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Deadly herdsmen attacks

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A major crisis confronting the nation at the moment is the continued hostilities, wickedness and havoc being wrecked by herdsmen pastoralists in various parts of the country with recent cases being recorded in the middle-belt region.

Many people believe that with the poor handling of the menace and the audacity of the herdsmen, they could well be described as a new terrorist group distinct from the dreaded Boko Haram, Al-Shabab and the Islamic State in Iran and Syria (ISIS) and other militant groups.

It is instructive that the Global Terrorism Index 2015 had reported that Fulani militants remained the fourth most deadly terrorist group in the world!

Apart from the palpable fear caused victims, the most pathetic part of the calamity befallen our people is the blatant manner in which the unprovoked attacks are carried out on the defenceless, innocent and law-abiding members of communities across the geo-political zones of the country, as children and women are not left out in violence against humanity.

People have been made to become refugees in their abode.

The incessant attacks in Benue and other parts of the country suggest that the government is not placing adequate premium on the life of Nigerians.

What continues to be the crux of the matter is the illegal grazing of farmland, which invariably infringes on the right of farmers to plant and harvest their crops. What do we see? Herdsmen forcefully and indiscriminately allow their cattle to graze cultivated and other peoples’ sweat and farmlands by destroying valuable crops.

Any attempt to stop the herdsmen from illegal incursions often result into killing, raping, destroying farmlands as well as sacking whole communities.

Mixed reactions have continued to trail this unfortunate development with myriads of suggestions on the way forward. It is on this premise that, I find as very informative and revealing, two research reports from the Nigerian Working Group on Peace Building and Governance as well as the Chinua Achebe Centre for Leadership and Development on Fulani herdsmen attacks.

On one hand, the Nigerian Working Group on Peace Building and Governance, has observed that pastoralistsfarmers’ conflicts in the nation had grown, spread and intensified over the past decade. It noted that Nigeria has about 19 million cattle, mostly in the hands of pastoralists.

This phenomenal increase of the population has put enormous pressure on land and water resources used by farmers and pastoralists. One of the outcomes of this process has been the blockage of transhumance routes and loss of grazing land to agricultural expansion while the increased southward movement of pastoralists has led to increased conflict with local communities.

Recommendations given by the group include the establishment of grazing reserves, saying that the establishment of such reserves would provide the opportunity to practice more limited form of pastoralism as the nation has a total of 417 grazing reserves out of which only about 113 had been gazette.

It regretted that one of the greatest difficulties in addressing and resolving matters surrounding pastoralism was the politicisation of legal regimes and erection of blockages to the enactment or implementation of laws that can redress key challenges.

The group maintained that there was an emerging conflict between the constitutional principle on the free movement of persons, goods and laws emerging in some states by restricting movement.

In addition, pastoralism is not sustainable in Nigeria over the long term, due to the high population growth rate, expansion of farming and loss of pasture and cattle routes. It further called for digital tracking of cattle that would involve inserting microchips in the animal skin and tracking them with mobile phones.

Similarly, the Chinua Achebe Centre for Leadership and Development also made interesting findings. According to the centre, the herdsmen terrorists are mostly non-Nigerians and mainly migrants from Chad, Niger, and other Fulani enclaves outside the country.

They were said to be major actors and catalysts to recent conflicts in the Central African Republic. It noted further that herdsmen terrorists do not own cattle, as most of them are employed by the cattle owners as ‘security men’. The cattle are owned by prominent Fulani leaders in the country while they increase their wealth astronomically through cattle rearing.

The herdsmen do not follow the cattle around, but move in separate vehicles along a defined route. The report revealed that instead of investing in ranches and buying of grasses from the south, the herdsmen chose the cheaper alternative of taking the cattle from the north to south seasonally; using the entire Nigerian space as their ‘grass kingdom’.

This is rather unacceptable. Beyond the blueprint reeled out by both groups, I think there are several undercurrents that should be given desired attention. For instance, the Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body of herdsmen that had allegedly threatened to unleash mayhem if Benue State enforces the anti-grazing law, as passed by the State House of Assembly, should be called to order. To show the severity of the lawlessness that could ensue, Governor Samuel Ortom had to visit President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, to obtain assurances and support for the new law to work! Is this how to practice true federalism?

Is the government afraid of Miyetti Allah leadership for thorough investigation? The President recently admitted that poverty, injustice and lack of job opportunities were mainly responsible for inter and intra-communal crises in the country.

What concerted efforts are being made to address the high level of unemployment in the land? Another area that the Federal Government should be mindful of is the way and manner of deploying security machinery to tackle threats to peace.

Such interventions should not be seen as lopsided, biased and selective. For instance, unlike the approach adopted in dealing with militants in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram in the North-East, not much has been done to curb the excesses of the Fulani herdsmen. The government should continue to engage the leadership of the herdsmen by making them to realise that open grazing is no longer fashionable around the world, as even countries with large herds of cattle now raise their animals in ranches.

The position should be driven home with superior argument that animals deliberately supplied with feeds and other nutrients are healthier and better fattened, as against their itinerant breeds, as found here in Nigeria, where the animals face many risks while looking for what to eat.

To be fully convinced of government’s sincerity and sustainability, necessary policies should be put in place to assist farmers in the supply of pasture and other nutritious feeds to cattle. The government would douse the tension in the land by discouraging open grazing and confining all itinerant herdsmen to established ranches. This is in tandem with some of the recommendations made in the 2014 National Conference that is not receiving the deserved attention of government.

Traditional and religious leaders should intensify efforts by appealing to their subjects to embrace peace while those apprehended should be severally punished.

 

·Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) via adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk

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The imperative of re-orientation of security agencies

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The notoriety of executive agencies in transgressing the very laws that create and empower them have become commonplace, and regrettably the norm. The issues that arise from this exhibition of impunity and gross ignorance of the law are a real threat to our budding democracy, and a mockery of laid down procedures and guidelines painstakingly enacted by our lawmakers.

The misplaced zeal of the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Services (DSS) in handling the non-issue involving Mr. Kassim Afegbua once again throws up this concern for contemplation. First, we must reiterate that the law seeks to establish laid down procedures for securing the attendance of accused persons in court.

This is important because where no proper procedures are laid down for securing the attendance of accused persons in court, there is bound to be violation of the rights of persons. These procedures are crucially important and must be jealously guarded and enforced.

Usually, when a declaration that a person is wanted is made by any security outfit it is usually under the impression that a crime has indeed been committed and such offender has suddenly gone under the radar. Also such declarations usually pre-empt an arrest. Under our extant laws, a person may not be arrested or declared wanted without a warrant duly obtained from a competent court and endorsed by same authorising it. The exceptions to the above do not bear on the case in point.

The law demands that before making a Wanted Declaration on a public platform or any other for that matter, that the police ought to obtain a warrant of arrest duly signed and endorsed by a competent court. Said warrant must also be presented at the point of arrest, and in it the particulars of the arrest ought to be spelt out. Where a person sought to be arrested makes a run for it or evades arrest, then a public declaration informing the public of the accused’s status may be made. By implication, where such an accused declared wanted is seen, the public is to assume that such a person is not just a wanted criminal but a potentially dangerous one.

The serious implication of such presumptions thus makes any deviation from the above process an abrogation of lawful processes, a clear indicator that said agency seeks to appropriate to itself powers vested singularly in the courts and also a gross disrespect of the accused’s dignity of self or person especially where he or she is neither on the run, in hiding nor knowing of the summon, invitation or intended arrest.

Barely had the public knocks and dissent of that audacious and ambition gambit by the Force settled, however, before the DSS assumed the role of an arbiter in a civil issue, and followed suit with an invitation. At first glance one could see into the real substance of that move but the question is: by what authority, real or imagined where the DSS operating under?

The issue of the circumference of the DSS’ operative power has been severally delineated by statutory and case law authorities. Section 3 of the National Security Agencies Act, binding on the DSS and sister agencies materially restricts the function of the DSS to dealing with the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.
As reaffirmed by the courts in Director of State Security Service & Anor. v Olisa

Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt 595) 314, the above statutory functions remain the scope of the DSS’ operational power as anything done outside those provisional functions are ultra vires and null ab initio.
While security agencies continue to gamble with statutory powers and functions, the real crimes and criminals operate freely.

The summon of Afegbua by the DSS is a total waste of time that could have been better put to the strengthening of the nation’s internal security. It is befuddling to common sense what threat to internal security is occasioned by one’s exercise of his right to freedom of speech. It is equally sobering to note that those entrusted with securing the nation’s internal security cannot tell apart a real threat from a non-existent one.

The sheer zeal exercised by the DSS in its invitation of Afegbua reveals an ambitious undertone that may not border well for Nigeria and Nigerians. There have been previous outcries denouncing the personalisation of security agencies, particularly the DSS by the executive who deploy them into intimidating and muscling perceived opposition into submission. While it is not my brief to outline the demerits of such a situation, I nonetheless denounce it strongly as it limits and weakens the DSS, while exposing them to ridicule.

The absurdities at play in this political theatre of interests, ambitions and ultra vires appropriation of functions and powers must end. No institution can be bigger than the people it was created to serve, nor assume a role not within the character of its enabling laws.

Afegbua remains a patriotic Nigerian caught in the whirlwind of power politics, and his rights under the constitution and other similar legislation cannot and should not be trivialised by ignorant or overzealous agencies and agents quick to scurry a favour or two from their political handlers. We have laws and laid down procedures for a reason; to create order and set boundaries.
•Ajulo is a legal practitioner based in Abuja

Mr. President must be duly advised as to how the continuous haranguing of Mr. Afegbua by agencies under his direct control reflect badly and poorly on his democratic scoresheet. At a time when this government is hard-pressed to prove its respect for the law and due process, the negative publicity stirred up by the antics of the Force and DSS cannot be reckoned as good for its image.
I would recommend that all security agencies in the country begin an immediate re-orientation of its agents as a matter of national emergency.

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That PDP snoopiness in APC’s internal affairs

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Jesus, in Matt 7:1-2, teaches: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
And in Luke 6:41-42 (and Matt 7:3-5), Jesus warns: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? How can you say, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while you yourself fail to see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We are having recourse to these biblical injunctions because of the antics of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which fails to remove the log in its eye, and yet sees the speck in the eye of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Since its loss of power in 2015, the PDP has been prying into the internal workings of the APC – a situation akin to “taking panadol for another man’s headache.”

First, the party criticized the APC for not constituting its National Working Committee (NWC); lampooned it for failure to hold its National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings regularly; and slammed it for its inability to convoke a national convention since assuming the party in government in 2015.

Second, the PDP claimed that the APC was factionalized due to its alleged marginalization of its general members, and the relegation to the background of many of the stalwarts that propelled the party to victory in the 2015 general elections.

Third, it mocked the states controlled by the APC for failing to conduct local government council elections, alleging that the party was afraid of losing out because it had “lost its popularity” and the “goodwill of the people” since 2015.
And now this: The APC, which the PDP said was in turmoil, has set up a reconciliation committee, headed by its National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to resolve the issues at play, and the PDP has ironically predicted that the committee would meet with failure, as aggrieved APC leaders were “irreconcilable.”

The PDP leaders also amused themselves with a supposed marginalization of Chief Tinubu and his members in the legacy movement that formed the APC. They cited an alleged quarrel that Tinubu had with the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, in regard to the governorship elections in Kogi and Ondo states, where Tinubu’s surrogates lost out to a so-called President Muhammadu Buhari/Odigie-Oyegun bloc of the party.

They attributed this Tinubu “humiliation” to his reported boycott of the APC national secretariat in Abuja, and his non-participation in many of the party activities, querying, “why should the same APC ask Tinubu to reconcile aggrieved members and groups in the party?”

The begging question is: Why should the disparate voices and tendencies in the APC, and efforts at bringing them together, become the concerns of the PDP? Why should the party approbate and reprobate at the same time?
Aren’t polarization, factionalization, division, and “irreconcilable differences” what the PDP has prayed for and hoped should befall the APC since it (PDP) lost power in 2015, and especially ahead of the 2019 elections it has boasted it would use to stage a comeback to Aso Rock?

It seems to me that the PDP is missing the point. Has it been able to take care of the intra-party schism, which resulted from its manipulated Abuja national convention that threw up hand-picked candidates for all the posts in the contest?

After the “reggae blues” dance by its new hierarchy was over, didn’t the PDP, realising that the aggrieved national chairmanship aspirants and other contestants it shortchanged could sink its fortunes in 2019, set up the Governor Seriake Dickson’s National Reconciliation Committee to return “sanity” to the party?

The fallout from the PDP convention was a tip of the icebergs; there are more fundamental and intractable divisions in the party’s state chapters, especially the daggers-drawn tussles between and among party heavyweights over elective positions in 2019.

Similar auguries are affecting the APC, which prompted President Buhari to establish the Tinubu “Consultation, Reconciliation and Confidence Building Committee,” whose mandate was relayed by presidential spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu.

“As part of on-going efforts to improve cohesion within the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari has designated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead the consultation, reconciliation and confidence building efforts,” Shehu said in a statement, adding, “The assignment will involve resolving disagreements among party members, party leadership and political office holders in some states of the federation.”

The committee has taken off. Tinubu has visited President Buhari, whom he promised to do a good job of his assignment; and also led the committee members to the APC national secretariat, to confer with the Chairman, Chief Odigie-Oyegun and members of the NWC.

At that parley, he said: “I came for consultations… and I am all here to listen to the various challenges that we have. My mission is to seek opinions and advice on the various conflicts we have in some states, or if there is any national one to reconcile, move the party in a cohesive manner, and reposition it​​.”

So, why should this assignment the president gave to the Tinubu committee be a burden to the opposition PDP if not that, in legal parlance, the party has become a “busybody,” a “meddlesome interloper” or, to use a local lingo, an “amebo”?

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To cure the Police of its illness

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Last year The Guardian newspaper carried a report as a rider on its front page. The title was, Zaki-Biam: IGP Briefs, Absolves Fulani Herdsmen. As at the time the story was published, I remember that I had bought the paper but didn’t give the report much thought. I was mostly carried away with the photo of the newly commissioned Ojota Bridge which was the cover photo that the Guardian published on this fateful day. I once lived and worked in Lagos, and part of the experience of commuting to and from work was that I had to risk my life on that mechanical skeleton. Most of us braved arrest by LASTMA to using that bridge for fear that it might give away and convey us to untimely eternity.

 

 

But with the killing of 73 and more people in Benue and others in Nasarawa state over grazing cattle on peoples farms, I had to run right back to that publication and look at it closely again. On page 2 of that publication and to quote the words right out of the paper as credited to the IGP of Police, Ibrahim Idris. In briefing Mr. President (concerning the killings in Zaki-Biam in Benue state) he had said: No, I don’t think it is Fulani herdsmen. It was an activity of a criminal who is using some of his criminal gangs in the state to harass people. That, I have assured the governor when I met with him few days ago. Continuing, the IGP said he told the President that ‘we are police officers. Crime has no tribe; if you are a criminal, you are a criminal; we don’t look at crime in the identity of where you are coming from (sic).

 

I doubt the IGP on that last part. French biologist and writer Jean Rostand (1894 – 1977) once said that if you kill a man, you’re a murderer; kill millions of men, you are a conqueror. Kill everyone, and you are a god. I do not understand which among the statuses arrogated to killing of innocent Nigerians it is that the Nigerian police intend to subject Nigerians. In the recent case in Benin City, a policeman seeking bribe from an innocent Nigerian and perhaps seeking to establish the police as a good friend just thrust the adamant young man he was haranguing in the direction of an oncoming truck. He was hit and his head was crushed by the truck. Then there was the case of a media aide who issued a press release on behalf of his principal. Apparently because the content of the press release did not urge Mr. President to contest for a send term, the police immediately declared the media aide a wanted man. That as far as most Nigerians are concerned established the Nigerian police not as friend but as a sycophantic body seeking the perpetration of the tenure of Mr. President.

 

But it was in the Benue case that most Nigerians believe that there must be a sinister plan to kill millions of Nigerians ostensibly from a temperament of an emerging conquistador. Otherwise, how can anyone explain that an institution which is saddled with the protection of lives and property and which generally wants to be seen as a friend of the people stand akimbo, askance as hundreds of people are murdered in broad day light and in peace times? If perhaps the Nigeria Police would be reminded how their antics would compare to certain events in the past, let me refer them to an article in the archive of the Microsoft Premium Encyclopedia 2009. In that article reference was made to the fact that IBB overthrew Muhammadu Buhari because of the increasingly dictatorial nature of the Buhari regime.

 

 

The article said that there was suppression of critical commentary and of various interest groups had gone against the pluralistic structure of Nigerian society and its people’s deep attachment to personal freedom. ‘Particularly unpopular had been the Buhari government’s Decree 4, which forbade publication of anything that might ridicule or denigrate government officials. The decree had shackled Nigeria’s vigorously independent, increasingly sophisticated press and led to the arrest of a number of prominent journalists. Also bitterly resented was Decree 2, which provided for the detention of any citizen deemed to constitute a security risk. Under this sweeping provision, the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO) was given a virtual blank check to arrest critics and dissidents. The regime further alienated the populace by banning all public discussion of the country’s political future. In addition, the coup was precipitated by the conservative economic policies of the Buhari regime, the article said.

I verily believe that the Nigerian police has contributed much more to demonizing our beloved president than anyone else. If the president does not do something about the police, posterity will consign him to the dustbin of history as a second-time dictator. A certain US politician, Al Smith (1873 – 1944) once said that you can cure all the ills which democracy brings by giving the people more democracy. Buhari can cure the police with more democracy.

•Written by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, is communications manager ANEEJ.

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