Bandits are displaced herdsmen — MIYETTI ALLAH
igeria falling apart, NEF, Afenifere, MBF, PANDEF tell FG

*Wake up to your responsibility —NEF spokesman

*FG should do the needful —Afenifere

*Present govt may midwife disintegration of Nigeria —Middle Belt Forum

*Let’s work together to end reign of terror —PANDEF

*Blame governors for rise in banditry — Miyetti Allah

By Dapo Akinrefon, Peter Duru & Davies Iheamnachor

LAGOS — One of the umbrella bodies of herdsmen in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, said yesterday that herders are facing many challenges from hostile host communities, including vigilante groups and other criminal elements who rustle cows in the country.

This came as popular Islamic scholar, Ahmad Gumi, insisted yesterday that bandits be granted amnesty.

According to him, the bandits will not let go of their arms if they are not assured of their safety and rehabilitation.

Spokesman of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Hassan, who stated this, said some displaced herders in the country who were dispossessed of their cows, have ended up becoming bandits terrorising Nigerians, especially through kidnapping.

Hassan said it is unfair to label every herder a criminal, adding that it is sad that herders had been singled out for victimisation.

He said the herders-cum-bandits were fighting an economic fight of survival and not an ideological fight.

According to him, states banning open grazing and chasing out herders from their domains are unknowingly creating crisis for themselves.

States, including Benue, Ekiti and Ondo, among others, have enacted laws against open grazing to stave off constant clashes between herders and farmers.

Blame govs for rise in banditry

He also said some bandits were herders who became radicalised after they lost cattle as a result of the ban placed by some governors on open grazing. 

Alhassan said:  “Let him ( Ganduje) put in place the infrastructure. Kano is a semi-arid state. What has he provided even to the herders in Kano? Kano is a heavily cultivated area during the dry season. So, what alternative have you provided for the herders? It is not about cheap idle political talks. These are real issues.

“Like, I have the capacity to absorb 10,000 herders. This is what I have provided for them. This is where they will water their animals. This is where they will get their feeds. You don’t just come and say they should move to Kano. If they move to Kano, are they going to be in his government house? It is not stuffing dollars. I’m sorry to say that.

“The crisis of bandits in the north-west is because of some of the activities of the governors in the past. They put pressure on the herders. They lose their cattle. They have no business. Now, they have joined bandits. They are not spirits. They have reasons why they emerged as bandits. If you destroy grazing, you are going to create another problem. They destroyed their economy. They have no cattle and they got radicalised.

“Our members are peaceful herders. We have bandits; we have criminal elements in the forest. They are not necessarily herders. It is the responsibility of the security forces to identify the criminals, isolate them and deal with them according to the laws of the land. There are herders dwelling in the forest, doing their peaceful economic activities, which is cattle rearing.”

Grant bandits amnesty, Gumi restates

Meanwhile, Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic cleric, has said if bandits were not assured of their safety and rehabilitation, they will not let go of their arms.

Gumi, who reiterated his earlier call for amnesty for bandits during a virtual event hosted by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies to discuss Nigeria’s security challenges, said he saw no reason government should not dialogue with bandits who were willing to negotiate.

He said: “Nobody can justify criminality, what we are saying is that what we saw in the forest is an ethnic war going on between people in the forest and the neighboring villages and hamlets. 

“When the herder felt he has grievances and nobody was listening to him, he took up weapons.

“So, when we went there and they saw a listening ear, they were ready to negotiate, tell us their grievances, and ready to incorporate into the society. So in such a case, I see no reason we should not dialogue with them.’’

Gumi said if the bandits were not shown that they would be safe when reintegrated into society, they would not give up their arms.  He also reiterated that they should be given amnesty in the same vein as the Niger Delta militants.

“Looking at their educational status, they don’t have any official or unofficial education. How can a nation which is serious about security leave a chunk of its society so uneducated, leave it to arms and drugs? 

“I don’t think that society is serious. How can we disperse them, rehabilitate them because they are holding arms to protect themselves?

“If you don’t show them they are safe in the larger society, there’s no way they can leave their weapons. And that’s why we asked for amnesty for them, just like we had in the Niger Delta.

“I’m not justifying their kidnapping, what they do is crime. But their kidnapping is to get more money to buy more weapons so they can protect themselves,” Gumi said.

Wake up to your responsibility – NEF spokesman

Also yesterday, spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said yesterday that Nigeria is falling apart, and asked the Federal Government to wake up to its responsibility.

Baba-Ahmed, who spoke against the backdrop of high-level insecurity when he featured on Arise Television, said the territorial integrity of the country was being threatened by insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes driving fear down the spines of Nigerians.

His declaration was re-echoed by the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and the Middle Belt Forum which asked the government to save the country from drifting into collapse.

The Northern Elders Forum spokesman, who frowned on the slow governance style of the government, said: “If I have an opportunity to speak with the President, I will say ‘Sir, please wake up and smell the coffee, this country is falling apart.’

“It is in very serious danger, it is going down under your watch. You swore in 2015 and again in 2019 that you will protect citizens, the territorial integrity of Nigeria. Sorry, sir, you are not doing that, doing it well or you are not doing it at all.

“One of the things you should do is to call about 200 to 500 Nigerians, without any preconditions, and say: “Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that this government will benefit from some quality advice in terms of the way forward.

“Two, take your governors more into confidence, speak to them. They are very important people. They have responsibilities under the constitution and they are able to carry out those responsibilities, particularly on matters of security. 

“What do you want? What can we do together? What can I do for you and what can we consider a legitimate idea or a crazy idea?

“Thirdly, please ask real questions about what is going on with the security in this country. Something is wrong. You keep changing things but we see the same result. We are becoming insecure by the day. 

“Either it is your attitude as commander-in-chief of the armed forces or the people you trust to defend and protect us. There must be something about the security that you and the people who are fighting this country don’t understand.

“Why are we being so insecure? Why is it not possible for Nigerians to deal with banditry, kidnappings? These things two, three years ago did not exist. Is anybody asking these questions? 

“Is it that you have this harmony in your security agencies? Do you have a way of finding out because we don’t have the time for you to fix this country at your own leisure and the rate you are going, you are too slow and people are smelling a vacuum around your government and this is why you see people saying we don’t want to be part of Nigeria.

“That’s an expression of opinion. When these opinions intensify and become popular as we are beginning to see in some parts of the South-West, South-East, you now have citizens who are now legitimately beginning to think this country represents a threat to us, we don’t want to be part of this country.

“What happened to the country, to the oath you took to protect Nigeria? Those are the kinds of questions I will ask Mr president. Hopefully, he will have some answers and if he doesn’t, the solution will be to ask those who know.”

FG should do the needful — Afenifere

Though Afenifere was in support of issues raised by the NEF spokesman, its leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, pleaded with the Federal Government to take action to reverse the current insecurity in the country, stressing that time for making statements was over.

Adebanjo said: “FG should do the needful. We are tired of people making statements. All we are talking about is clear, it should do what is needful. We have passed the age of making statements.”

FG may midwife disintegration of Nigeria — Middle Belt Forum

Reacting in a similar manner, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, described as apt and correct, the call by the Northern Elders spokesman on the Federal Government to wake up as Nigeria is falling apart under its watch.

National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said Nigeria had already fallen apart, warning that what was left was its dismembering. He said: “That statement is apt and correct. In fact, I can even go as far as saying Nigeria has fallen apart. What is left is for the breakages to be identified by their different names.

“From all indications, everybody wants it, maybe including the federal government because the way the government is acting is an indication that it doesn’t care.

“While these things are happening on a daily basis, leading to even attack on governors,  insecurity has gone beyond comprehension and yet the  government is still not doing anything that anyone can write home about.

“It is an unfortunate thing and it should be more than a wake up call because the present government has been informed severally. 

“So the government needs not only to wake up but also act because it is now beyond waking up. It has been receiving security reports on daily basis.

“The Federal Government knows that the security men know where the bandits, armed herdsmen militia and Boko Haram terrorists are and instead of bombing them out of existence, it is still playing kids’ games and wearing kid gloves to fight them.

“It doesn’t seem to care. So that statement is very good and correct. I must say that the government has had all the opportunities and we have given it all the backing. Unfortunately, it has failed.

“So know what to do because this government will go down in history as they that midwifed the disintegration of Nigeria.’’

Let’s work together to end reign of terror — PANDEF

Although the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, concurred with NEF’s position, it, however, advised Northern elders to be consistent on their stance on the present situation in the country.

PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said in Port Harcourt yesterday that for crime to reduce in the country, all leaders must work together and speak the truth at all times.

He said: “There have been concerns about the workings of this government and PANDEF has had a level of relationship with the northern elders at some point or the other, particularly on issues leading to the 2019 elections. 

“Those concerns show that it is not everyone in the North that is happy with what is going on in the country. There are patriotic Nigerians across the country who are not happy with what is happening. “Their worry is that Nigeria has not been this divided. But our concern with the Northern elders is that they are inconsistent. Sometimes they play to the gallery, at other times, they say what seems to be the reality. 

“We want to appeal to them as notable leaders of Nigeria that they should be consistent, whether it is a Fulani issue, Hausa, Yoruba or Niger Delta. They should be consistent.

“It is shameful that a governor could be attacked and the persons responsible will come out to say they did it and nothing has happened to rein them in.

“We are calling on leaders to stand firm and speak the truth at all times. Whether it concerns you directly or not, that is the best way the nation will remain united.”

ACF mum

The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, chose to remain mum on the issue as, according to the National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, “we don’t exchange words with NEF. They hold their opinion, we hold our own.”

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