- Northern senators defend cattle rearers, warn governors
- FG targets four months for resolution of clashes
Omololu Ogunmade, Damilola Oyedele, Senator Iroegbu and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
In response to the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to deal decisively with the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has vowed not to tolerate excuses from any armed group to unleash mayhem on innocent Nigerians.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, gave this warning yesterday in Abuja during a meeting with the leadership of Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association.
Olonisakin who was represented by the Director of Defence Administration, Maj-Gen. Fatai Ali, said the recent killings involving herdsmen in local communities in many parts of Nigeria, have become a source of concern to the security agencies in particular and the federal government.
He, however, promised that the military in conjunction with other security agencies would do everything possible to maintain peace and security in Nigeria, in line with the directives of the president.
He said: “I want to promise you that whoever is involved in this killing will be brought to book and tried in line with the law of the land.
“A committee has already been constituted by the CDS to interface with all the stakeholders on this issue, go to all the flash points, meet with the various stakeholders and come back and to report on appropriate lines of action.”
The committee, according to the CDS, would be headed by Maj-Gen, Edward Nzeh, whom he said had visited Benue State and would still visit other parts of the country affected by the recent clashes.
Speaking further, Olonisakin called on all parties involved to sheath their swords and ensure that they do not cause unnecessary casualties.
He stressed that: “Nigerians otherwise the federal government will use the full weight of the force and law to bear.”
“We are working hard to apprehend these who have committed heinous crime in the past. I also wish to state that the military will not tolerate any excuse of armed groups to unleash violence on innocent Nigerians for whatever reasons or guise. Innocent people should not be attacked.”
The defence chief also assured that the military would conduct its operations while dealing with issue of herdsmen in line with rules of engagement.
Meanwhile, the senators from the North under the aegis of Northern Senators’ Forum yesterday vehemently defended the Fulani ethnic group, saying rampaging herdsmen who kill, maim and rape in various parts of the country are not Fulanis and hence, must not be labelled so.
Addressing journalists in the National Assembly wednesday, the forum’s Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who was flanked by other senators, warned governors, farmers and community leaders against making what he described as inflammatory statements.
Claiming that it is not only Fulani men who rear cattle, Adamu argued that there were Igbo and Yoruba young men who also rear cattle.
“We did address that issue. We said we should be careful when making statements. If you are fair to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you will appreciate and disseminate the fact that we have tried to kill the idea that every herdsman is a Fulani man. As I talk to you, I have a farm, I rear cows. I am not Fulani by birth. And if you go through northern states, you will see a lot of them. In fact, if you go to the East, you will see young men who have assimilated with the Fulanis in their various communities and they are involved in cattle rearing.
“I was in the West when we lost the Ooni of Ife. I saw in the cause of my trip – I went by road from Abuja – Yorubas young men and women rearing cows. If you go to Borno State in the North-east, there are so many tribes there; one of the states with the highest number of ethnic groups in Nigeria. And you find that virtually every tribe there, there are people who rear cattle. So, it creates the wrong impression that everybody you see with a cow is a Fulani man and therefore becomes a common target for the present problem we are addressing as a government,” he said.
He said the warning against inflammatory statements was not made against only one group of persons but against all Nigerians including governors.
“It is for all Nigerians. A governor is a community leader. The only difference is that he has a label called governor. If you don’t mind, in recent times, it started with the West when elder statesman, Olu Falae, had some very nasty experience. And it was attributed at the time to Fulani herdsmen. And at the end, those people were apprehended, they were not Fulanis. And this thing has been going on in virtually all the country today. If we now say that everybody should rise and say herdsmen should leave, we will not have a country,” Adamu said.
He added that northern senators would soon initiate a bill to address the menace of herdsmen as he commended the federal.
In a related development the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh has disclosed that the federal government is working towards the resolution of clashes between herdsmen and farmers with plans in advanced stage to begin the establishment of grazing reserves in the next four months.
Ogbeh, speaking on Wednesday, at the sectoral debate aimed at exploring diversification of the economy, organised by the House of Representatives disclosed that nine state governments have already agreed to release 5000 hectares of land for the reserves.
The reserves would be tilled with grass imported from Brazil, a development that has generated criticisms to the government. The Minister however explained that the grass being imported guarantees high yield as they have already been treated.
“Grass is not Grass, there are grasses and there are grasses. These grasses were taken from Nigeria and worked upon and they are better,” he said.
The Minister also disclosed that some private companies are already in agreement with the government for the utilisation of some derivatives and by products from the reserves, adding that the reserves would boost the economic status of the herdsmen.
Speaking on plans for food sufficiency, the Minister lamented the level of dependence on imported food items, adding that those who profit from the importation are working against the government’s food sufficiency bid.
“They even protested against Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) interventions. The challenge is, how do we cope with resistance, competition, cheap finance among others? Among other things we are putting in place , 40 rice mills would be installed around the country by December, with tomato paste and banana processing plants also on the way,” the minister said. ThisDayLive