VICE-President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, toured Internally-Displaced Persons, IDP, camps in Benue last week and announced the approval of N10 billion for the reconstruction of communities ravaged by armed herdsmen who have staged over 50 recorded attacks this year in Benue State alone, killing over 1,000 people.
According to him, a study set up by the President showed that the restoration of security, rebuilding of the communities and the return of displaced persons to their hometowns were the most pressing needs requiring urgent attention.
Critics have accused the Federal Government of attempting to “throw money” at the herdsmen crisis. Some have even accused it of taking these measures as a political gambit now that the political processes towards the 2019 general elections are gathering steam.
We caution, however, that no one should politicise the tragedy wrought by the armed herdsmen attacks on innocent citizens. It is true that the Federal Government sat on its palms for long while these herdsmen attacked and set fire to communities, destroyed farms and food barns, killed hundreds of people without mercy and sent thousands from their homes into refugee camps.
It was a major failure of governance. The herdsmen crisis, which has touched virtually every state in the Middle Belt and Southern parts of the country, has severely threatened the unity of this country.
But we are delighted that the Federal Government is taking commendable steps to address this issue, no matter how belatedly. In the past few weeks, especially since President Buhari returned from his US tour, the military activities in the Middle Belt, Operation Cat Race, Ayem Akpatuma, appear to be making some impact. Some of the bandits are being apprehended and their arms seized. The attacks appear to be de-escalating, though much remains to be done.
We encourage government to continue in these efforts until all bandits, be they armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers or ethnic militias, are stamped out. Law and order must be restored permanently. There is no way of achieving these noble objectives without spending money – lots of it. No other time is more auspicious than now, the onset of the farming season.
We are convinced that the N10 billion might be a mere drop in the basin in tackling this problem which affects no fewer than 26 states throughout the country. The FG must avoid a cosmetic approach to this problem. It must mobilise the backing of the states and local governments, donor supporters and the citizenry to achieve its three-pronged objectives.
Unless we halt the killings, rehabilitate the communities and restore the refugees to their homes, we may be faced with serious food scarcity. Besides, the impending elections might also be jeopardised.
Let the rehab effort start.