·MASSOB issues 30-day ultimatum to Buhari to end attacks
Senator Iroegbu, Damilola Oyedele in Abuja, Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu and Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Following the alleged murder of about 48 persons in Ukpabi, Nimbo community of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area in Enugu State on Monday by suspected cattle rearers, the House of Representatives on Tuesday summoned the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Lawal Daura, over the incessant deadly attacks carried out by unidentified marauding herdsmen in different parts of the country.
This is just as a motion on the massacre in Enugu again brought to the fore the opposition to the proposed Grazing Bill from the executive arm of government meant to provide hectares of land as grazing reserves for the nomads.
The motion named: “The Invasion and Senseless Slaughter of Persons in Ukpabi, Nimbo Community of Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State by Unknown Herdsmen” was brought before the House yesterday by Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam (Enugu PDP) as a matter of urgent public importance.
Ujam lamented that the invasions by herdsmen were becoming a recurring issue across the country, and constituting a threat to the security of the nation.
“These attacks are beginning to gain momentum and have the potential of escalating into an existential crises as farmers are compelled to resort to self help in a bid to stay alive,” he said.
Having raised the motion, reactions flowed from other members who all condemned the wave of attacks by the herdsmen and expressed their opposition to the Grazing Bill.
In his contribution, Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, condemned the attacks in Enugu and other states, but noted that the proposed solution by creating grazing routes or grazing reserves would not guaranty peace.
“We have to bring in modernisation. The idea of moving from one place to another with cattle should be discouraged. Everyone who wants to raise cattle should have his own farm or reserve,” Ogor said.
Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (Abia PDP) said the Grazing Bill would die in the House, vowing that the lawmakers would not allow it pass.
“When you take land from the people and give it to cattle rearers, what will happen to our cassava or yam farms? Are we going to live on meat alone? Let them buy ranches and rear their cattle there,” Onyejeocha said.
Speaking earlier with THISDAY, Hon. Uzoma Nkem Abonta (Abia PDP) said the attempt to pass the proposed bill at all cost was a misplaced priority and was capable of compounding the clashes between farmers and the herdsmen.
He said that it would impoverish the people whose lands would be forcibly taken away, adding: “A situation where a council is being proposed in the bill with the power to seize land deemed suitable for grazing without the owners having a say is draconian.
“Cattle rearing is done by private persons, so why would government be seizing or acquiring land for such a venture. We are already crying that the Land Use Act is not good anymore, so Mr. President should declare his interest in pushing the bill, which would favour people who are probably not even Nigerians.”
On the possibility that the marauding herdsmen may not be Nigerians was corroborated by Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari (Sokoto APC) who described the Fulani as peace loving people.
Shagari said some foreign elements had invaded the country under the guise of being Fulani herdsmen through the nation’s porous borders aided by the insecurity in the country.
Shagari, a Fulani man, called on the security agencies to quickly arrest the situation before innocent citizens get killed in reprisals.
Hon. Chika Adamu (Niger APC) also said that there was a high likelihood the marauders are not Fulani, as there were hardly traces of their cattle in places they were alleged to have attacked.
As the House debated the rising incidence of attacks by the so-called herdsmen, the Enugu State Governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, visited the community where he sued for peace and two days of fasting and prayers to seek God’s intervention.
The governor, who broke down in tears upon sighting the fresh corpse of one Mr. Ugwu Ogbu said to be a teacher from Enugu Ezike in Igboeze North council but was posted to Nimbo community, also donated N5 million as immediate relief to the community.
Ugwuanyi, who was in the company of Senator Chuka Utazi, the GOC 92 Division, Enugu, Major-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, and the Police Commissioner, Nwodibo Ekechukwu, among other security and government officials, also visited the three hospitals where the injured persons were being treated and undertook taking care of the hospital bills of those injured during the attack.
“We are going to seek for God’s intervention in this matter. It is my belief that this too will pass away. The entire people of Enugu State are with you in this moment of grief,” the governor said.
The governor, who further explained that upon receipt of the report that there were plans to attack the community by the herdsmen, alleged to have been recruited from Nasarawa State, an emergency security council meeting was summoned on Sunday where far-reaching decisions were taken to ensure that lives and properties were protected.
“A combined team of police, soldiers and civil defence operatives were despatched to the community but on Monday, we heard that they still carried out the threat resulting in the situation we are presently facing.
“No matter what, we are hopeful that God will save us from the present situation and that is why I’ve declared fasting and prayers in the state for the next two days,” he told his audience.
The governor, who also visited the traditional ruler of Nimbo community, Chief John Akor, lamented the loss of lives and destruction of properties as well as the burning of the Christ Holy Church in the community by the attackers.
While suing for peace, the governor assured the people of the community and the state that efforts were being made to find a lasting solution to the problem.
He appealed to the people, especially the young men, not to take the law into their hands by engaging in any form of reprisals.
Responding, one of the community leaders, Dr Ajokwu George, appealed to the state government to come to their aid, as his community had become a hunting ground for the herdsmen.
“We are not really happy because our community is under threat, we have been burying our loved ones. We are more worried because in this case, we even alerted the security agencies that these people were planning to attack us but nothing was done.
“As we speak, we’ve recovered over 20 corpses and we are still recovering more. Several others are in the morgue and in the hospitals. What did we do to deserve this?
“We are really pleading that something be done. Our women have been raped and killed and nothing has happened.
“What has happened is just a tip of the iceberg because we know they will come again. The way they invaded our community and raped women before their husbands is worrisome.
“We need security here not just for a day or week but for months to protect us. We thank you for coming to empathise with us and we want you to deliver our people from this problem,” he said.
Similarly, the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, expressed shock that several hours after the attack, no arrest had been made.
He warned that if the relevant authorities failed to curb the activities of the nomads, they would ban them from rearing their cattle in the zone, saying apart from stopping them from rearing their cattle, they would also mobilise Biafra agitators against the herdsmen.
The cleric insisted that herdsmen were more violent than the Biafra agitators and called on South-east governors to rise up to the security challenge.
“I feel bitter, I feel aggrieved, I feel sad that the APC government at the centre cannot protect us. We call on the federal government to declare a state of emergency in Igboland over the herdsmen threat to security in the zone or else we will declare war against them.
“I feel sad that the APC government at the centre cannot protect us. Failure to curb the activities of the herdsmen will make us ban them from rearing their cattle in the zone. Any attempt to harass any Igbo youth, any community will not be taken lightly.
“We will not tolerate it in Igboland. We are declaring war against the herdsmen. We are calling on Northern elders to caution their people and government should speak out against this menace.
“On the failure of the South-east governors to rise to the security challenge, we will pass a vote of no confidence on them. Where did the herdsmen get the AK47 riffles?
“We will bring our own Ogbunigwe out to defend our rights. We will match force with force. Herdsmen come to Igboland and ravage our farmlands and rape our women is unacceptable. That we were defeated in the last civil war does not mean we will remain slaves forever even in our land.
“We will defend our land with our blood and anything, including Ogbunigwe. Why was there a security lapse? The DSS and other security operatives alerted the government, yet they went ahead with their threat by unleashing mayhem on the villagers. The Fulani herdsmen are more violent than the Biafra agitator,” he said angrily.
Also, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) hit hard at the federal government over its inaction at reining in the blood thirsty herdsmen.
MASSOB, in its reaction, issued a 30-day ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari to end the incessant massacres by the herdsmen across the nation or face the wrath of the pro-Biafra movement.
The ultimatum by MASSOB was handed down by its national director of information, Sunny Okereafor, while addressing journalists in Aba yesterday, following the sacking of the rural community in Enugu.
He decried the failure of the federal government to checkmate the atrocities of the herdsmen despite the destruction of lives and properties, raping of women, armed robberies and kidnapping that have become their trademark in recent times.
The MASSOB spokesman accused Buhari of protecting his kinsmen, adding that the federal government has been “playing with fire” over the murderous activities of herdsmen and that MASSOB would not fold its arms and allow the herdsmen to have a free day in destroying lives and properties in Igbo communities.
“MASSOB is worried that the herdsmen have become very daring in their attacks since President Buhari came to power. We are not saying Buhari is their sponsor, but his silence over the attacks is suspicious.
“MASSOB is giving Buhari a 30-day ultimatum to stop the attacks or face our wrath,” he said.
While warning the herdsmen and their sponsors “to withdraw from Biafra land (and) count Igboland out of their Islamisation policy” MASSOB called on Ndigbo “to remain at alert as these Fulani herdsmen are terrorists posing as herdsmen”.
Okereafor said MASSOB had set up a committee to monitor the activities of herdsmen in Igboland, warning that the group would be forced to drop its policy of non-violence in order to protect Biafrans if the federal government continues to look the other way while herdsmen continue to go on the rampage.
“Soon, they (herdsmen) will pay for all their atrocities against the people of Biafra,” MASSOB warned.
In its reaction, IYM recalled that herdsmen had in the last 10 months killed over 710 Nigerians in 48 recorded incidents (excluding the Agatu killings) and wondered why the federal government and its security agencies have refused to take any action to stop the atrocities.
In a statement by its founder, Elliot Uko, the youth group regretted that the only time the DSS showed interest in the South-east was when it accused IPOB of killing five herdsmen.
IYM pointed out that now that the herdsmen had visited their bloodbath on Uzo Uwani communities “Nigerians do not expect any positive reaction from the federal government and the DSS for obvious reasons” as the herdsmen conduct their atrocities with impunity, knowing that the federal authorities are looking the other way.
The group said: “This bloodletting which began since the new government took power is interestingly, redefining how much faith large sections of Nigeria should have in the ability or willingness of the federal government to protect them from this Fulani warriors, who clearly act as if they know that the federal government cannot (or is it, will not) save the helpless victims from their attacks.”
It said that the “ongoing war by the herdsmen has only confirmed” the prophecy of IPOB leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, “who saw tomorrow and correctly predicted over the Radio Biafra, what the Fulani would do to the Middle Belt, South-east, South-south and the South-west”.
“The serial slaughter by the Fulani, the intimidation by the security agents and the disturbing silence of the president, who incidentally is also Fulani and the life patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, have put Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in the league of avatars, who correctly predicted events before they happened.
“This development has also greatly increased Kanu’s popularity, especially amongst the oppressed, suppressed and consistently attacked populations, who now see him as a hero and legend. This has resulted in huge sympathy towards the gospel of IPOB and its leader,” said IYM.
The group further added that “when you add this to the excruciating pain and suffering, citizens have been subjected to in the last 10 months, these unnecessary killings and destruction only lead the victims along one line of thought: The Fulani herdsmen are making Biafra a very popular option”.
Meanwhile, the federal government has ordered all security agencies in the country to crush and deter all crises that have the potential to breach peace and national stability in the country.
The Minister of Defence, Mr. Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali, gave the directive yesterday in Abuja at a seminar on “Media Management in Crisis Situations for Information Officers of Military, Security and Response Agencies” organised by the Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC) with the support of the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) and the Nigerian Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP).
Dan-Ali stated that while the government’s first priority is to ensure the security of lives and property of the citizenry, all socio-economic activities in the country must continue to thrive without any hindrance from criminal elements and terrorists.
He said: “All security agencies in Nigeria have been called upon to crush and deter the threats of crisis and conflicts that have the potential to disrupt the peace and security of our country.
“Our security and response agencies are constantly engaged in the essential tasks required for meeting the internal security objectives of ensuring safety and security of Nigeria’s territorial integrity, its population and all the critical infrastructure. Our government will not relent in this primary objectives.”
The minister added that the government would continue to acknowledge the sustained efforts of the various military, security and response agencies, which in spite of the odds, constantly and significantly mitigate the challenges and consequences of violent eruptions and crises across the country.
He pledged the continued support for all the agencies, particularly those battling the insurgency in the North-east so that they can effectively deliver on their mandates.
On crisis management, Dan-Ali tasked information officers of the various agencies to be patriotic and professional in the discharge of their duties.
“You must bear in mind that our dear country is currently confronted with several challenges which demand every sense of professionalism in the way and manner information is to be managed.
“You have the responsibility to manage sensitive information at your disposal with all sense of patriotism and to relate with media and the general public with utmost sense of professionalism, taking into cognisance the importance of our cherished national interest and national security,” he charged.