By Jude Johnson
The Governor of Bauchi State, Sen. Bala Mohammed, has said that his support for Fulani Herdsmen to carry AK-47 rifles is to enable them to defend themselves against bandits, kidnappers and assassins as security agencies cannot protect them.
He also explained that contrary to allegations that he urged Herdsmen to invade and occupy farmlands illegally, he only tried putting in perspective that Herdsmen are pastoralists whose presence anywhere is often temporal.
A statement by Mukhtar Gidado, Senior Special Assistant (Media ) to the Governor said that he, “is very familiar with the Land Use Act, including the criteria for land acquisition and cannot therefore seek to undermine the statute which, as Governor, he has sworn to uphold.”
Bala whose recent remarks at the closing ceremony of the Press Week of the Correspondent’s Chapel of the NUJ in Bauchi State triggered nationwide condemnation with many urging security agencies to investigate his role in the insecurity ravaging parts of the country; however said that he intervened “to avert the dangerous prospect of nation-wide backlash as tempers were flaring up and given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration, is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria.”
The statement further reads “first, at no time did the Governor set out to justify criminality by anyone, no matter the person’s ethnic nationality. Rather, he admonished us, in the interest of national unity, to avoid wholesale branding of any ethnic group as it is inconceivable that any one group can be made up of only criminals.”
It added that “by extension, the Governor made it abundantly clear that it will be inappropriate to label any one tribe based on the crimes of a few members of the ethnic group.”
Also, the presser stated that “to the extent that not every herdsman is a criminal, the Governor’s reference to AK47 was simply to put in perspective, the predicament and desperation of those law-abiding Fulani herdsmen who, while carrying out their legitimate cow-rearing business, have become serial victims of cattle rustling, banditry, kidnapping and assassination.
These are the people who, in the absence of any protection from the security agencies, are forced to resort to self-help, to defend both their means of livelihood and their lives.”
On his claim that forests are no man’s land, in apparent reference to the eviction of herders from Forest Reserves in Ondo State, the former PDP National Chairman denied asking Fulanis to forcefully takeover lands belonging to others.