. This country is gradually falling into anarchy and we need to wake up to our responsibilities. It is very sad that corpses are littering everywhere.
“As I speak to you now, the Southern senatorial district has been completely emptied by the militia and they are occupying all the houses and villages of the Tiv people across all local governments, up to five of them and they are just within 30 minutes drive from the state capital, Lafia.
“There is even an army base close to where this carnage is taking place with no single shot fired by the army. It baffles me and beats my imagination that a whole enforcement agency of the Nigerian state will stand by and witness Nigerians being killed endlessly. Nobody can explain this.
“It is no wonder that very eminent Nigerian citizens have urged Nigerians to defend themselves because their life is in their own hands and no longer in the hands of the Nigerian security forces. I am very emotional on this matter and I am not one given to emotion very easily. But what I have gone through this weekend is very horrifying.
“It is very distressing and sad. It is as if we are in a lawless society where life is brutish, where there is absence of state powers. We call on the Federal Government to stop this carnage.”
Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East), who seconded the motion, said the country was gradually assuming the status of a nation without control, adding: “It is becoming a state that is experiencing anarchy.
“It is a state in which we have seen ethnic cleansing, and when statements like this are made by very senior nationalists, many people try to trivialise it.
“It is a shame that a sitting government could watch criminality go to the level that we have seen it today rather than rise up and take very decisive steps against it. We embark on deniability and simply shield this evil by just explaining with flimsy excuses that these are communal clashes in those communities.
‘In deed, the carnage in Nasarawa South affects mainly people of my ethnic group, who are in large population in Nasarawa South. It is the same kind of killing that is going on in Goma local government, Logo local government and Gwer West local government in Benue State.
“It is the same kind of killing we are witnessing in Wukari and Takum local governments in Taraba State. It is targeted at a particular ethnic nationality, which is my own people.
“I don’t understand why people elected to run the governments will simply turn away from the reality of facing this matter squarely. And the governor of a state will even deny that there is no militia in the state, and yet, there are people who are armed and they are killing people as they like.
“The Inspector-General will fly by helicopter to a town, land in the market square and ask people whether there is militia in this town or not. And nobody whatsoever seems to call anybody to order. This is very sad. We have done enough of a minute silence for innocent Nigerians being killed.
“I think it has come to a stage where we must find ways of doing something about this. Maybe the advice of some nationalists to the people to find ways of protecting themselves may not be out of order because a government that cannot protect people and a military whose presence in any particular place means the killing of certain ethnic nationalities they do not believe in is a very sad development.
“I think that this Senate will continue to live to its reputation by condemning this kind of situation decisively and any other way they can do something about it through the committees that have been set up to handle this matter.
“Mr. President, I second this motion and pray that our colleagues will support it wholeheartedly and also support us with ideas on how we can deal with these issues, otherwise, we are beginning to see a nation divided on tribal lines where there are lords and there are slaves, and lords order the military forces to kill those who are supposed to be slaves.
“And you know, if there is no justice there cannot be peace. And people who think that the lords will be able to sleep peacefully in their houses are wasting their time.
“Very shortly, the slaves will rise up and we will see a complete showdown where the slaves will fight back because lords cannot kill slaves and go back and remain in the comfort of their homes and simply laughing and smiling and enjoying the wealth of this nation while those who toil are being killed like goats and beasts in the field.”
Senators Solomon Adeola (Lagos West) and Jeremiah Useni (Plateau South) sought the removal of Service Chiefs; Senator Ben Murray-Bruce said what the country is passing through was worse than what happened during the administration of President Shehu Shagari, who was overthrown in 1983.
Murray-Bruce said: “The problem is complete failure of leadership. The tension in 1983 when the government of Shehu Shagari was overthrown is nothing compared to what is happening today. Let it be on record that the way we have conducted ourselves means that democracy cannot survive.”
Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano North) said Murray-Bruce’s contribution amounted to canvassing for violent regime change.
Jibrin cautioned that they should control their emotion “because lamentation is just enough,” saying: “If government has failed all of us have failed because we are all part of the government.”
Useni wondered why the Senate would be debating the quarrel between heads of security agencies.
He noted that the report of the Department of State Service (DSS) against Mr. President’s nominee was debated by the Senate, while the quarrel of the heads of two security agencies was also brought to the Senate.
Heads of security agencies, he said, should take orders from the President before they act
Useni added: “During Sani Abacha regime, he was meeting with Service Chiefs every week and there was no room for the Service Chiefs to talk ill of one another. They spoke with one voice and ensured effectiveness. Instead of the Senate always asking Mr. President to call the Service Chiefs and heads of security agencies to order, they should be removed.”
Adeola also called for the removal of the Service Chiefs because “they have failed to proffer solution to incessant insecurity involving loss of hundreds of lives of Nigerians.”
Adeola noted that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is in London only yesterday expressed serious concern about the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria.”
He said: “There is nowhere that is safe in Nigeria with the daily killings that the nation is regaled with.” “I want to commend the leadership of the Senate for the security summit it organised recently and the report and recommendations. But so far the security situation has not improved and what the President needs at this time is fresh ideas on how to tackle numerous security challenges confronting the nation.”
According to him, the only way to get fresh ideas for the President to address the security challenges is to remove the incumbent service chiefs to give room for those with fresh ideas. The nation, he said, should do away with unproductive tenure elongation in areas where fresh ideas are needed.
“We know the way the military organisations operate. Those with fresh ideas dare not come out against their superiors or else they risk premature retirement from service. So the current service chiefs should go to allow officers with fresh ideas address our alarming security issues.”
Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central) said security issues should not be mixed with party and government, arguing that it was obvious wickedness was spreading in parts of the world.
Tinubu blamed the situation on individuals being cold to one another.
Insisting that stakeholders should always preach peace, she said the government had done well.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha lamented that over 27 people were killed in Taraba State at the weekend, saying over 300 armed militia men invaded two Taraba villages and killed scores of people.
He said the country should ask for foreign collaboration to tackle the problem.
Bwacha said some people looking for political patronage would always trivialise a grave situation for political advantage.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over proceedings, urged the country to take the bull by the horns and seek foreign assistance to tackle the problem.
Ekweremadu said: “Deliberately, we have given this thing the attention and priority it deserves. As we have pointed out, the primary purpose of government anywhere in the world is the preservation of the lives of citizens. If citizens are being killed, we owe the responsibility as a parliament to give it the desired attention. And we will never stop talking about these killings. Unless it stops, we will never be tired of speaking about it.
“I have to thank you, distinguished colleagues, for your patriotic contributions. We have listened to senators from different parts of the country – from the East to the West, North to the South – and we are united in condemning the killings. It is indeed very regrettable.
“I ask myself, assuming this is happening in America, in the United Kingdom or France, will it take all this time to be resolved? As we know not even in South Africa. But it appears that we are taking too many things for granted.
“The time has come for us to seek help from other countries as some of us have suggested here. We should not be ashamed to ask for help. The President met with the United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, and she was of the opinion that Britain would help us security wise. America is also offering to help.
“We should not be reluctant to come out openly to say we need help, because what we have now is a global village. We cannot be asking people to come to Nigeria and invest their money here. They will not! Rather, let us ask them to come and help us to solve our security problem. If we solve our security problem, they will come here, with nobody asking them to come. I think the first thing to do is to resolve the issue, and it is something we all need to do, and do it fast.
“We are representatives of the people. If they kill everybody, we will have nobody to represent; we will have no job. We are not on appointments, we are representatives. If we have nobody to represent, nobody will have a job here. So, security is more important than any other thing that we do here.
“If it gets to a level where we have to shut down this National Assembly and sit down with the executive for as long as it lasts to resolve the problem, we may have to do that.
“I am happy that we have spoken today and everybody is concerned. I just want to appeal that we do not allow any situation to divide us as a Senate. Let us continue to speak with one voice until this matter is resolved.
“It is critical and people are very worried. We must have a country before we can talk about elections.”
Death toll hits 70 in Nasarawa killings, says group
The death toll from last weekend’s attacks by herdsmen on Tiv communities in Southern Nasarawa states has risen to 70 as more bodies were discovered.
People believed to be missing are 50, President of Tiv Youth Organisation in Nasarawa state Mr. Peter Ahemba, said yesterday.
Ahemba said the additional bodies were recovered from Uluji, Ayaakeke, Uvirkaa, Usula, among other villages.
He added that most of the victims were those trapped in villages along Agwatashi-Jangwa road in Obi Local Government.
“We are still searching for many of our people missing since the attacks occurred. Bodies of those killed especially at Kertyo last Sunday and the surrounding villages have not been recovered up till now that I speak with you,” he said.
Following the attacks, many Tiv communities across Obi, Awe, Doma and Keana Local Government Areas have been sacked by the attackers.
More than 100,000 people are taking refuge in the headquarters and other villages in the affected Local Government areas..
Yesterday, Governor Tanko Al-Makura was attacked during a visit to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Agwatashi. After the attack he returned to the Government House without proceeding to the Kaena IDP camp as planned.
The governor’s convoy was pelted with stones by some IDPs at Agwatashi, Obi Local Government Area.
Al-Makura visited the camp with security chiefs to assess the situation arising from the Sunday killing of 32 persons in the area by suspected headsmen.
When the governor attempted to address the IDPs, some youths in the camp became unruly and started chatting different slogans which made the governor to leave the camp.
The situation became tense when the youths began to pelt the governor’s convoy with stones thereby compelling the police to disperse them with tear gas.
The governor attributed the situation to frustration as a result of the challenges the IDPs faced.
“The reaction from the people is understandable given their plight and we have to use diplomacy to address the issues.
“Continuing to address them at the moment would not yield any result so we have decide to avoid further altercation.
“However, this action appears to indicate that the problems in some of these communities are self-inflicted.
“If people can conduct themselves in this way, then you know that there is more to it than what is happening,” Al-Makura said.
The governor however advised the leaders of the communities to caution their subjects against mob actions and disrespect for law and order.
“If you will want to take laws into your own hands, you will be left to defend yourselves.
“However as a responsible government desirous of protecting lives and property, we shall explore all avenues to ensure the safety of the people,” Al-Makura added.
He directed the chairmen of the affected local government areas to take stock of the people displaced with a view to providing relief material to them. (NAN)
Commissioner of Police Ahmed Bello said the attack on Al-Makura’s convoy was politically motivated.
Bello told reporters in Lafia shortly after a security meeting at the Government House, Lafia, that preliminary investigation had revealed that the attack had political undertone.
He said investigation had begun to unravel those behind the incident, saying that the police would not rest on their oars until the perpetrators were arrested and punished.
He said the security situation in the area had been brought under control with the deployment of police personnel.