Senate yesterday condemned reported killings by herdsmen, as it set up a six-man ad hoc committee to investigate the suspected marauding herdsmen across the country.
Members of the committee are Senators Ben Murray Bruce for South-South, Mao Ohuabunwa for South-East, Ali Ndume for North-East, Ishaka Adeleye for South-West, Abdullahi Adamu North-Central, and Shehu Sani for North-West.
This was sequel to a motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi titled ‘The Gory Massacre of the People of Nimbo Community of Uzo Uwani LGA of Enugu State.’
The committee was one of the resolutions taken after debate of the motion, and the other was observing a minute silence in memory of those who were killed in the attacks in Nimbo Community.
It urged the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and other relevant agencies to urgently dispatch relief materials to the community and other neighbouring communities.
The session chaired by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu also called on the security agencies to improve intelligence gathering capabilities and be proactive rather than reactive to threats to internal security.
It also called on security agencies to enforce the laws on arms bearing by unauthorised persons among many others.
Senator Murray Bruce while contributing at debate said the herdsmen were now considered one of the worst terrorist organisations in the world, saying they were a deadly force turning Nigeria into a very dangerous country.
“They have killed more people in Nigeria on an annual basis than Boko Haram. Calculate it, it’s true they are very dangerous but here is my problem, they killed more people than Boko Haram and I will be happy to provide the statistics. But here is the problem, the problem is a very serious one; people who cannot remember, history this is how the civil war started. My problem right now is when regular people start retaliating and that day is here, and that day is now. When retaliator begins, the civil war was fought in a conventional passion; one army is facing another army, you are going to have a guerrilla warfare.
“It is not a war anybody can win, it will cause a destruction of Nigeria. We must urge the Nigerian government to take action to disarm cattle rearers. As far as I am concerned, you need a licence to own a gun; nobody has a right to own a gun without a gun certainly outside the theatre of war.
“This is a very, very serious issue; motion after motion have been presented here from the north, from the south, from the east to the west, everybody is affected but what is going to happen now people are going to read religion and ethnicity into this fight; once that happens, illiterates who did not have the knowledge that we have will start retaliating and that day is now.
“What some people have not said is retaliation is taking place as we speak, retaliation is taking place as we speak. The war has already started; it is not war anyone can win. We urge the government to take action, not just talk about it but take action and stop this blood bath; this has to stop!”
For Senate Leader Ali Ndume he noted: “I want to first of all condole with the people of Enugu North where our distinguished colleague, Utazi is representing. The incident that happened there is one among many, but very, very sad. Mr President, I want to appeal to us to take issues that bother on security and the welfare of our citizens very serious. In fact, it is the main purpose of government as stated in our constitution, section 14, subsection 2; the main purpose of government is security and welfare of its citizens.
“This problem of what we now call herdsmen community has been there raging at every time. First we started saying it’s Fulani, but it has been proven that they are not involved because we know that Fulani are used to carrying sticks, but we see these people with AK 47, we see people moving from one community to the other.
“I listened to contributions of our colleagues but it is more of lamentations instead of proffering solutions, and we are senators in the high chamber in this country; we should go beyond that; we should just not stop at motions. We should say what do we do in order to forestall this kind of problem. I don’t want to believe that somebody will come from Mali and go to Enugu and kill people; I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to also believe that the Fulani man who has been there will do so.
“When I was doing my NYSC in 1982, surprisingly, I met a Fulani man in Ogun State who could not speak Hausa but he speaks Fulani and Yoruba, and I cannot speak Yoruba or Fulani very well. But today, the Fulani we find today when we discover that he was not Fulani something has to be done, and we at Senate will not continue to stay here.
“Senator Emmanuel Bwacha raised a motion here that Boko Haram are claiming to be Fulani herdsmen and invading, robbing and killing people. There was emotional inspiration and arguments here but later on the IGP and the Minister of Interior confirmed that. So as a Senate we have to be serious and we have to put our thinking cap on what do we do.
“We need to call the people that are involved; we need to conduct public hearing; we need to investigate this thing; we need to come up with very concrete steps that will take this country to address this matter before it gets out of hand. We played around with Boko Haram the last time and see where we find ourselves. When it started they were looking for scapegoats; they were blaming it; they say it’s Muslims killing Christians; before you know it everybody was being killed.”
…S/East Senate Caucus warns of threat to Nigeria’s unity
Rising from an emergency meeting yesterday, South-East Senate Caucus warned of imminent danger and possible attack on the unity of Nigeria, if the federal government failed to urgently address the Enugu massacres by marauding Fulani herdsmen.
Rising from an emergency meeting in Abuja, the senators did not only condemned the attack which left over 50 persons dead and scores driven out of their homes, but also called for a summit of South-East and South-South state governors, members of National and state Houses of Assembly, socio-cultural associations, traditional rulers and major stakeholders immediately.
The emergency summit, according to the lawmakers, is to review and evaluate the very scary situation and proffer a coordinated response that would ensure the security of lives and properties of their people.
The summit, the caucus said, had become urgently necessary against the background of the ominous silence and apparent indifference of the presidency over the killings in Enugu, some areas in Delta State and so many other zones in recent time, even when there was obvious intelligence report.
“We can no longer sit and watch while our people are daily slaughtered like fowls without even attracting the cursory routine condemnation by the presidency.
“We are even more appalled that despite the alarm raised by the Uzo Uwani Communities of an imminent attack by the Fulani herdsmen and the associated vague assurances by the chairman of Fulani community in Enugu that such attack will not happen, yet the security agencies failed to prevent the attack that happened two days after the alarm.
“It is disheartening what is happening and somebody has to take responsibility. That somebody has to be the institution of the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” said the caucus.
….Soyinka blasts Buhari over killings
Also reacting, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has lashed out at the presidency for its seeming inability to rein in the violent activities of herdsmen across the country.
In his address to the National Conference on Culture and Tourism on Wednesday, Soyinka said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government was yet to come up with an articulate solution to tackle the menace.
“I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres that have become the nation’s identification stamp,” he said.
“I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial, and his cattle confiscated. The nation is treated to an eighteen-month optimistic plan which, to make matters worse, smacks of abject appeasement and encouragement of violence on innocents.
“Let me repeat, and of course, I only ask to be corrected if wrong, I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscionable blood-letting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”
Suspected Fulani herdsmen on Monday unleashed terror on Ukpabi Nimbo, a community in Enugu State, killing dozens of people.
The attack came weeks after a similar wave of violence by herdsmen in Agatu in Benue State.
After weeks of apparent silence on the killings that have spread to other states, the presidency on Wednesday ordered the police to go after the suspected herdsmen.
“When I read a short while ago the presidential assurance to this nation that the current homicidal escalation between the cattle prowlers and farming communities would soon be over, I felt mortified,” Prof Soyinka said.
“He had the solution,” he said. “Cattle ranches were being set up and in another 18 months, rustlings, destruction of livelihood and killings from herdsmen would be ‘a thing of the past.’ 18 months he assured the nation. I believe his Minister of Agriculture echoed that later, but with a less dispiriting time schema.
“Neither, however, could be considered a message of solace and reassurance for the ordinary Nigerian farmer and the lengthening cast of victims, much less to an intending tourist to the Forest Retreat of Tinana in the Rivers, the Ikogosi Springs or the Muslim architectural heritage of the ancient city of Kano. In any case, the external tourists have less hazardous options.”
Soyinka recalled with nostalgia how he, in the company of the late Segun Olusola, journeyed across Nigeria in the pre-war 60’s, mostly out of curiosity.
“But now, would the young adventurous set out to visit the mystery caves of Anambra and its alleged curative pools from mere interest? They would think twice about it. It is not merely arbitrary violence that reigns across the nation but total, undisputed impunity. Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered.”
Soyinka also said he had a personal experience recently with the cattle herders, right at his doorstep.
“I returned from a trip outside the country to find that my home ground had been invaded, and a brand-new ‘apian way’ sliced through my sanctuary,” he said. “That ‘motorable’ path was made by the hoofed invaders. Both the improvised entry and exit are now blocked, but interested journalists are invited to visit.
“In over two decades of living in that ecological preserve, no such intrusion had ever occurred. I have no idea whether they were Fulani or Futa Jalon herdsmen but they were cattle herders, and they had cut a crude swathe through my private grounds.
“I made enquiries and sent alerts around, including through the Baale of our neighbourhood village. There has been no repeat and hopefully, it will remain the first and last of such invasion. What it portends however is for all thinking citizens to reflect upon and take concerted measures against it.”
Soyinka noted that herdsmen were among humanity’s earliest known tourists and must be taught a culture of settlement with their hosts.
“The leadership of any society cannot stand idly and offer solutions that implicitly deem the massacres of innocents mere incidents on the way to that learning school,” he said.
“For every crime, there is a punishment, for every violation, there must be restitution. The nomads of the world cannot place themselves above the law of settled humanity.”