The authorities must ensure that criminals are brought to justice
As Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo leads yet another committee in a bid to address the crisis in Benue State, following recent killings by herdsmen, we must remind the federal government that Nigerians prefer practical solutions to this perplexing problem.
That is essentially because many tribunals of enquiries and peace committees instituted to trace the causes of the several crises and propose sustainable solutions have been unsuccessful in that task largely because government, past and present, lacked the political will to implement their recommendations. That is aside the fact that the current administration has become notorious for establishing committees whose reports are never implemented.
What is more disturbing is that the ongoing violence, which has the imprimatur of savagery, shows no promise of abating as the combatants, the herdsmen and the authorities in Benue State, find no common ground for peace. Since the issue in contention remains the anti-grazing bill that was recently passed into law in the state, the killings have continued in some of the rural villages.
But beyond the immediate challenge in Benue State, the clash between herdsmen and farmers has gone on for far too long in many of the states that a lasting solution has to be found before it consumes the nation.
Given the human and material costs of these crises, we think the federal and state governments that have primary and secondary responsibilities, respectively, for the security of lives and property of the people, need to be more decisive in the handling of this problem, which has become a virtual criminal enterprise. It is scandalous that since the escalation of the crises in 2011, and in spite of the rising body count in many of the states, not a single person has been arrested, prosecuted and convicted for the several murders that have traces of a pogrom. Bogged down by partisanship and leadership effectiveness, the police authorities that should ordinarily deal with this sort of crisis have become part of the problem.
We think the failure of government to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of the heinous crimes in Benue State and elsewhere seem to encourage the propensity for violence as means of redressing perceived grievances. It is therefore our recommendation that both the federal government and the authorities in the affected states must demonstrate the capacity to bring to justice all those who use unlawful means to settle scores even as it strives to contain the fundamental basis of the strife. That is far more productive than the setting up of some meaningless committees just to be seen as doing something even when nothing is being done to address the problem.
However, the problems seem intractable because one of the major challenges facing Nigerian security agencies is the lack of public trust. This has led to a situation in which Nigerians who live in the affected communities refuse to volunteer information to the authorities, thereby denying them vital intelligence needed to effectively carry out their mandate of ridding the area of violent criminals.
But the security agencies also need to up their ante by improving on their intelligence gathering capabilities to detect and nip in the bud disputes that may escalate into the mayhem that has been the lot of the people of states in the Nigerian Middle Belt in recent years.
For the umpteenth time, therefore, we reiterate that security agencies need to step up their acts and strengthen inter-agency coordination to checkmate the current descent into anarchy in several theatres across Nigeria. But in the instant case of Benue State, it is important that the entrepreneurs of violence in the area be fished out and made to face the wrath of the law.