The Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, his agriculture counterpart, Audu Ogbeh, on Monday in Abuja, held a security meeting with the governors of Kaduna, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Taraba and Adamawa states over the violent attacks and herdsmen killings in their states.
The meeting, which was at the instance of the interior minister, discussed strategies and measures to end the crisis rocking the states in which hundreds of people have lost their lives.
Speaking earlier before the meeting went into a closed-door session, Ogbeh said the Federal Government had decided to set up cattle colonies on 5,000 hectares where herdsmen could live and keep their livestock.
Ogbeh explained that security would also be provided for the colony by agro-rangers, noting that these measures would be speedily implemented to curb the killings.
He said, “We are planning a programme called cattle colonies not ranches, but colonies where at least 5, 000 hectares of land would be made available, adequate water, adequate pasture would be made available. We also want to stop cattle rearers from roaming about; the culture of cattle roaming about will be stopped.
“The cattle will be provided with water and adequate security by the rangers, adequate pasture, milk collection, even security against rustlers to enable them to lead a normal life. This has been done elsewhere in India, Ethiopia and even Brazil,” Ogbeh explained.
He stated that the government had in the past assisted farmers in various ways, while neglecting herdsmen.
The minister noted that this negligence was to blame for the current situation in the states affected by the violent crisis.
He conceded that the Federal Government had not done enough to cater for the needs of the herdsmen, noting that the government had not looked seriously into livestock development over the years.
He stated that the lives of farmers and herdsmen should not be under threat by the circumstances of their profession.
“People ask the question why should government get involve? Why shouldn’t the herdsmen manage their own livestock? I am sad to tell you that in the last 50 years until recently we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we haven’t done much for herdsmen and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crises we are witnessing today,” he submitted.
Ogbeh added, “In Europe, every cow that is farmed gets a subsidy of six Euros per day; we have done next to nothing for the cattle rearers here and as a result its operation has become a threat to the existence of our farmers and that is what this communique will seek to resolve.”
Dambazau, in his remarks, established a nexus between communal and electoral violence, saying; “Knowing that general elections are fast approaching and considering the history of political and election violence in Nigeria, all necessary steps must be taken to ensure that the recently witnessed crimes and violent conflicts are curtailed with utmost dispatch.”
He warned that threats to peace and public safety in any form and at any location would not be tolerated, stressing that it is the responsibility of governments at all levels to provide, unconditionally, sustainable peace and public safety within their territorial boundaries.
“The immediate repercussion of this menace includes hunger due to acute shortage of food, diseases, criminal activities and deepening animosity between ethnic and religious groups. The current situation is very dangerous for the northern part of the country in particular and the country in general,” the minister emphasised.
The meeting, which held for over six hours, later presented a communique which was delivered by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, supported by his Taraba counterpart, Darius Ishaku.
The men explained that the meeting agreed that all herdsmen must ranch their cattle and livestock, adding that the livestock farmers would be educated and enlightened on the benefits of keeping their animals in a location.
It also admonished Nigerians to live in peace, noting that this was the only way to resolve the perennial clashes between the herdsmen and farmers.
The parley also cautioned Nigerians against hate speeches, noting that anyone found engaging in it should be dealt with by the security agencies.
“The meeting noted that all animal farmers must ranch their cattle and livestock for better productivity. It also observed the existing synergy between the security agencies and between the states and the Federal Government,” the communique read partly.
The meeting was also attended by the Inspector-General of Police, Director General, Department of State Services and Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Middle Belt Interest Groups on Monday called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the six governors in the region to declare killer herdsmen as terrorists.
The group made the call in reaction to the recurrent killings in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna and Adamawa states, describing them as genocide.
The call by COMBIG is contained in a communiqué signed by its convener, Chief Banabas Ejisi, and Chairman, Steve Aluko, after an emergency meeting held in Jos, the Plateau State capital.
The group advised that in addition to belonging to the northern governors and governors’ forums, the six governors in the Middle Belt region should also form a forum for the zone that would enable them to discuss issues affecting them.
It called on President Muhammadu Buhari to use the same military might with which he dealt with the Indigenous People of Biafra and Boko Haram on the rampaging herdsmen.
Also, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights on Monday condemned the Federal Government’s alleged “inability to curtail the activities of herdsmen and criminals,” who killed Nigerians in Rivers, Benue, Kaduna and Kwara states on New Year’s Day.
He said the development was a sign that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government was failing in its primary responsibility.
He said, “If the protection of lives and property are the primary responsibility of the government, then this government is failing in its duties.”