…Herdsmen, farmers now carry AK-47, Northern govs lament
…Say farmer/herder crisis would have been averted if livestock plan was implemented
…PDP intervenes in Ortom/Mohammed’s rift over herdsmen bearing AK-47 rifles
By Wole Mosadomi & Mary Therese-Nanlong
The Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, said yesterday that there was no other term to describe acts of banditry and kidnapping than terrorism, noting that banditry was designed to destroy Nigeria.
The NGF spoke on a day Northern governors lamented the proliferation of arms, including AK-47 rifles among herdsmen and farmers in the country.
Chairman of NGF and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, who stated this during a solidarity visit to Niger State governor, Abubakar Bello, in Minna over the abduction of students and staff of Government Science College, Kagara, by bandits, said the President and governors were worried about insecurity in the country.
He said: “At the level of the governors’ forum, we met last week and we came out with some specific ideas we have shared with the federal authorities but for us, our visit is in commiseration, solidarity and in identifying with you, the government, and the good people of Niger State.
“We want to reassure you that even this difficult time shall pass but we must put our heads together, put all our efforts together, demonstrate resilience, reassure our people not to give up hope because ultimately we can only defeat terrorism collectively, not in isolation.
“What we are witnessing is terrorism, there is no other name for it. We may call it banditry, kidnapping, these are the remnants of the actors in the north-east that have found themselves in other parts of the country. Whether they are known as ISWAP, Shekau faction, they are remnants of what we are still dealing with in that part of Nigeria.
“That is why we must not treat the north-east in isolation of this problem. We are all victims as long as any section of our country is ravaged by this problem.
“On behalf of all your brother governors, I want to assure our people in Niger State that we are all for Niger State. We shall not rest until we resolve the challenges we have here as we have in other states.”
Fayemi said the country cannot run away from the fact that the problem had to do with poverty, inequality, illiteracy and loss of hope among Nigerians.
“The ultimate agenda is to destroy Nigeria, let’s not make any mistake about it. It’s either we succumb to that agenda or fight it with every fibre in our being,” he said.
Responding, the Niger governor thanked his counterparts and expressed his happiness at the visit, describing it as a “morale booster.”
He said the state had always been peaceful but noted that there was an agenda by some groups to deprive “our young ones of having a good education.
“Everyone you see here has been on his/her toes praying for the safe return of the kidnap victims. Niger State has always been a peaceful state. Agreed from time to time we’ve had incidences of kidnapping but not to this magnitude.
“I think the time has come for us to come together and impose on the federal authorities to do the needful. I think there is need for the federal authorities to key in and work with state governments, so we are able to provide adequate intelligence and find a final solution to this menace.”
Also yesterday, Northern governors lamented the proliferation of arms, including AK-47 rifles among herdsmen and farmers in the country.
Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, who stated this in a Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, also said recurring farmers/herders clashes could have been averted, had states implemented the federal government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP.
Lalong, who insisted on ban of open grazing in the country to stave off the frequent clashes between farmers and herders, said: “Today, we are now seeing the hazard of allowing people do open grazing here and there.
‘’But they (herders) also want solution. By the time you explain to them, they also want to stay in one place, they would also stop carrying AK-47.
‘’I’m not justifying anybody to carry AK-47 but don’t forget that in the course of our deliberations and investigations, it was not only Fulani herdsmen that were carrying AK-47, even farmers were carrying AK-47.
‘’It is just proliferation of arms in respect to guarding themselves. Everybody is trying to protect himself, we shouldn’t allow self-help.
“At the time there were farmers-herdsmen clashes here (in Plateau), we arrested people, farmers also had AK-47 and the herdsmen were also holding AK-47 too.
‘’But if you want all of them not to hold AK-47 again, you must put deliberate efforts to curtail the influx of light arms and secondly find ways to take these people away from the old type of farming and then introduce them to the modern system.”
Speaking further, Governor Lalong said the country would have avoided the frequent clashes between farmers and herders, if the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP. was well implemented.
NLTP was proposed by former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, in 2018 and was adopted by the National Economic Council, NEC, headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
The plan, a voluntary initiative that allows state governments to implement whichever aspect they feel comfortable with, was to run for a period of 10 years, from 2019 to 2028.
But the governor expressed regrets that some states rejected the plan on the grounds that they didn’t have land for it.
“When we came and realised that what was really very prevalent was the Boko Haram and farmers-herdsmen issue, the national livestock plan was introduced.
‘’But when we got to the period of implementation, there were a lot of problems here and there, even from some regions of the nation.
‘’Some said they don’t want the national livestock plan because they don’t have the land. At that time, if the policy had been well implemented, today we would not have been talking about farmers-herdsmen crisis because that policy was well drafted,’’ he said.
The governor said some people did not care about reading the plan because they believed it was for a particular ethnic group.
He explained further: “Now people don’t even care about reading it. By the time ranching and grazing is mentioned, people believe it belongs to a particular ethnic group.
‘’We don’t even want to read what is contained in the policy to even talk about accepting it to be implemented in our various states. Now you can see the menace everywhere.
“The policy is still there, why don’t we go back and address this issue because it was specifically not only about grazing. It was to assist the farmers-herdsmen crisis and also empower the farmers and herdsmen to be kept in one place.”
Recall that the clashes between farmers and herders had caused verbal exchange between Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, who justified the bearing of arms by herders, saying they used such arms to protect themselves against cattle rustlers.
But Ortom and even Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, disagreed with the Bauchi State governor, contending that he (Governor Mohammed) was encouraging the herders to continue to kill innocent people in their ancestral lands.
In fact, the umbrage between Ortom and the Bauchi governor degenerated on Monday, as the Benue governor accused his Bauchi counterpart of being a part of the terrorist group terrorising Nigeria.
He also said Governor Mohammed should be held accountable should anything happen to him as, according to him, the Bauchi governor was profiling him for assassination by the herdsmen.
The disagreement between both governors of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has attracted the intervention of the party.