- The federal government says there is not enough manpower to protect every village in the middle belt, in order to prevent killings
- The minister of agriculture pointed out that unless there are 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
- The minister of information said the clashes between farmers and herdsmen were connected with demographic, environmental, social and economic dynamics
- Meanwhile, the minister of defense said President 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
The federal government has stated that there is not enough military manpower available to be deployed to secure every village in the Middle Belt in order to stop incessant killings in the region, occasioned by the clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
The government made the disclosure on Thursday, May 17, at a town hall meeting in Abuja on the farmers and herders’ clashes, which was attended by the minister of defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; minister of agriculture and rural development, Audu Ogbeh; and the minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, Punch reports.
Legit.ng gathers that the government further disclosed that the rampant killings were caused by the inflow of weapons into the country, via the trans-Saharan routes.
The government, however, mandated that villages in Benue state be rebuilt by the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA)and charged the agency to ensure they are not far from one another.
At the meeting, which was organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture, Ogbeh stated: “I was with the vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, in Benue State on Tuesday (May 15), 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.”
Minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the convener of the meeting, also spoke. He 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.”
He continued: “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."
On his part, Mansur Dan-Ali, minister of defense, 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 stated: “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.”
Abdulrahman Dambazau, 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.”
The conference was also attended by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association and the Christian Association of Nigeria. The delegates noted that the establishment of ranches would guarantee lasting peace and security; and urged the government to do so.
This development follows a previous report by Legit.ng that President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, May 17, met behind closed doors with Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting, which was held inside the president’s office, centered on efforts being made by Army authorities to restore peace to troubled parts of the country.
The president said his administration’s commitment to peace and security of the country was total.
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