The Federal Government has said the country’s military manpower is not enough to secure every village in the Middle Belt region in order to stop incessant killings occasioned by herders and farmers’ clashes in the area.
It has, however, mandated the National Emergency Management Authority to rebuild villages in Benue State and ensure they are not far from one another.
The Federal Government also said that the farmers and herdsmen’s clashes which had led to loss of lives and property were caused by the influx of weapons into the country through the trans-Saharan routes.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, and the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, stated this on Thursday at a town hall meeting in Abuja on the farmers and herders’ clashes.
The meeting was convened by the Ministry of Information and Culture.
Ogbeh said as was the case in Argentina, Pakistan and Namibia, there were ongoing plans to generate electricity from cow dung when the government finally put the reserves in operation.
Speaking on the N10bn to be given to troubled states, the agriculture minister said the money would be used “to rebuild the devastated villages as all the Internally Displaced Persons in Benue State wanted to return home as quickly as possible.”
Ogbeh added, “I was with the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, in Benue State on Tuesday and the money announced is not only for Benue, which is apparently facing this crisis.
“The crisis in the IDP camps is very severe. Lots of women and children want to return home, but there are no homes. So, the idea is to rehabilitate the homes as quickly as possible to let them return home.
“Two, NEMA is redesigning the settlements in the villages to bring more communities together so that people don’t live too far apart. Otherwise, we don’t have enough security to guard every settlement. Unless you have units of 10 or 11 soldiers to guard each village, there is no way that the current security network can cover the needs of villagers who may be attacked in the afternoon or night. That was one of the things we studied on Tuesday.
“Three, we have to do everything we can to end these pastoral movements, slowly and in the large scale later. We have 415 reserves. Some have been encroached upon while others are still there. We have to provide water and grass, and protect the herdsmen from cattle rustlers, who are also Fulani.
“The Minister of Interior and I are working on agro-rangers being trained by the military to guard these places so that there can be peace within those communities.
“We can also then do what has been done in Pakistan, Argentina, and even Namibia here, by using the cow dung to generate electricity. These things we have designed and we are raising funds to start them.”
The convener of the meeting and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the clashes between farmers and herdsmen were connected with “demographic, environmental, social and economic dynamics and it will be a distortion to attribute the clashes to ethnic and religious reasons.”
Mohammed said, “In 1963, Nigeria’s population was 52 million. Today, it is about 200 million, yet the land space has remained the same. Against this background, the contest for land and other natural resources is bound to be keener, and the friction, more.
“There are various measures that have been taken by the Federal Government to stop these senseless killings and curtail the criminality that has fuelled the clashes. The Nigerian Air Force has deployed its Special Forces to the newly-established 23 Quick Response Wing in Nguroje, Taraba State. The NAF also has a 1,000-man Special Intervention Force deployed in Makurdi to degrade bandits and criminals in Benue and Nasarawa states.
“In the last two weeks, the Police Intelligence Response Team and the Police Special Forces, whose work cut across Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, arrested 11 suspects and recovered 10 AK-47 rifles and other firearms from them. These are just some of the arrests made by the security forces in recent days.”
The Defence Minister, Dan-Ali, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s reference to the herdsmen being trained in Libya was in relation to the infiltration of weapons into the country through the trans-Saharan routes.
He said, “There are no foreigners such as Chadians and Libyans coming into Nigeria. What we mean is that the crises in Libya motivated the coming in of arms and ammunition into the country through the trans-Saharan routes. This is the situation. To handle this, the Federal Government has set up a committee whereby a commission to tackle small arms is being looked into.”
Also, the Minister of Interior, Dambazau, said, “As a result of the crises in Libya, quite a huge number of weapons have found themselves into the country. It is not just in Nigeria, but the whole of the sub-region of the Economic Community of West African States.
“We have organised, in conjunction with ECOWAS, a conference on the movement of people and services. The whole idea is to control the movement of weapons. There is also the concept of biometrics to screen those people who enter Nigeria.”
Some of the delegates at the meeting, including the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Miyetti Allah Breeders Association, advised the government to work on establishing ranches, noting that that was the 21st century practice, and would guarantee lasting peace and security.
Buhari meets Army Chief on security
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday met behind closed doors with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting centred on efforts being made by the Army authorities to restore peace to troubled parts of the country.
Buhari disclosed this in a message he posted on his verified Twitter handle, @MBuhari, after the meeting.
The President said his administration’s commitment to peace and security of the country was total.
Buhari wrote, “I received a briefing from the Chief of Army Staff this (Thursday) afternoon.
“The Army recently established a new battalion in Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State, in addition to other deployments in troubled parts of the country.
“Our commitment to the peace and security of Nigeria is total.”
After the meeting, Buratai told State House correspondents that the Nigerian Army would collaborate with other security agencies to dislodge criminals who operate in the Birnin Gwari axis along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
He said concern over unabated killings of citizens was what informed the setting up of an army battalion in the area.
He said, “We will continue to cooperate with other security agencies that are charged with the responsibility of securing our country and the deployment of a unit there is quite strategic. It is in line with the Nigerian Army order of battle that was approved in 2016.
“We have to implement all of them to achieve the strategic objective of the government. This is essentially why we have to put the battalion there and to work with other security agencies.”
Buratai assured stakeholders that the ongoing Operation Last Hold by troops would further consolidate the army’s achievements against insurgents in the North-East.
He said the operation would culminate in the return of the Internally Displaced Persons to their communities.
“Rest assured that Operation Last Hold will further consolidate our achievements so far but we hope the IDPs will go back to their communities and pick up their lives again.
“I think that is the aim of this our Operation Last Hold. It is a consolidation of the overall successes that we have achieved in the North-East,” Buratai said.
Bandits, herdsmen kill 13 in Kaduna, Benue
But in spite of this assurance, 10 persons were reportedly killed by suspected bandits at Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State on Wednesday evening while three others, the police said, were killed on Thursday morning by Fulani herdsmen in communities in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
Scores were also said to be seriously injured in the Kaduna attack that took place in four villages in Gwari council.
But the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mukhtar Aliyu, said only seven persons were killed while five were injured in the attack, which he said, occurred on Wednesday night.
He said the bandits invaded Mashigi, Dakwaro, Sabongida villages on Wednesday night, shooting at anyone in sight and burning down houses and farmlands in the affected villages.
Aliyu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Austin Iwar, had ordered the immediate deployment of mobile police in the communities.
The villages raided by the bandits included Mashigi, Dakwaro, Sabongida and one other village close to Dakwaro.
The attack, according to another source, lasted for more than three and half hours.
He added that the bandits, who rode on motorbikes, killed people, burnt houses and foodstuffs in the villages they attacked.
The source added that the 10 bodies of those killed had been recovered from the bush while the volunteers and hunters as well as security operatives were still combing the bush for the missing persons.
A member of the Birnin-Gwari Vanguard for Security and Good Governance identified as Mallam Umar, said so far 10 bodies of the people killed had been recovered, while many were unaccounted for.
In the Benue attack, three persons were reportedly killed on Thursday morning by Fulani herdsmen in communities in Logo Local Government Area of the state.
According to a community leader in the council, who is also former media aide to erstwhile governor of the state, Joseph Anawah, the attackers invaded Tse Mue, Torka, Mbagba, Toryem and Ifer all in Ukem Beragya and Gaambe_ Tiev communities in Logo LGA around 6am.
The Commissioner of Police Benue State Command, Fatai Owoseni, confirmed the attack, saying that three people lost their lives during the attack.
“While l was at the security council meeting today (Thursday), l received a report that suspected herdsmen attacked people in Timbe village along the Anyiin – Wukari Federal Highway, killing three people. But men of the Rapid Response Squad have been drafted to the areas to forestall further attack,” Owoseni said.
Also, Governor Samuel Ortom confirmed the attack during a courtesy call on him by the Minister of State II for Works, Transport and Energy, Suleiman Zarma.