By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE member representing Akoko Edo Federal Constituency of Edo State in the House of Representatives, Rep Peter Akpatason has described the upsurge of attacks by Fulani Herdsmen as a gradual evolution that was planned by some highly placed personalities in the country.
The lawmaker also said that if nothing was urgently not done to arrest the situation, it was capable of throwing the country into serious crisis, adding that the herdsmen were more dangerous than the Boko Haram terrorists.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard in Abuja, Rep Akpatason who was a one time President of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Union, NUPENG, noted that the herdsmen which he described as poor poor always carry AK47, and wondered where they got the money to acquire such weapon.
Fielding question on the incessant attacks by the herdsmen in different parts of the country and the way out, he said, “I look at it beyond the action of herdsmen, these herdsmen are poor people, they don’t have the money to by AK47.
“The people who are carrying out this carnage they are armed with very sophisticated and modern fire arms. They have boasted in so many places when they kidnapped people they told then that they are not kidding, that they are in for real business.
“I want to tell you that there is a gradual evolution that has been properly planned somewhere, call it a jihad or a sort of revolution that some people are carrying out which if not properly and quickly addressed, it is going to engulf the entire country very soon and I think it is going to be more dangerous than anything that we have seen before, being it the Niger Delta thing or the North Eastern crisis.”
Continuing, he said, “I think what is going to happen and what is about happening now will be worse than that because they are at the backyard of everybody. In the south they are there, in the west they are there, in the north they are there, in the east they are everywhere.
“They have been armed, people are financing them and nobody is talking about that now. Agatu is a tip of the ice berg, they are going to do it to so many other places, we are no longer sleeping with our eyes closed in the villages, we are all afraid, they kill people in their farms, they kill people in their market, they go everywhere.
“In fact, they even attack some people that speak the same dialects with them. So, it has become something that is so serious as far as I am concerned. I think that government has been handling it with the kid gloves and it is a time bomb that is waiting to explode.
“If this issue is not addressed very quickly, Nigeria is going to find itself in a very more terrible situation than the Niger Delta crisis ditto Nigeria as well as the Boko Haram crisis in the north because these are regional things but this one is going to engulf the entire nation and that is why we have to be extremely careful and very calculative about it.
“If somebody thinks that today it is happening in Middle Belt, it is happening in the South-South, so that is not a problem so we can allow it to continue, very soon it will cover everywhere and we will all be in trouble.”
On what the government should do to tackle the menace, he said, “What government should do is to charge the security agents to go after these people, they have formed cells round various villages, don’t wait till they strike and kill people before you go after them.
“They should go into the forest wherever they are located, they should get intelligence from the local communities, people how they operate, they should interview people they have kidnapped so that they can take the war to them in the forest instead of waiting for them to destroy lives and property before they begin to run around, that is the first thing to do.
“But the long term one is for Nigeria to first declare the situation as it were as a national crisis and then set up a security team that will gather intelligence and go after the funders of this menace, identify and capture some of them instead of shooting them, capture some of them interview them.
“When they kidnap people, I think we shouldn’t rush to pay ransom to them, government should set up crack teams that can go and liberate people and capture those criminals and interview them, check what is behind the whole of it so that it can be holistically addressed.
“If you continue to fight it in peace meal as it happened in Agatu you go and fight and it happened in Edo you go and fight, it will not solve the problem. How did they get these arms, they don’t use old arms, they laugh at our security people because they are carrying old guns and when they come up with their sophisticated weapons, the security people will run away.
“And you can’t tell me that those people have money to buy such equipment, so let us get to the root of the issue, let us have a holistic master plan to attack these issues frontally, while pursuing the people who are already in the field, we must pursue their sponsors.”
He recalled that government could not fight Boko Haram for many years, but when election was postponed for six weeks, government became determined with the issue and within the six weeks, government was able to deal deadly blow on Boko Haram.
“Another government has come into power, right now as we speak, Boko Haram has been badly decimated. So it takes government serious commitments, to address issue like this.
“We are talking about bad economy now, the economy will soon become worse because somebody can no longer go to farms, people can’t go anywhere because they are (herdsmen) everywhere. So we need to fight it. In the north east, we have learnt some lessons, so let us improve on that.
“The civilian JTF, have they not been working, have they not been doing something? Have civilian JTF in all the communities, empower them, call them vigilante if you like, empower them and let the security agencies to work with them.
“They have the local knowledge, they understand the terrain, they know who is a stranger and they know how to go after them. This is a trend that is more dangerous than anything we have seen before,” he stated.