June 18, 2020

Keep foreign herders out of Nigeria

Benue residents alarmed as armed herdsmen take Otukpo-Ugbokolo-Otukpa-Orokam highway forests

File: herdsmen


THERE are three major security problems facing Nigeria. The oldest is the 11-year-old Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. The second is the so-called “Bandits” in the North West who have now penetrated Niger State in the North Central.

The third and the most insidious and deadly are the armed herders running riot all over the North Central, South East, South-South and South West. While President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has identified Boko Haram and the “Bandits” as enemies and deployed our fighting forces against them, the herders are treated with kid gloves.

In spite of the fact that the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, in 2018 rated the Nigerian Fulani militants as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world (behind Boko Haram, ISIS and Al Shabbab), Buhari’s government has never even admitted that they are a security threat to Nigerians.

Whenever the government reacts to any of their murderous onslaughts on hapless farmers it is described in official quarters as “farmers/herders clashes”. The President describes the armed herdsmen as “foreigners” without making enough effort to protect Nigerians from them.

Even when the President succumbs to pressure and orders action against them, the Police and law enforcement agencies often fail to take action, and it ends there. The President approved a Visa-On-Arrival policy last year, which many saw as a means of getting more of these dangerous foreigners into Nigeria where strenuous efforts are being made to confiscate people’s lands for RUGA and cattle colonies for the herders.

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We align fully with the calls by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, and the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, that the Federal Government should revoke the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of people with specific regard to the foreign herders. They appear to be the most violent of the herdsmen militias who are provocatively setting up settlements on people’s lands and forests.

They could plunge the nation into uncontrollable bloodshed. Their presence is capable of breeding warlords and ethnic conflicts that could spell doom for Nigeria as a country. The Federal Government should mobilise state agencies to flush these and other undesirable elements from our forests and allow our farmers to return safely to their farms.

Northern governors should emulate the good example of Governor Ganduje who has set up RUGA settlements for the herders where they and their livestock can live peacefully and productively and contribute to the economy.

Similarly, governors in the Middle Belt and South should encourage their indigenes to embrace modern livestock agriculture in addition to land cultivation. Every section of the country should be self-sufficient in land cultivation and livestock farming to give Nigeria food security.

Nomadism must be abolished. It is outdated and a source of bloodshed, sorrows and ethnic tensions.