By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Peter Duru
ABUJA — Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara yesterday lamented the killings in various parts of the country, saying Nigeria is now being painted red with blood. He spoke on a day that Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, took a swipe at the government over the precarious security situation in the country.
According to him, the failure of government to protect the lives and property of Nigerians is a tragedy and an indictment on both the executive and the legislature.
This is even as Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, disclosed, yesterday, that over 14,000 persons had been killed in Plateau and Benue states in the last few years by suspected herdsmen.
Nigeria painted red with blood — Dogara
Yesterday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, lamented the fact that the country was now being painted red with blood, following the killing of scores of people, including women and children, in Benue and Taraba states in particular and other parts of the country.
In his address to lawmakers who resumed from recess, yesterday, Dogara frowned on the violence in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Rivers, Zamfara, and Adamawa states.
He said: “Indeed, at no time in the recent past has the nation’s peace and unity been so vigorously and persistently challenged. This, however, is the real test for true leadership.
“Our dear country is now being painted red with the blood of the innocents on account of unremitting bedlam callously promoted by cold-hearted merchants of death.
“At these moments of intense outpouring of grief across the nation, it is important that we shun buck passing and accept responsibility for these wanton killings without which we will never find a solution to this evil.”
Reacting to the ongoing fuel scarcity, Dogara said the green chamber felt betrayed by the executive, stressing that it was unfortunate that even with the cooperation the lawmakers gave to the executive in a bid to resolve the fuel crisis, the situation still persisted.
“We expected that with the legislative cooperation given to the executive arm, to effect an increase in the fuel price from N87 per litre to N145, and based on their assurances, incidents of fuel scarcity would be a thing of the past. We were also assured that fuel subsidy had come to an end.”
Senate ready for solutions — Saraki
According to Saraki, the 8th Senate was prepared to help find solutions to assuage the hurt to affected parts, bring the perpetrators to justice and enthrone peace in all four corners of the country.
In his welcome address to senators, who resumed from end-of-year recess yesterday, Saraki also warned the executive and the lawmakers against early politicking ahead of 2019, saying it was too early to embark on that for governance not to be grounded.
Saraki said: “Human life is sacred. We state without equivocation that Nigerian life must become sacred. When we fail in our duty to protect Nigerian lives, it is a tragedy and an indictment on us all.
“We as the 8th Senate stand ready to help find solutions to assuage the hurt to affected parts, to bring the perpetrators to justice and to enthrone peace in all four corners of this country.
“Let me state that the 8th Senate is disturbed by these unfortunate incidents, and we have been for some time.
“We were concerned enough to have inaugurated the Ad-Hoc Committee on Security in November of last year. And so, it was that, with the shocking reports from Benue, Rivers and other places, the security committee members also cut short their recess to resume sitting, with a view to fast-tracking their investigations, in order to present an interim report for the Senate’s consideration immediately on resumption.
“I really must commend the committee for its swift action in this regard; and I am happy to note that the interim report is ready for the consideration of this chamber.
“We are a people-oriented Senate, and I believe I speak for us all when I pledge that we shall continue to demonstrate similar dedication to our duties this year, as worthy representatives of the people who voted us into office.”
Stop politicking now ahead of 2019 — Saraki
On early politicking ahead of 2019, Saraki said: “Going into the new year, I can only wish each and every one of us the best as we prepare for the task ahead. It is a crucial year.
“As you all know, this, in all probability, will be the last productive year before we go into the 2019 electioneering period. Not only is there a need to up the ante in terms of productivity, it is important we keep our eyes on the big picture.
“Let us not be caught in the political fray before due season. This is Nigeria’s time. Let us devote ourselves to her service. It is, therefore, imperative that we speed up consideration on the various bills on which legislative work remains outstanding, particularly economic bills.”
Calling for similar attention are the other parts of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) related bills still to be passed, namely: the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill and the Petroleum Host Community Bill.
“It is my appeal to each and every one of us, that our legislative duty to Nigeria and her people, must be uppermost in our minds. We must not allow the upcoming 2019 elections to overshadow our work for the people that elected us – or distract us from that which we are mandated to do by the constitution and the trust reposed in us by the people.
“This is my appeal: it is too early for 2019 politicking to override the legislative agenda and the larger work of governance. We have begun a good thing with the economic core of our agenda; let us see it to its proper conclusion.
‘’It would be most insensitive to the needs of the people of this country if we were to do otherwise. I am directing this appeal not only to us in the chamber but to the National Assembly as a whole, as well as to the Executive and, indeed, all political actors.”
Saraki, who noted the suffering Nigerians passed through during the Christmas and New year celebration as a result of fuel scarcity, said: “I am not unmindful of the sobering fact that the new year has met many citizens in a reflective mood. Many were on the queue for petrol; many households are grief-stricken.
‘’This mood of reflection is also one from which no lawmaker is immune; what affects one, affects all. When one part of the body is hurting, the whole body hurts, and this holds true for the entire nation.
“We have all been witnesses to the hardships which many Nigerians experienced in the new year, stuck on fuel queues at petrol stations in many of our cities.
‘’It has been disheartening to see, especially during the festive period when Nigerians should have been enjoying carefree time with their loved ones, with enough petrol in their tanks to make that cherished journey to their various hometowns.”
“Distinguished colleagues, the 8th Senate has continued its historic run, because by the end of 2017, we had passed 140 Bills over a period of 30 months. The landmark Economic Bills we passed, helped to propel the country’s emergence from recession, powering us upwards in the Ease of Doing Business Report.
‘’While the legislative feats of the year gone by shall go down in the annals of lawmaking in this country, what is also true is that we cannot lose momentum, nor can we afford to rest on our oars.
“In conclusion, it bears reiterating that we cannot waste a moment of this year that rolls its boundless opportunities out for us.”
Benue: Senate gives IGP 14 days to arrest perpetrators, sponsors
This is even as the Senate, yesterday, gave the Inspector- General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, 14 days to arrest the perpetrators and sponsors of the killing in Benue State.
According to the Senate, the IGP should aside arresting those behind the crime in Benue State, extend his searchlight to Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Edo, Enugu and other areas where crime had taken place, with a bid to bring them to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
According to the Senate, the days of indifference complacency, negligence and impunity must come to an end.
The upper chamber also resolved to convene, as a matter of utmost urgency, a national security summit that would help examine the recurring violence and mayhem visited on rural communities before they become an existential threat to national cohesion and survival.
The summit would involve all the heads of security agencies at the federal level, governors, commissioners of police in the states and state chief judges.
Reps summon Interior Minister, IGP, service chiefs, others
Also, yesterday, the House of Reps members summoned Interior Minister, IGP, service chiefs and others.
Members upon resumption after the 2017 Christmas break had roundly condemned the killings and also resolved to find solution to the incessant nightmare by way of oversight functions and enduring legislation.
The resolution chiefly followed a motion titled “Need for the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on security over spate of deadly attacks in the country by suspected herdsmen”, sponsored by Hon. Babatunde Kolawale (Ondo State) and a similar one moved by Hon. Dickson Tarkighin from Benue State.
Consequently, the House set up a high-powered ad-hoc committee and mandated it to summon and interface with Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris and Service Chiefs to explain to the House the measures being put in place to forestall further attacks and loss of lives across the country.
Declare Miyetti Allah terrorist group — CAN
In a similar development, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has demanded that Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association be tagged a terrorist organisation as it, yesterday, accused the Muhammadu Buhari administration of pursuing an Islamist ideology based on hate against the tenets of the religion of Islam.
The association at a press conference at the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja, while rejecting the call for cattle colonies, also demanded the reorganisation of the leadership of security and educational institutions, saying nearly all of them were headed by Northern Muslims.
CAN Secretary General, Rev. Musa Asake, who addressed the press conference, also drew attention to alleged acts of bias by security forces in their engagements with terrorist groups.
Asake particularly cited an incident last month it said was confirmed by Air Force spokesman when Nigerian Air Force sent an Alpha Jet and an EC 135 attack Helicopter to fire “warning” shots at alleged Islamist militia attacking Christians in Numan, Adamawa State, but not to kill them.
He alleged that the attack aircraft subsequently bombed neighbouring Christian villages, leaving 50 persons dead but only fired warning shots at the attackers.
Frowning on the incapacity of the security forces, the CAN scribe demanded the resignation of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who the body flayed for repeatedly describing attacks by Fulani herdsmen as communal attacks.
He said: “In December 2017, an Air Force spokes person confirmed that the Nigerian Air Force sent an Alpha Jet and an EC 135 attack Helicopter to fire “warning” shots at Islamist militia attacking Christians in Numan, Adamawa state, but not to kill them! The villagers were later to report that the Jet actually bombed the Christian villages resulting in the death of over 50 people, while, the Nigerian Air Force said it merely fired warning shots at the Islamist militia attacking the villagers. This is jihad as we cannot understand fired ‘warning shots’ in the narrative of this attack.
“Under President Buhari, the murderous herdsmen enjoyed unprecedented protection and favoritism to the extent that the herdsmen treat Nigeria as a conquered territory. Rather than arrest and prosecute the Fulani herdsmen, security forces usually manned by Muslims from the North offer them protection as they unleash terror with impunity on the Nigerian people.”
14, 000 persons lost in Benue, Plateau — Lalong
Meanwhile, governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, has disclosed that over 14,000 persons had in the last few years been killed by suspected herdsmen in Benue and Plateau states.
He said the development called for concerted joint effort by both state governments to end the killings.
The governor, who led a delegation of Plateau State’s Elders Advisory Council to Benue State to commiserate with the government and people of the state over the New Year day killings in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state, said the onslaught against the two brotherly states by herdsmen should be stopped in the greater interest of all.
Represented by his Commissioner of Lands, Survey and Town Planning, Festus Fuater, the governor tendered a formal apology to the government and people of the state over his recent comments on the Benue killings.
He said: “We share in your pains and grief and we stand with you because we have also gone through this before and we know what it feels like. It is an onslaught against the people and we will overcome it.
“In the last few years, each of both of our states had lost over 7,000 lives to the activities of herdsmen in our various local government areas, that is the more reason we must come together to find a solution to the killings.”
Responding, Governor Samuel Ortom, who received the delegation, said he had earlier forgiven his colleague in Plateau State over the comment, stressing that the challenges being faced by both states should be a uniting factor for the governments and people of the two states.
“I pray God to help us overcome the challenges we face because whatever effects Plateau state also affects us in Benue and they are beyond us.
“I also apologize for my outburst over the comment made by my brother governor and I think that we need to get closer together now more than before and share ideas the more.
“The fact of the matter is that the grazing law we enacted in Benue is to ensure peaceful coexistence among herdsmen and farmers and not targeted at chasing anyone away from the state. It is a win win for everyone, livestock and crop farmers in the state alike.”