By Festus Ahon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Dennis Agbo & Chioma Onuegbu
Pondering the insecurity situation in the country, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has again asked President Muhammadu Buhari to act swiftly to put things under control, saying the country was being set on fire under his watch.
Spokesman of the group, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a Twitter post on Saturday night, said Nigerians living in any part of the country must be protected.
He also said there would be no attacks on Southerners living in the north as a response to the alleged attack on Northerners in the South.
“Attacking innocent southerners living in the north will not be the right response to attacks on northerners in the south.
“We should demand that Nigerians, wherever they are, must be protected. President and governors, do something, NOW! They are setting the country on fire under you!”
Still on the issue of insecurity, the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, and the World Igbo Congress, WIC, yesterday moved against open grazing in the country.
While the governor urged Nigerians to rise against open grazing and support ranching, the World Igbo Congress asked South-East governors to establish an enforcement team to implement the ban on open grazing in the region.
These came as Senior Special Assistant to the Akwa Ibom State Governor on Marketing and Brand Management, Mr. Ime Uwah, raised alarm weekend over invasion of his plantain farm by herdsmen.
Governors of Sokoto and Zamfara states, Aminu Tambuwal and Alhaji Bello Matawalle, also yesterday decried the security situation in Nigeria, saying the country’s insecurity challenges require concerted and collective efforts to resolve.
Nigeria on fire, act now, NEF tells Buhari, govs
The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, weekend asked President Muhammadu Buhari to act swiftly to put things under control, saying the country was being set on fire.
NEF was apparently reacting to the outbreak of violence in Shasha area of Ibadan, Oyo State capital, on Saturday, which reportedly led to the death of one person.
The property of residents and wares of traders in Shasha market were also destroyed, following which Governor Seyi Makinde ordered the market shut.
Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi, and chairman of South West Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, have condemned the violence in Ibadan, warning that the crisis could spread to other parts of the country.
Also, there has been rising tension over the activities of herdsmen in the South-West. Some herders have been accused of killings and kidnappings in the region.
On Sunday, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore said it will retaliate the killing of herders in any part of the country.
Time now to rise against open grazing — Okowa
Speaking while hosting the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, at Government House, Asaba, weekend, to condole with him on the death of his father, Governor Okowa said the time to rise against open grazing was now, especially
He said insecurity in the country is negatively impacting the socio-economic lives of Nigerians, insisting that one of the ways to check the trend is for herders to embrace ranching.
His words: “I am glad that many of my colleagues (governors) in the North are now beginning to show more reasoning towards the development of our nation because they have spoken loudly in their last meeting concerning the issue of open grazing.
“We are glad to hear that because that has been the voice mainly from the South, but has now been echoed by our colleagues (governors) in the North and I am truly very glad that they have boldly come out to speak about that because we must truly find ways to begin to encourage ranching.
“This is because, in the first instance, if we are able to find ways of having grazing reserves as they are proposing, I believe the cattle can be fed in such a way that they can grow bigger, have more meat, and it is more economical and many of the children can be free to truly go to school and be empowered.”
He added that another way to address the myriad of challenges arising from insecurity was to meaningfully engage the people in productive ventures through vocational and skills acquisition training programmes, saying that it is a flagship programme of his administration.
The governor pointed out that unless unemployment was seriously addressed, the rate of banditry and other criminalities in the country might continue to rise, adding that the nation might not exit from the challenges of insecurity.
“But, for those who want to take to the business of livestock farming, they can now be groomed, such that they can have more productive livestock rather than the one we get that trek long distances,” he said.
Okowa expressed hope that the call on the Federal Government to encourage ranching would be considered because it was a way out of reducing the farmers/herders crises, emphasising that ranching was a way of improving livestock economy in the nation.
He noted that ranching would be in the best interest of all Nigerians, as it will improve the family income and reduce insecurity in the land.
Earlier, Rev. Ayokunle had told the governor that he was at Government House on condolence to him and his family to commiserate with them on the passage of his father.
He expressed concern over the increasing rate of insecurity in the country and urged those in government to take urgent steps to address all security-related issues.
Set up enforcement teams, WIC tasks S-East govs
On its part, the World Igbo Congress, WIC, has asked the South East governors to establish an enforcement team to implement their ban on open grazing in the region.
The diaspora Igbo group also suggested that the governors could also transfer the enforcement contract to the Eastern Security Network, ESN, at no cost.
Public Relations Officer of WIC, Basil Onwukwe, said that there was no wrong way of doing the right things, noting that the South-East must support ESN “because volunteering to serve is an immeasurable gift to our nation and they must not be discredited or undermined by anyone.”
Onwukwe said the decision was reached after Igbo leaders across the world met last weekend under the auspices of the World Igbo Congress, hosted by board chairman, Prof Anthony Ejiofor.
WIC applauded steps the governors took to ban open grazing in their states, stressing that it is now time to match words with action by establishing an enforcement task force that will prosecute open grazing offenders and declare the use of bushes for human habitation a crime.
“We want to see Open Grazing Prohibition Task Force that will enforce the anti-grazing rules established in the states.
“There is an existing law against the destruction of farm produce in the Ministry of Agriculture and the governors need to enforce the law by establishing the task force. The government may transfer the ban enforcement to ESN at no cost.
“It was agreed that the action will eliminate herders /farmers clashes and bring an end to the use of bushes as a criminal hideout.
“World Igbo leaders also called on the Eastern governors and political leaders in the South-East to embrace the activities of the ESN for the protection of lives and properties of our homelands.
“All hands must be on deck now to ensure that the rate of killings, kidnappings, banditry, armed robbery, and other hideous crimes caused by herdsmen in South East are reduced drastically,” Onwukwe said.
A-Ibom gov’s aide cries over invasion of farm by herdsmen
Similarly, Senior Special Assistant to the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel on Marketing and Brand Management, Mr. Ime Uwah, has raised the alarm over the invasion of his farm by herdsmen.
Uwah said the farmland, located along Airport Road, Uyo, was first invaded by the suspected herders in July 2020, and again last Wednesday.
He revealed that after last year’s invasion, his farm manager challenged the herdsmen who rebuffed him and cut his hand with matchete.
According to him, the latest incident happened last Wednesday February 10, 2021, when the herdsmen set fire on another farm near his own, while the fire spread and destroyed over 400 stands of plantains in his farm.
Narrating his ordeal, Uwah said: “Sometime in July, last year, we had an incident where herdsmen passed through our farm land. They normally pass through the road, but recently they started entering our farms. That particular day when their cattle entered our farm, they destroyed our cassava and other crops.
“My farm manager approached them and in response, they decided to attack him and cut his hand. We followed up this matter with the relevant security agencies in the state, including the Police and the Civil Defence.
The Civil Defence has a unit that oversees matters of this nature and we were working with them to see who will pay for the treatment but to no avail.
“Just last Wednesday, they passed through the farm again and destroyed our plantation. They went and set fire on a farm land close to my own. The fire spread to my farm. Thereafter, we tried to put out the fire, they launched another attack.
“My people actually tried to put out the fire but I woke up that night to see fire again and this time it burnt down 400 stands of our plantation. They threatened anybody that got close to them. So it looked as if their aim was to burn down the entire plantation.”
However, the state police command is yet to confirm the invasion of the herdsmen as the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Odiko Macdon, did not pick his calls nor respond to text message at press time last night.
All leaders need to work together on insecurity — Sokoto, Zamfara govs
In a similar development, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, and his Zamfara State counterpart, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, yesterday decried the security situation in Nigeria, saying the country’s insecurity challenges requires concerted and collective effort to resolve.
The two governors who were in Boji-Boji, Owa, Ika North East Local Government Area, Delta State to commiserate with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on the demise of his father, Pa Arthur Okorie Okowa, stated this while speaking with newsmen shortly after the condolence visit.
Tambuwal, who is chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Governor’s Forum, stressed the need for all leaders to come together and work hard to save the situation.
He said: “Without security, there can be no development and there can be no peace and you need peace and security to govern and you also need peace and security to carry out business transactions and even worship, so it’s key and very fundamental for development in any society.
“So, my charge is that all of us as leaders must come together, irrespective of whatever views we may have in terms of approach to how the insecurity should be resolved.
“We should all be seen to be working together in coming up with a synergy and a template for resolving all of these conflicts.”
On the new service chiefs, Tambuwal said they should be given a chance to show their capacity to resolve the lingering insecurity issues in the country.
“They have just resumed and I think they should be given a chance to work. They know the issues and they know why all of us and many Nigerians came out to say that the other service chiefs should give way for new hands to come in and they should listen to the people and do what is required of them by securing Nigerians,’’ he said.
Matawalle on his part, lamented that Zamfara had been the epicentre of banditry in Northern Nigeria, adding that his administration has recorded a lot of successes using the kinetic and non-kinetic approach.
He said: “As a person, I couldn’t just fold my arms and watch my people being killed. We have been fighting that battle using two approaches, the kinetic and non-kinetic, and we have recorded some successes.
“We are all together, we are the same as one and we have been preaching peace because we want Nigeria to remain one. The security of the nation is not just for us as government but for all of us and we have lots of roles we can play as individuals, so we can be at peace as a nation.”