CURBING HERDSMEN’S VIOLENCE

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The authorities need to urgently stem the proliferation of illicit arms

Last February, Mr. Samuel Ortom, Benue State governor, paid an emergency visit to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to seek the federal government’s intervention in stopping the “escalation of violence” in Agatu Local Council of his state. That was after some herdsmen had killed about 300 people and sacked some mainly agrarian communities. “We have to do everything possible as a government to arrest this situation and bring the perpetrators to book,” Ortom said.

Evidently nothing was done in response to the crisis that would act as a deterrence. Last week, another marauding group of herdsmen seized Logo, Turan, Mbagber, Yonov, Ukum and other communities in the state in another killing spree in the long running conflict over grazing rights. The police claimed 22 people were killed in the attack while the presidency said it would check the accuracy of the reports.

Unfortunately, this mindless killing of innocent people is not restricted to Benue State. Last Monday, a first class traditional ruler was killed in Plateau State along with his aides by suspected herdsmen, making the governor, Mr Simon Lalong, to immediately declare a curfew in the area to avert reprisal attacks that could only exacerbate the spiral of violence.

In recent times, many communities in the country are increasingly under brutal attacks by these nomadic cattle rearers. Apart from killing men and raping women, some of these herdsmen have also been reported to engage in kidnapping.The kidnap of Chief Olu Falae in Ondo State and the murder of the late Obi Akaeze Edward Ofolue III of Ubulu-Uku Kingdom in Delta State, sometime ago, were instances of the herdsmen’s notoriety.

Named the fourth deadliest “terrorist group” by the Global Terrorism Index in 2015, the herdsmen also indulge in destroying homes and property of farming communities whenever and wherever they strike.

Not long ago, the Ukpabi Nimbo community in Enugu State was invaded by these rampaging criminals who killed several of the villagers. Although President Muhammadu Buhari and other stakeholders made the usual statements to condemn the brazen act of mass murder with a pledge to investigate, we believe that these violent crimes would not have been of this magnitude if the criminals did not have access to arms.

The authorities, therefore, must curb this growing problem of proliferation of illicit arms. A starting point in resolving the problem is to determine the source of these arms and how they get into the hands of the herdsmen.

Our security agencies need to step up their game and find answers to nagging questions with a view to permanently stopping illicit importation of arms into the country. They must find the perpetrators of this gun-running and bring them to justice. And there are compelling reasons why the authorities must act fast in the interest of our national peace and cohesion.

Following the inability of the federal government to rein in these sophisticated gun-wielding herdsmen, there is a growing perception that otherwise law abiding citizens may have to make their own security arrangements to secure their lives and property. This feeling that help would not come from official quarters have intensified with the extension of the aggression of the herdsmen to the southern part of

Such feeling of insecurity and the urge for citizens to arrange for their own defence can only worsen the situation. Community arrangements for security against gunmen would require private accumulation of arms. In this bid to balance terror, our country runs the risk of becoming home to massive illicit arms with assured disastrous consequences.