…Where are they being tried, ACF asks
…We’re unaware of our members being prosecuted — Miyetti Allah spokesman
…No knowledge of FG prosecuting criminal herders — NEF
…Publish names of herders being tried anywhere in Nigeria — Afenifere
…We want action against herdsmen, not words — PANDEF
…Try leaders of Miyetti Allah to start with — MBF, Benue tribal leaders tell FG
By Kingsley Omonobi, Evelyn Usman, Peter Duru, Luminous Jannamike, Davies Iheamnachor, Henry Ojelu, Olayinka Ajayi & Ibrahim Hassan
Following criticisms that President Muhammadu Buhari was taking a soft approach to the farmers/herders’ crisis in the country, the Presidency said, yesterday, that many criminal herdsmen were being tried and convicted across the country.
It also challenged Force Headquarters to publish names of herders being prosecuted and those convicted for Nigerians to be convinced of its efforts at dealing with the problems posed by the herders.
However, the Presidency’s claim drew the ire of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, who both dismissed it.
While the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, said it was not aware of trial of criminal herdsmen anywhere in the country, the Middle Belt Belt Forum, MBF, and Benue tribal leaders asked the Presidency to start with the trial of Miyetti Allah leadership to convince Nigerians it was serious about dealing with the criminal herdsmen.
But speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, yesterday, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said: “I hope the police will take responsibility and publish the full list of Fulani herders who are undergoing trial in various states, particularly in Benue State.
“Trials are going on, convictions are being made and the President cannot be complicit in the kind of things that are being said of him.”
‘President aware of security situation’
He also said the President is fully aware of the country’s security situation and is working to ensure the safety of lives and properties.
“The President is more than concerned about the ongoing situation, and he is fully conscious of the fact that it is the responsibility of his government to work with all Nigerians to secure lives and stop the ongoing crises, whether they are kidnapping or ethnic hatred and violence. He condemns it.
“It is for community leaders – local, traditional, and elected – to work with the President. The country’s military, as we speak, is over-stretched because they are active in at least 34 of the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT.
“The Air Force, the police are recruiting, day and night; people are being trained in special operations and are being sent to the forest.”
Shehu also disagreed that the President has not condemned the herdsmen’s violence. In the country, saying “when Femi Adesina or myself speak for the President, people should accept that it is the President that is speaking.
“For this President, it is the actions that should speak for him. He is not a showman. He doesn’t have to be there. And let’s be understood, we are not trying to personalise anything. Senator Abaribe dwelt a lot, attacking President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that he has not, even at a rhetorical level, spoken against this kind of violence.
“That is most uncharitable. This country has problems. It requires the involvement of everyone. All hands must be on deck.”
‘Criminal herdsmen being treated with kid gloves’
Earlier on the same programme, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, had accused the President of treating criminal herdsmen with kid gloves.
Abaribe had said: “The President needs to come out and say I do not support these types of actions, these criminal elements. He has to come out and everybody sees that he is owning this problem.
“But we have never heard it. Where did the President ever say that these criminal herdsmen will never be tolerated in this country? What we’ve heard from 2016 all the way down is live in peace with your neighbour and ‘try to accommodate your countrymen’ and stuff of that nature.
“That now emboldens those who are committing these crimes, that there is no punishment. When you see eruptions here and there, targetted at a particular segment of people, you should be very worried. Why you should be worried is: What is it that gives these people the impetus to continue to commit these crimes?”
But reacting yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary, NBA, Dr Rapulu Nduka, said: “We live in a nation without veritable statistics. Government officials reel out figures in the course of an argument, figures that are not from verifiable sources. But the government should be clear that the menace has reached an alarming height.
“The posture of the government gives the impression that it is complicit in the whole issue. The criminal herders have become more brazen, and we merely pray, wishing it doesn’t come close. Until the government tackles insecurity, no one is sure of the next victim. Government officials should stop playing with words and get serious.”
Where are they being tried? ACF asks
Reacting, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, said “Where are they being tried that we don’t hear of it? The government must be more honest with us.”
Publish names of herders on trial anywhere in Nigeria – Afenifere
Also reacting, the Pan-Yoruba Socio-political organization, Afenifere yesterday berated the Presidency for declaring that criminal herdsmen were being tried and convicted across Nigeria.
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said: “The Presidency is completely out of this world. Where and when are these criminal herders being tried and convicted?
“Why would they be coming up with lies? I challenge both Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu to publish the names of the criminal herders that are being tried anywhere in Nigeria.”
We want to see action against herdsmen not words — PANDEF
In its reaction, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, stated it was more interested in actions against killer herdsmen and not mere threat.
The National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said government does not need to announce the development if it was sincere.
He said: “Does the Federal Government need to announce that? That is one of the tactics they have been employing to deceive Nigerians, on their sentimental attachment to this killer herdsmen.
“They don’t need to announce it. Do they need to announce that? Did they announce to prosecute any kidnapper or armed robber in the country? Why will they announce that they are prosecuting killer herdsmen?
“These people parading as herdsmen, as we have said before, are not herdsmen, they are marauders, they are terrorists, carrying AK-47, going about terrorising and intimidating citizens, forcibly taking lands and molesting farmers, destroying the livelihoods of our people and government is sitting down and watching.
“Today, they are waking up and saying they are prosecuting killer herdsmen; it’s not true. It is absolutely ridiculous. It is painful that officials of this administration will be conducting themselves in this ridiculous manner.
“We want to see action. From 2016 till date, it is in 2021 they are saying they are prosecuting killer herdsmen, that is laughable.
“They just woke up from their sleep to know that these boys are threatening the unity of this nation? Are they are just finding out now that these actions will throw the nation into ethnic and religious crisis? Are they just waking up to this reality?
“Federal Government should be serious. This is a country and not a banana republic. This is a country of over 200 million people and the government of Nigeria needs to act more responsibly and be determined to protect lives and property of all Nigerians, no matter where they come from and their religion.
“We want to see tangible action. We want to see these men arrested. We want to see these men flushed out of Nigeria. We hear a lot of these men are not Nigerians, they are foreigners terrorising Nigerians in their own land and the government is sitting, folding its arms and watching? It is unacceptable.”
Arrest, try leaders of Miyetti Allah to start with, MBF, Benue tribal leaders tells FG
Also reacting yesterday, the National President of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said there is no truth in the claim by the Presidency that criminal herdsmen were being arrested and tried across the country.
He said: “What we know is that there are some instances in Zamfara State where some of these people were apprehended as kidnappers.
“It has been in the news but beyond the Zamfara case which is about kidnappers. When they were massacring people in Benue, Niger and other places, we did not have any record of anyone apprehended over the years.
“We also have instances in Kaduna where kidnappers, about three years ago, killed a traditional ruler and some people were apprehended.
“We have these examples but beyond that, in the Middle Belt, there have been killings and nobody is arrested. Even when Miyetti Allah laid claim to the killings, nobody was ever arrested.
“So I think what we can say as a response to what they have said is that they have adopted selected approach to the whole thing. Because in Zamfara, we saw example, in Kaduna yes, after the outcry that trailed the killing of the traditional ruler.
“Beyond that, there isn’t any other example. In fact, in Adamawa where some youths went to fight back after the atrocities of the herdsmen, they were detained and are still in court. But the Fulanis were left to go scot free.
“In fact, we must say the manner the Federal Government is going about the matter has lots of bias in favour of the Fulanis.”
Benue tribal leaders:
On his part, Chairman of Benue tribal leaders and President General of Mzough U Tiv Worldwide, Chief Iorbee Ihagh, said: “The leader of Miyetti Allah stays in Abuja and says a lot of things and nobody calls him to order or arrests him, even when they claimed responsibility for the Benue crisis.
“He said that they can stay anywhere and do whatever they want to do and nothing will happen to them. Imagine such utterances.
“So, it is not true that they are arresting and trying herdsmen. They should start with the arrest and trial of the leaders of Miyetti Allah who claimed responsibility and justified the Benue killings. Until that is done, we are not convinced,” he said.
We’re not aware of FG’s prosecution, conviction of criminal herders – NEF
Similarly, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, which is an elite association of statesmen in the North, said it was not aware of the fact that herders were being tried and convicted across the country for illegal activities.
Speaking with Vanguard yesterday NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, maintained that while it would be reassuring to believe the presidential spokesman, the nation does not know of the convictions against the criminal herders
He said if such court judgements were truly made, it would only be right for the authorities to publish the names of suspects and convicts, even if their trials were in secret.
Baba-Ahmed said: “It will be reassuring to believe this (Garba Shehu’s comments). But the nation does not know of these thousands of trials and convictions, unless these are secret trials.
“If Shehu’s revelation is true, the names and other details of suspects and trials should be made public. This is one way the bandits will know that they can be prosecuted.
“Citizens will also know that government is serious about this problem of insecurity affecting the nation.”
‘Twisted’ comments won’t let new service chiefs thrive, CAN tells Presidency
Reacting last night, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, said recent comments from presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, will not allow for the good performance of the new service chiefs in the fight against criminal herders in parts of the country.
CAN’s Vice Chairman (Northern region), Revd. John Hayab, told Vanguard yesterday that no matter how good President Muhammadu Buhari’s intentions are concerning securing the nation, the new service chiefs cannot succeed unless the Presidency refrained from making ‘twisted’ comments about the war against criminal herders.
Hayab said: “We have stopped taking Garba Shehu’s words seriously after he denied the kidnapping of over 300 school boys, claiming that only 10 were taken away, though he later apologised for twisting the facts.
“But we ask: Is there any law that compels government appointees to speak even when they know that what they are saying is not true? Must they speak about everything? Government appointees should always think about the pains victims are going through and ask themselves how will the victims or their relations feel when they hear a matter that affects them is being twisted by a person that should sympathise and speak kind words to them?
“No responsible Nigerian should see government appointment as a licence for rascality or twisting serious matters. If thousands were being prosecuted and convicted, Garba Shehu should tell us: Which courts tried their cases and which prison are they serving their sentences?
“This is another way the seat of power is defending the criminals herders. We advise Shehu to seal his mouth and allow the new service chiefs to do practical work that will make Nigerians heave a sigh of relief.”
We’re unaware our members are being prosecuted – Miyetti Allah spokesman
The Publicity Secretary of Miyetti Allah in Kaduna State, Malam Ibrahim Bayero, told Vanguard yesterday they were not aware of any of their members being prosecuted for violent crimes.
Bayero, who was reacting to the claim by the Presidency, said none of its active members was under any trial for any known or suspected crimes.
“We are not aware of any of our active members being tried for any form of criminal activity as claimed by the government.
“That is not even our concern for now. Our main challenge at the moment is how to cope with the quit notice issued our members by South West governors who have now relocated to Kaduna and other parts of the north.
“We are traumatised for now and we need urgent help from those who can assist us,” the scribe said.
Efforts to get the reaction of spokesman of Force Headquarters, CP Frank Mba, on when the police will publish the names of herders on trial and those convicted proved abortive as calls to his mobile number were not answered. A text message sent to his line was also not replied.
But a source at Force Headquarters confirmed that some herders had been arrested over various crimes bordering on rape and murder in some parts of the country.
According to the sources, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State recently confirmed the arrest of over 300 herders, with over 900 heads of cattle and sheep, in the last three years, for violating the state’s Open Grazing and Ranches Law of 2017.
Although Police sources could not state if the Force would be publishing names of herders arrested, he said some of those arrested were charged to court and should be serving their jail terms. Sources further highlighted some of the arrests to include that of four herders recently in Plateau State, for allegedly raping some minors.
Their names were given as Hamisu Mohammed, 18, Rayanu Mohammed, 15, Mustapha Yunusa, 15, and Abbas Salisu, 17.
Police sources said: In July, 2019, three herdsmen were arrested for allegedly killing a 40-year-old farmer, Rafiu Sowemimo. Two other herdsmen, Abu Adamu and Muhammadu Aliyu, were arrested in the same state for alleged armed robbery and rape. We have made arrest of many of them. We can’t readily state the number of arrest made so far”.