By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA—Nearly a month after suspected herdsmen massacred 73 persons in Benue State and threw the state into mourning, the Federal Government has opted to deploy the military to the state and other flash points to flush out masterminds of the attacks and restore peace in those areas.
A Presidency source told Vanguard, last night, that the move by the Federal Government followed recommendation by National Economic Council, NEC, made up of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and nine governors that appropriate force be deployed to deal with the bandits who wreaked havoc in Benue on New Year eve.
The authoritative source confirmed that the military forces to be deployed for the operation were already engaged and would soon begin to implement decisive military steps to tackle the situation.
In addition, the Police and other security and military agencies have been asked to recruit more rank and file to tighten security in the troubled spots and in the country generally.
The top government official said: “Decisive military force will now be fully engaged to deal with the bandits believed to be behind the killings in parts of the country, especially regarding the crisis often associated with herdsmen.
“The settled view in official circles is that the reported killings and violence recorded are the work of bandits and mercenaries, since in many cases the herdsmen are often well-known in the communities where their cattle normally graze.”
Vanguard learned that one of the firm outcomes of the Working Group’s meeting was the expressed readiness of the government to locate and identify the bandits, who perpetrate the killings and violence and use all necessary means, including military involvement, to flush them out of their hideouts in forests across the country as a definite move to secure the lives and property of the citizens.
“The Working Group has also resolved to work with the Federal Government to strengthen law enforcement and all security and intelligence agencies in the country so they can coordinate better in dealing with, checkmating, and preventing the crisis from further escalation,” the official said.
On how to permanently address the herdsmen and farmer clashes, the committee recommended that every state should by a rigorous consultative process with all stakeholders design its own solutions as the federal government will not impose any solution on any state.
Last Thursday, the Kano State Governor Dr. Abdullahi Ganguje, a member of the federal working group to proffer solutions to herdsmen and farmers skirmishes, who read out highlights and decisions of the NEC to reporters (alongside his Ebonyi counterpart ) after the Council meeting said that the committee “will work in accordance with the President’s commitment to ensuring that all perpetrators of violence are brought to book.”
The highlights also noted that the Working Group which consists of Governors from Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Edo, Plateau, Ebonyi and Oyo States actually commenced its work with a meeting presided over by the VP right immediately after NEC at the Presidential Villa.
An informed source disclosed that at the end of the Working Group meeting last week, it was clear a major turning point had been reached in the management of the crisis and sufficient consensus recorded on the need to stop the impunity by engaging the military in a more decisive manner.
Close watchers of government business are of the view that the crisis also requires a political solution considering the religious and ethnic tones that could easily become further exacerbated and possibly worsen the situation if proper and timely care is not taken.