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To stem the tide of incessant killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen across the country but mainly in the North-central region, Minister of Interior, Lt Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau (Rtd.) convened a meeting which was attended by Governors of Nasarawa,Alhaji Tanko Almakura, Taraba, Mr Darius Ishaku,Benue,Mr Samuel Ortom, Kaduna, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and Adamawa, Alhaji Jibrilla Bindow.
Also in attendance were Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, Director General, Department of State Security Service, DSS, Alhaji Lawal Daura and Commandant General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu, selected DIGs and AIGs of Police, selected DCGs and ACGs of NSCDC and police commissioners of the affected states.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Interior, Lt Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau (Rtd.) explained the situation on ground and its attendant dangers stating:
“I wish to express the appreciation of the federal government for your (governors’) individual commitment and cooperation with the security agencies in addressing the menace of rural crimes, particularly kidnapping, rustling and the most recent violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
“Threats to peace and public safety in any form at any location will not be tolerated. It is the responsibility of governments at all levels to provide, unconditionally, sustainable peace and public safety within their territorial boundaries.
“Against this background, the meeting is convened to primarily bring us together to share our experiences on the aforementioned security challenges.
“The meeting will then agree on the necessary measures to be taken and apportion responsibilities.
“The immediate repercussions of this menace include hunger due to the acute shortage of food, diseases, criminal activities and deepening animosity between ethnic and religious groups.
“The current situation is very dangerous for the Northern part of the country in particular and the country in general,” the interior minister said.
In his remarks, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh traced some of the historical causes of famers/herdsmen clashes:
“The farmer and herdsmen must not have their lives threatened by circumstances surrounding their professions. We do not want the farmer to lose his crops, nor would we want anyone to lose their cattle.
“Over the years, we have not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development in the country. People ask the question why should the government get involved? Why shouldn’t the herdsmen manage their own livestock?
“I am sad to tell you that in the last 50 years, until recently, we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we haven’t done much for herdsmen and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crises we are witnessing today.
“In Europe, every cow that is farmed gets a subsidy of six euros per day; we have done next to nothing for the cattle rearers here and as a result, their operations have become a threat to the existence of our farmers and that is what this meeting will seek to resolve.”
He also suggested a possible solution:
“We are planning a programme called cattle colonies, not ranches, but colonies where at least 5, 000 hectares of land would be made available, adequate water and pastures would be made available.
“We also want to stop cattle rearers from roaming about; the culture of cattle roaming will be stopped.
“The cattle will be provided with water and adequate security by the rangers, there will be adequate pasture milk collection, and even security against rustlers to enable them to lead a normal life.
“This has been done elsewhere in India, Ethiopia and even Brazil,” the minister stated.
The meeting lasted for almost 7 hours and at the end, Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom informed reporters that additional security deployments would be made with more logistics and helicopters for surveillance. Speaking on the possibility of herdsmen staying in Benue, he affirmed: “All herdsmen and cattle breeders are allowed in Benue but you must ranch them. If we see any animal roaming about, we will know they are rustlers.”
Meanwhile the umbrella body for Fulani Herdsmen in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah have insisted that the Governor of Benue state should reverse the anti-grazing law. The Secretary-General of the association, Usman Ngelzerma, said this during an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, stating:
“I like the Benue State governor. He is a peace-loving person but is working on wrong advice. The approach he took is wrong. You cannot change the way of life of a people like the way you turn off a light switch.
“We don’t wish for the crisis to continue but let us give it (the law) another look. We don’t like the killings; we will never condone the killing of people. Give the farmers their rights but consider the pastoralists too.”
Nigerians and those affected by the violence in particular are looking forward to a quick end to the violence, wanton killings and want the initiators and perpetrators brought to justice. How these will be achieved is left to be seen.