The upper chamber of the National Assembly also berated governors negotiating with bandits, saying such negotiations were fuelling banditry.
The senators stated these on Wednesday during an extensive debate on a motion by the Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice, on the growing insecurity in all parts of the country.
In its reactions, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria supported the lawmakers’ suggestion for the establishment of ranches.
But the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and its northern counterpart, the Arewa Consultative Forum disagreed on governors negotiating with bandits.
Recall that the Federal Government had in 2019 earmarked N100bn for the NLTP, which was conceived to settle nomadic herdsmen.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, during the inauguration of the NLTP at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa on September 9, 2019, had said, “It is a plan that hopes to birth tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods.”
According to him, seven pilot states for the scheme are Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
On Wednesday, the Senate said the plan would prevent farmer-herder conflicts and activate highly productive livestock sector in Nigeria.
It also called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)-led regime to immediately embark on an operation to eliminate proliferation of firearms.
It called for the immediate enforcement of the laws against illegal possession of firearms by arresting, disarming and punishing anyone in illegal possession of arms.
It stressed the need for governors to re-invigorate rural governance and convene state-wide inter-communal conclaves and dialogues to promote local conflict resolution and inter-ethnic harmony.
The Senate also asked Buhari to direct the National Security Adviser and the newly nominated service chiefs and the Inspector- General of Police to devise a proposal to rejig the nation’s security architecture.
It stressed the need for the deployment of forces for more effective counter-measures against the current security challenges, particularly in the rural areas
The red chamber urged the security agencies to actively deploy drones and helicopters in monitoring forests and ungoverned areas in Nigeria, to identify illegal camps of bandits.
The Senate lamented the constant invasion of Nigeria by armed herdsmen from foreign countries and urged the Federal Government to adequately equip the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigerian Customs Service to police and monitor the borders.
It also called on the Federal Government to resuscitate and inaugurate the National Task Force Commission to combat the proliferation of light weapons, small arms and ammunition.
The Senate admitted that the ECOWAS protocols that guarantee free movement of goods and people in the West African sub-region was doing more harm than good in Nigeria.
It therefore called for the review of the relevant ECOWAS protocols in the interest of peace in the country
Govs negotiating with bandits fuelling killings in North West – Senators
In their various contributions, some senators condemned some North-West governors for negotiating with the bandits.
They also said seeking amnesty for the repentant bandits would spell doom for the country.
They reacted to Senator Sahabi Yau from Zamfara State who in his submission, supported his governor for negotiating with bandits.
He said, “ I support my governor for seeking amnesty for repentant bandits. The Zamfara governor is by so doing, protecting the lives of his people.”
But the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Uba Sani, drew the attention of his colleagues to the constant attacks of the state by bandits expecting Governor Nasir el-Rufai to also negotiate with them.
He said the refusal of the governor to negotiate with the criminals when neighbouring states were already doing so, was the cause of constant killings in the state, in recent times.
Sani said, “The bandits have been attacking our communities on a daily basis.
“We have been able to liaise with Nigerian forces, they expressed a lot of frustration on the way neighbouring states have been managing the crisis.
“Our position is that some neighbouring states in recent times have been negotiating with the criminals, which on a daily basis kill our own people, destroy our communities, murder our children.
Other N’West govs negotiating with bandits attacking Kaduna —Senator
“Unfortunately, whenever the Air Force wants to attack them through bombardment, they move on to neighbouring states, some state governors will sit down with them, winning and dinning with them.
“I don’t know why we are compensating the bandits. We must work together as a team if we want to succeed on this issue of security because as far as I’m concerned, you cannot compensate criminals.
“As far as we are concerned these people are criminals, we have to be very careful because we cannot politicise the issue of insecurity.
“A lot of people are grandstanding, the issue of insecurity is not politics and we must be careful.
Also, Senator Chukwuka Utazi said, “Governors that are negotiating with criminals and bandits are setting a dangerous precedent. We have to look at it seriously and advise them against it.”
Senators attack Adamu for condemning Akeredolu
The Senator representing Nasarawa West, Abdullahi Adamu, incurred the wrath of his colleagues when he condemned Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who he claimed, ordered the herdsmen out of Ondo State.
Adamu said, “The custodian of peace are the political leaders. I found it difficult to understand that the governor would order that people should leave a particular place.
The Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, cautioned Adamu and said his submission was not the true situation of things.
He said, “I want to talk specifically on the matter whether people were being sent away.
“No Nigerian is being sent away from anywhere, criminals are being sent away from the forest reserves where they are.
“So when we now come here and say some people are sending people away, you send the wrong message.
“The message is simple, the police IG has told us these are criminal elements coming from outside Nigeria and what we should ask ourselves is that if somebody is a criminal and he is in the forest what is he doing inside the forest?”
Senator Tolu Odebiyi said the ban on open grazing would prevent incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
He said, “I completely support a total ban on open grazing and its replacement with ranching system which is a modern practice all over the World.
“We have a national crisis on our hands. It is a national crisis that has been devoid of leadership politically and morally.
“We must see it the way it is. Between May 2017 and May 2020, there have been 624 attacks, 2,239 killed, 393 wounded, 253 kidnapped, 16 raped and 752 homes destroyed.
“That is an analysis done by a research firm in Brussels on what is happening in this country.
“I have listened and for us to be saying that they (bandits/herders) are not Nigerians, that is an indictment on our leadership.
“That people are coming into this country and they are maiming our people, killing our people, they are raping our people and these are the same security people that we are now going to promote to be ambassadors of this country.
“It is an indictment and it is not acceptable. I represent a community that borders some countries, I went there over the weekend and the whole place has been destroyed by all these herdsmen.
“People’s earnings, people’s lives have been ruined. It is upsetting and we must rise. This country is on a precipice of a civil war.”
Rounding off the debate, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, said, “The Senate urges the Federal Government to direct the state governments, to implement the National Livestock Transformation Plan which is a modern scheme designed to eliminate trans-humans movement in order to prevent farmer-herder conflicts and activate highly productive livestock sector in Nigeria.”
Lawan also warned politicians against ethnicising the spate of insecurity in the country, warning that doing so was capable of inciting widespread bloodshed among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria.
According to him, the issue of insecurity remains one that the National Assembly will continue to debate, as it affects the welfare of Nigerians.
He, however, emphasised the need for more funding to the military to enable it tackle the spate of widespread insecurity in several states across the geo-political zones, as a result of the growing activities of Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers.
He said, “There’s no better investment today in Nigerian by government, than making more resources available to our security agencies because security is the major thing that government can do to change the lives of the people for the better.
“So, we will continue to discuss and debate it here. This will not be the last, but the tone, the issue, the main theme should change. That maybe by the time we discuss this kind of thing here again, it should be that we have made a shift; that we have moved positively, that we are trying to only make it better.”
The Senate President underscored the need for increased partnership between the federal, states and local governments in the fight against insecurity.
“I also believe that there must be better and more intense partnership between the Federal Government and the States. We cannot expect the Federal Government alone to address the insecurity in the country.
“I believe that at one point, the state governments are closer to the people, and in fact, even the local government.
“Some of the issues can be better settled at the local level, because the Federal Government cannot go and settle two communities fighting in a state or local government. But the local government chairman, or even the Councillor could come in.
“But what the Federal Government can do is to arm the security agencies properly and well, so that they are able to deal with any situation that needs their attention,” he said.
Lawan further warned politicians against making unguarded comments capable of throwing the country into flame and dividing Nigerians along ethnic lines, adding that the fight against criminality remained the responsibility of security agencies to address.
“Recently, in most parts of the country, political leaders have decided to throw caution to the wind.
“Political leaders must be careful of what we say in a very incendiary environment, because the people listen to us as their leaders.
“So, if we appear to be divisive, they will find justification in taking actions that all of us will regret.
“Nobody is saying the situation is okay; the situation is not okay. If you have criminals occupying areas they shouldn’t be, of course, the security agencies must take the necessary steps to ensure they address the situation.
“But these are criminals, and that is a specialized criminal activity. All other criminals must be flushed out, otherwise, how do we have peace?
“We have to address criminality, we have to defeat criminality, but we also have to nip in the bud that desire and excitement sometimes of people speaking as champions of their tribes and ethnic groups.
“We are simply leaders, and the people of this country expect us to keep them united, and this is a responsibility that we will account for to the people, and to God Almighty who created us and made us leaders,” the Senate president said.
MACBAN demands immediate rehabilitation of grazing reserves
MACBAN in its reaction said it was not opposed to the suggestion of the Senate.
It, however, called for the rehabilitation of the existing grazing reserves.
The association’s Secretary-General, Usman Ngezerma, said this in an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday.
Ngezerma said existing grazing reserves, especially in the North, were dilapidated and there was the need for state governments to provide water and pasture for the pastoralists.
He said the grazing reserves would serve as a stop-gap pending when the modern way of husbandry being planned would start.
He said, “What the Senate and the northern governors said was alright but as an immediate measure, they should give attention to providing water and pasture in the existing grazing reserves that we have in the North.
“When they provide water and pasture immediately, these pastoralists will have a place to stay before they embark on the modern way of husbandry where they will begin to learn the modern ways of animal husbandry.
“It is a way of life to them, so ending this has to be a gradual process.”
On its part, the Middle Belt Forum supported the Senate for asking the Federal Government to review the ECOWAS protocol so as to check the influx of killer herdsmen into the country.
Speaking with one of our correspondents in Jos, the National President of the MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, who described the position of the Senate on the security situation as a welcome development, expressed support for the lawmakers on their call for the prosecution of the killer herdsmen.
Pogu, however, said that unless such call a was followed up by the Senate, it might never see the light of the day.
NEF calls for infrastructure for herders, wants tension reduced
The spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, supported the Senate on the call for development of ranches, which would serve as options to open grazing.
He stated, “Legislators from the North particularly should lean on governors and the Federal Government to fund the development of infrastructure that will provide an option to open grazing. This will be expensive and will take time. This is a national issue, not a northern or President Buhari’s issue.”
Baba-Ahmed, however, said alleged ejection of herders from the southern part of the country was an urgent issue, which the lawmakers should have addressed.
According to him, the development of infrastructure for herdsmen should be addressed the same way demands of Niger Delta were met.
He stated, “Piecemeal approach and chaotic measures will only push the problem around. The most important issue at this moment is to lower the tensions which exist all over the country.
“Leaders must exercise responsibility. People, who take laws in their hands, break the law and criminal elements of the Fulani must be treated firmly by the law.”
Govs’ negotiations giving unnecessary succour to bandits – Afenifere
Also, the spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said there were no farmers, herders’ conflicts, but terrorism by the herders.
He stated, “We must state clearly that what we have is herders’ terrorism on farmers and not a conflict as the Senate puts it. We are still deceiving ourselves on this issue and cannot get solution that way.”
He said governors negotiating with bandits were giving them “unnecessary succour” to them.
There’s no evidence that talks with bandits fuelling insecurity – Arewa forum
The ACF disagreed with the Senate for saying that governors’ negotiation with bandits fuelled insecurity across the country.
The northern body noted that it had no evidence that state governors negotiating with bandits were fuelling banditry.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe who spoke to one of our correspondents, maintained that open grazing was an outdated venture.
The ACF’s spokesman said, “We agree with the Senate on all the issues except the one where there is an accusation that governors are collaborating and negotiating with bandits.
“We do not have any such evidence against any state governors.
“Open grazing is out of date. If the President can reduce the proliferation of firearms in Nigeria, our security situation in this country will improve.”
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “We are happy that almost all segments of the country, including the Northern Governors’ Forum, have come to terms with the need to ban open grazing.”
Ohanaeze spokesman noted that the Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum, David Umahi, had recently also expressed the position of the South East governors on the ban placed on open grazing. “It is a major relief and a victory of truth over ethnic sentiments.”