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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Act fast on herdsmen menace, ACF, Northern Elders, Okogie, others tell FG

Act fast on herdsmen menace, ACF, Northern Elders, Okogie, others tell FG

President Muhammadu Buhari

Concerned about the killings credited to Fulani herdsmen around the country, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and retired Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, yesterday asked the Fedral Government to act fast in finding a solution to the problem.

While the ACF charged those vested with power to secure lives and properties to act before the crisis graduates to unmanageable level, the NEF asked the Federal Government to be proactive in handling the issue.

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On his part, Okogie, who spoke in an interview with one of our correspondents yesterday, warned that the challenge could spell doom for the country if the President fails to take proactive measures to address it.

The Secretary-General of ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, said that recent attacks by herdsmen on some communities across the country demand urgent attention from those vested with power to secure lives and properties before the crisis graduates to unmanageable level.

He said Nigeria does not need a tsunami or hurricane to know that the country has serious security challenges at hand.

The ACF Scribe however said that, the situation was not beyond redemption, once the measures that can be taken to bring about peaceful resolution of the crises are urgently considered.

He said: “The recent attacks by herdsmen on some communities across the country have drawn the attention of the nation to security challenges which demand urgent attention from those vested with power and authority to secure the lives and properties of the citizens lest such challenges reach unmanageable level.

“My advice is not only to the federal government and its agencies but also to the state governments as well as to all political, religious and traditional leaders, that they should all come together and think out the best way of overcoming the security challenges for larger interest.

“I want to believe there are short term, medium term and long term measures that can be taken to bring about peaceful resolution of the crises at hand that are acceptable to all the parties concerned.

“This is very necessary because peace is a precondition for any meaningful socio-economic development of any nation.

“We do not need a tsunami or hurricane in order to know that Nigeria has serious security challenges which make the governments at all levels to need the support of all Nigerians as the nation grapples with them.

“The situation is not beyond redemption.”

Archbishop Okogie said it behoves the President to find a solution to the menace of herdsmen, adding that the ball was in the President’s court.

He said: “The ball is in his court. He is the father of the nation, but have you heard him talk? If the President does nothing to solve the problem, your guess is as good as mine. You can feel it in the air.

“I am not in support of giving lands to herdsmen. Let everybody keep to his zone. This is why the Senate is against what is happening, since the President does not want to talk. His silence means consent.

“The very first man that talked about herdsmen disturbing him in his farm was Chief Olu Falae, but they swept the thing off just like that.

“Another case came up here in the West when a few people, looking like ruffians and pretended to be herdsmen with AK 47, were arrested. It was published in the newspapers, but nothing was done.

“I wrote two articles on these things and nothing was done.

“Look at what happened in Ilorin recently when small boys and girls went to churches and started damaging things. Up till today, nothing is done.

“Let it be Christians that is doing that and you would see what will happen.”

On his part, Prof. Abdullahi, who is the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), called on federal and state governments to be more proactive in protecting of lives and property of citizens across the country.

Abdullahi said there was need for the authorities to take more decisive steps to ensure the security of lives and property of citizens, especially those that were currently involved in herdsmen/farmer clashes in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna, Zamfara and other parts of the country.

He also advised the federal security agencies to step up their statutory responsibility of protecting the nation’s integrity.

While he commiserated with all families and communities that have lost members and property, the Northern Elder urged the citizens themselves to be more vigilant.

He said: “Our forum recently met to review critical national developments, particularly as they relate to tension around national security punctuated by killings in many parts of the country, and we condemned it and called for seriousness on the part of the security agencies in tackling the matter.

“We condole all the families and communities that have lost members and assets, and we demand the federal and state authorities to take more decisive steps to restore the security of lives and property of citizens.

“Also, all leaders must observe restraint and responsibility in the manner they exercise their powers to shape opinion and determine the responses of the citizens.

“All communities must maintain vigilance over their relations with each other, and seek solutions that do not involve conflicts which in the end leave all of us as losers.

“We at the Northern Elders Forum will continue to seek all opportunities and avenues to engage leaders, governments and all stakeholders in the search for peace and security in the North and Nigeria.”

Kano-based politician, Alhaji Faruk Umar, opined a change in the Constitution so that that every Nigerian can become a citizen in the state that he or she resides.

This way, he said, an indigene of any state would treat others in the state like his brother or sister, and would do away with ethnic or religious dichotomy.

Aba based Civil Rights activist, Prof. Charles Chinekezi, called for the establishment of state vigilance groups to check attacks by herdsmen.

Recruits into such vigilance groups, according to him, must be “very well trained personnel who are chosen based on the background of decency and fairness.”

He said the wave of killings in the country “has to be quickly addressed.”

He wondered how herdsmen who “have been grazing their cattle in the past 2000 years suddenly became tools in the hands of dangerous politicians.”

He kicked against the planned cattle colonies, saying: “They know it is criminal and intended to fuel dispassionate and tribal fireworks which some people want to push.”

Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has doubts about the ability of the Yemi Osinbajo-led committee set up by the National Economic Council to resolve the herdsmen crisis to achieve anything.

“Committee to do what? To find out how many people have been killed? To establish that we have been this problem for more than five years and nobody is addressing this problem?” he asked.

He advised the state governments to take advantage of the current situation by establishing ranches to provide the beef needs of their people.

He said: “In 1951, we had the first ranch in Nigeria, in Calabar, Obudu cattle ranch. Now, it’s been converted to Obudu holiday resort.

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“The late Ahmadu Bello regime established the Mokwa ranch, the Obafemi Awolowo regime in the West, in the 50s, established the Akunnu ranch, now in Ondo State.

“The late Governor Adekunle Ajasin of the old Ondo state established a dairy farm in Iko Ekiti. “What do you expect the government to do? Revive the dairy farm.

“A pregnant woman was killed in Ekiti two days ago, it is a height of primitivity to kill a pregnant woman anywhere in the world. But you can be sure nobody will be brought to book. The point I’m trying to make is, it is not our culture, for people taking cattle round the country, it’s a recent phenomenon.

“In the Southwest here, the late Obafemi Awolowo brought a specie of cattle from Argentina. They were locally bred and people had these animals.

“Nobody destroyed anybody’s farm until recently. And if you are taking a cow from Sokoto to Benin or Enugu, the rearer has to be armed because of cattle rustlers.

The animal has to feed on somebody’s farm and rape has to be committed since the rearer hasn’t seen his wife for two or three months. Nobody does this again anywhere in the world. African countries have solved these problems by establishing ranches.”

 Second Republic Senator, Chief Ayo Fasanmi advised the security operatives to be more vigilant and pro-active with a view to assuring Nigerians that they are capable of securing their lives and property.

The Afenifere leader, who expressed dissatisfaction with creation of colonies for animals, maintained that establishing such is neo-colonialism, adding that cows are not human beings to enjoy an independent portion of territory within Nigeria.

”We must stand firm against what is not right. We are one nation with a common destiny. Nothing should be allowed to divide us. How could people not feel safe on their farms and land.”

Fasanmi said he was confident that President Mohammadu Buhari would be able to stand up to the challenge posed by the menace, saying as “an outstanding retired military officer he must have seen as worst as this situation before.”

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