•Sets up committee to hold public hearing
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate on Thursday summoned the service chiefs to appear before it and explain why persistent attacks on innocent Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen have continued unchecked.
The upper chamber which suspected that the dastardly acts were being perpetrated by fleeing members of Boko Haram terrorist group, asked the service chiefs to appear and brief it on measures they are putting in place to forestall the spread of terrorist activities all over the country.
The National Assembly also constituted an ad-hoc committee chaired by the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, to organise a public hearing on the rampaging attacks on innocent Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen and come up with recommendations capable of tackling the crisis.
The committee was asked to commence its assignment next week.
The resolution was the aftermath of a motion moved by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North) during which he lamented the killing of scores of residents of Ukpabi Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State last Monday.
The Senate which also observed a minute silence in honour of those killed in Nimbo community, asked the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other relevant agencies to urgently dispatch relief materials to the affected community as well as neighbouring Nkpologu, Uvuru, Ugbene-Ajima and Adani communities to alleviate the plights of persons displaced by the attack.
It also called on security agencies of the nation to improve its intelligence gathering and be proactive instead of merely reacting to threats to internal security especially in cases where there is credible intelligence to act upon with a view to safeguarding lives and property.
The senators also asked security agencies to enforce laws on arms’ possession against unathorised persons just as they appealed to the Nigerian Police to expedite action on the establishment of a rapid response police unit around the communities where there have been attacks.
Utazi told his colleagues that the herdsmen entered into the community through Enugu State border with Kogi State shooting, hacking, matcheting, slitting the throats of hapless residents and razing down buildings.
He said contrary to reports that 20 people were killed in the incident, 38 persons were actually killed while no fewer than 100 others sustained varying degrees of injury.
The senator added that domestic animals were slaughtered while efforts were still being made to recover corpses of victims and as well account for those missing.
Utazi noted that only three months ago, Abbi, a neighbouring community to Nimbo was attacked by Fulani herdsmen whom he said killed scores of people and houses and barns set ablaze. He noted that Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area now faces extinction as a result of protracted attacks on communities in the council area.
Utazi lamented that whereas intelligence meant to avert the attack was passed on to security agencies ahead of the act, they failed to act on it adding that residents of neighbouring communities now live in fear.
In his contribution, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (Bayelsa East) described the herdsmen as the worst group of terrorists who have been maiming, killing, stealing and raping women in the country.
According to Murray-Bruce, it was gruesome acts like this which precipitated the 1967-1970 civil war, pointing out that the situation had started resulting in reprisal attacks which he said would end up in a guerilla warfare, the battle he said could not be won by anyone.
He challenged the federal government to disarm cattle rearers, noting that the herdsmen were not licensed to carry arms. He also warned that if the situation was not quickly nipped in the bud, religious and ethnic colouration would be read into it, a situation he said would result in civil war.
While the Chief Whip, Senator Sola Adeyeye, said the killers should no longer be termed herdsmen but terrorists, Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, echoed Murray-Bruce that the last civil war started this way, observing that Nigeria would not survive a second civil war.
While disagreeing with Murray-Bruce that reprisals have started, Akpabio said with Nigeria’s population of 170 million, the entire African continent would be unable to contain Nigerians whom he said would be scattered across Africa if another civil war breaks out.
In his remark, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, emphasised the need for the Senate to act fast before frustrated Nigerians are forced to take laws into their hands.
“We must show some sensitivity on matters concerning our people. There are too many men and women in Nigeria today who are frustrated by economic realities and they will make themselves available for any possible mishap that this will give rise to. I believe that the earlier we nip this in the bud, the better for all of us.
“We want a very peaceful country and we will need to work towards that. And as leaders, we must be held responsible if there is breakdown of law and order because the primary purpose of government is the protection of lives and properties of the ordinary people. We must be able to come up with immediate approach to this problem, mid-term and long-term solutions so that people will see that we are interested in their welfare,” he said.