By Emma Una
CALABAR- PRIOR to 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, there were series of killings by herdsmen in middle belt states which were caused by struggle for land and pasture.
Vice President Yomi Osinbajo who stated this in Calabar while addressing church leaders and pastors on Tuesday said the killings could be traced to as far back as 1999 and have continued until now.
“We as a government have a responsibility to protect the lives of our people but we also understand clearly, what is happening precedes this administration
“In Plateau State for a start, there were several killings since 1999 and in 2001, there was a state of emergency there where a civilian governor was sacked and replaced with a military administrator yet the killings continued until 2015”.
Osinbajo stated that the Buhari administration was able to stop the killings in that state when it assumed office in 2015 and for two years until the end of 2017 when the people celebrated two years of no killings in the state but unfortunately it resumed in 2018
He said the killings are not a Muslim /Christian conflict but a struggle for land, pasture and water which is the reason there are killings in Zamfara state where those killed are Muslims
“It is convenient for some people to conclude that because the President is a Muslim and a Fulani that is why the killings are taking place but why would a leader want to kill the people who elected him and if you recall, the President won in Benue State -the conflict is strictly a herders /farmers crisis”.
The Vice President said the government is advocating for ranching to address the situation because the number of cattle is increasing in the country and can only get enough pasture through that method.
We cannot continue to have cattle everywhere so every state government has a right to determine whatever way it wants to do with ranching which has to be paid for by those using the ranch because the federal government has no land or funds to establish ranches”.
Speaking on the Leah Sharibu continued kidnap by Boko Haram, the Vice President said the process of negotiation is tedious and full of uncertainty therefore nobody can say definitely when she and other remaining Chibok girls would be released.
“Under the circumstances Boko Haram has been split into two and function independent of each other so we have to do go through it painstakingly”.
He however assured that the government is doing all it can to negotiate with the two groups and ensure the release of the girls and return them to their parents
Earlier, Dr Lawrence Ekwok, the Chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, and Cross River State asked the Vice President questions on the continued killings by herdsmen, what the government is doing about the release of Leah Sharibu and the continued communal crisis between the people of Ukelle and Izzi of Ebonyi State.