RENEWED VIOLENCE IN PLATEAU STATE

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Security agencies and other stakeholders must do more to end the violence

No fewer than 29 villagers, mostly women and children, were recently killed in Irigwe chiefdom in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State by suspected herdsmen who disregarded the dusk to dawn curfew declared in the area by Governor Simon Lalong. Although President Muhammadu Buhari has issued the usual tame call for the security to apprehend those involved and bring them to book, most Nigerians have come to terms with the fact that nothing will happen to the perpetrators.

While we commiserate with the state government and families of the bereaved, the killings could easily be located in the clash between Fulani herdsmen and some local farmers, essentially over grazing rights. This is a perennial problem that has gone on for years and has led to the death of hundreds of Nigerians though there has been a sharp rise in such violence in the last two years.

Therefore, given the plan by the Benue State authorities to start enforcing a recently enacted anti-open grazing law which is being resisted by Miyetti Alllah group, it is important for the federal government and the security agencies to quickly move in before we begin to experience bloodbath on another front.

It is regrettable that as a nation, we remain glued to the past hence the seeming inability to deal with this challenge as we proffer the same medieval solutions to simple problems. While accepting that the culture of nomadic cattle rearing is part of our national tradition, there are aspects of our inherited culture that we ought to have modernised for a long time. What would be wrong with a national programme of re-orientation, empowerment and complete modernisation of our cattle economy to become more settled?

We are creating nomadic schools, providing for national nomadic grazing grounds even when we are all quite aware that the greatest meat producing countries in the world have no nomads. What we need are large modern farms with the cattle in dedicated shelter and cared for by thousands of re-trained former cattle rearers. This would provide massive employment, create new skill sets and eliminate these ancient bloody skirmishes that increase our national security nightmares.

It is lost on the authorities that these frequent clashes are desperate encounters between poor and oppressed herdsmen and equally impoverished and starving farmers. It is one other repercussion of a growing culture of elite indifference to a scourge of scandalous inequality. Yet we are ready to spend more money to investigate what we already know, buy more guns to fight what we caused and yet do nothing scientific to engage the problem.

The now familiar regular bloody clashes between nomads and settled peasant farmer communities will not go away any time soon unless we address the crisis of mode of agricultural production in our economy. It is even more unfortunate that the federal government has failed to come out with any ideas on how to deal with this national security challenge while violent bloody clashes continue to claim many lives throughout the country almost on a daily basis.

To the extent that so much blood has been shed in our country in recent years, we call on all stakeholders in the affected areas to intervene on the side of reason and good neighbourliness. There must be an end to these indiscriminate and unwarranted killings whether by herdsmen or aggrieved villagers.
For the umpteenth time therefore, we reiterate that security agencies need to step up their act and strengthen not only inter-agency coordination to checkmate the current descent into anarchy but also the intelligence gathering capabilities. The current culture of impunity in our country will not end until people with criminal tendencies realise that the law can, and will always catch up with them.