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Editorial

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There is no denying the fact that the insecurity in Nigeria has reached a breaking point.

There is no denying the fact that the insecurity in Nigeria has reached a breaking point.

At a time like this, it would have been expected that all Nigerians, particularly leaders, would align to fight the killer bandits masquerading as ‘Fulani herdsmen’ slaughtering people across the country. As part of efforts to curtail the killings, the Governors of Benue, Ekiti and Taraba states, among others had rightly promulgated anti-grazing laws, or taken drastic steps to tackle the problem. Supporters believe that the laws are necessary in the face of inability of the existing laws to stop the attacks. Clearly, Nigeria has a major security problem in the land owners/ cattle herders’ crisis that it can deal with if it has the will and determination to end it equitably.

But, in the midst of this great expectation, the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Musur Mohammed Dan-Ali (rtd) recently called on the affected states to suspend implementation of the laws. Describing the laws as illegal, he said their suspension would reduce tension in the country. To discerning Nigerians, the minister’s statement has come as very disappointing and insensitive, and capable of further deepening the hostilities between herders and their host communities. It is ironic that the minister could term the anti-grazing laws promulgated to reduce killings, as capable of raising tension. To suspend the law would mean sacrificing the states’ right to protecting their residents from unprovoked killings and wanton destruction of assets.

If the claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that these killer herdsmen are not Nigerians are to be taken seriously, it means that Dan-Ali has failed in his duties as a defence minister. Buhari, had said on one occasion that the herdsmen are from the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA, while at another setting, he labeled them as fighters trained by the late Libyan leader, Muamman Gadaffi. We consider it most unfortunate that a minister of defence could make such call, instead of collaborating to provide security for the more than 180 million Nigerians, made up of over 300 ethnic nationalities. Dan-Ali’s language has exposed the growing concern that these killers have the backing of top government officials, including President Buhari, who is a Fulani man. The Minister’s description of the laws as illegal further showed him as someone who lacks the professional dictate, sensibility and capacity to continue as a defence minister.

Besides, he is not the country’s attorney general and minister of justice who should determine the legality of a law, more so as the Houses of Assembly in the various states had validly passed the laws in question.

It is believed that Dan-Ali demonstrated incompetence and gross ignorance by turning his eyes away from killings that have claimed thousands of people, rendered thousands homeless, and destroyed properties worth hundreds of millions of naira. We commend the Senate and the House of Representatives, which separately condemned Dan-Ali’s call. We join them in demanding that he not only withdraws the statement, but also publicly apologizes to peace-loving Nigerians. It is right thinking for Benue State, which is the epicenter of the killings, and front-runner in the anti-grazing law to have also rejected the call.

It is baffling that the defence minister could be more concerned about creating safe routes for the killer herdsmen, rather than finding lasting peace in the affected communities. Going forward, the Federal Government must order the herdsmen to ranch their cattle as it is done in modern climes. Government should assist herd owners with cheap loans, subsidies, incentives, where necessary, so that they don’t have reasons to destroy farmlands and kill people, in what appears to be ethnic cleansing and land acquisition. However it is agreeable that Dan-Ali as a Special Security Task Force be established in Zamfara, where he hails from to check the killings in that axis. But he would be swimming against the tide, if he insists that the anti-grazing laws in other embattled states be suspended.

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