By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—A group of senior legal practitioners, under the aegis of Lawyers Alert, yesterday, expressed worry over what it described as President Muhammadu Buhari’s non-responsiveness to wanton killings and destruction of properties by marauding herdsmen.
The group, in a statement signed by its President, Mr. Rommy Mom, said it was perturbed that President Buhari had yet to visit Benue State and other areas pillaged by herdsmen.
It maintained that President Buhari has stayed “largely quiet” on the increasing cases of attacks by armed herdsmen, saying the “implication of what is happening in Benue State is the apparent notion that herdsmen are somehow above the law.”
The lawyers stated: “While these attacks did not begin with Buhari’s administration, the killings appear to have escalated dramatically under Buhari’s watch.
“Rather than comprehensively addressing the issue and protecting citizens’ right to life, the Buhari administration is exhibiting the same helplessness Nigerians experienced with the Jonathan administration’s handling of the Boko Haram threat.
“For instance, Jonathan chose not to visit Borno even as Boko Haram ruthlessly plundered its way across most parts of the north and gradually earned a reputation as the most vicious terror group in the world. By the same token, President Buhari is yet to visit especially Benue, the state most pillaged by herdsmen.
“In fact, a recent state visit that took him to neighbouring Nasarawa State on February 6, 2018, somehow neglected to include a stopover in Benue as part of the itinerary.”
The legal group demanded the immediate resignation of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Idris, accusing him of being “increasingly partisan.
I”On the whole, the implications of what is happening in Benue is massive. The entire Benue valley/basin is now an unsecured environment wherein farmers can no longer go to their farms.
‘’IDP camps have become a regular feature even as Benue remains in the top 4 states with a high population of IDPs as reported by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
“According to the IDMC, Benue has approximately 85,393 (eighty five thousand, three hundred and ninety three) displaced persons and these are even figures from 2015.
“For a Government that prides itself on the need to diversify our economy in favor of agriculture and food security, its response to the crisis exhibits either an abject lack of commitment to that pledge or dismal ignorance of the vital role Benue plays in the agriculture sector in Nigeria.
“Another implication of what is happening in Benue is the apparent notion that herdsman are somehow above the law. Instead of arrest and prosecution, we have security agencies requesting that laws be suspended or repealed.
“Equally irksome is the suggestion of establishing “cattle colonies”, mooted by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. With regard to this idea, Lawyers Alert posits that the issue of cattle ranches and colonies, be totally suspended in States like Benue, at least until the menace of herdsmen is traced to its roots and destroyed. Healing, rehabilitation and reconciliation should be the only priorities at this time.
“Most importantly, there must be a holistic approach to the issue of marauding herdsmen and loss of lives in the Benue basin. A solution would have to be thought through with the active participation of communities and stakeholders.
“Security agencies, especially the Police are becoming increasingly partisan, with the Police Public Relations Officer openly calling the Governor of Benue State a drowning man during a talk show on Channels. Lawyers Alert completely supports the Resolution of the House of Representatives calling on the Inspector General of Police to resign.
“Offices are not just meant to be occupied, but to be occupied for functionality. The functionality of the Inspector General’s office is in question and we call for his immediate resignation in line with the House of Representatives resolution.
“President Buhari’s non-responsiveness to the situation by staying largely quiet, refraining from making assurances to the people of Benue people in line with his mandate to protect them, is sad.’’