- Concerned about US terms for Tucano aircraft sale
- Comments by prominent Nigerians on social media to be monitored
- Policeman, farmer killed in fresh Benue attack
Omololu Ogunmade, Paul Obi in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi
The Minister of Defence, Col. Mohammed Dan-Alli (rtd.), Thursday stoked the embers of fire, when he claimed that the enactment of the anti-grazing laws by some states was the immediate cause of violence by herders.
The minister, who made the claim while briefing journalists at the end of a security council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja, blamed the enactment of such laws on the unwillingness of the affected communities to accommodate their fellow Nigerians.
Disclosing that the meeting discussed the herders-farmers’ conflicts, Dan-Ali who said there were immediate and remote causes of the crises, highlighted the remote cause as the blockage of cattle routes which he said were available at independence.
He insisted that the immediate cause for the herders-farmers’ conflict was the unwillingness by communities to accommodate the herders whom he described as their fellow Nigerians.
“You see, whenever a crisis happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (of killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis?
“Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be routes whereby the cattle rearers took because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?
“These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other.
“Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!” he said.
But when asked if the claims of the immediate and remote causes of the conflicts that he listed were justifiable reasons for the mindless killings of hapless Nigerians by the herders, Dan-Alli described the situation as a matter of internal security, claiming further that some of the killings were perpetrated by militants.
He also attributed the rampant killings by the herders to the proliferation of arms in the country, a reason he said propelled the approval for the establishment of the new National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons by the security council Thursday to check the menace, pointing out that no unauthorised person is allowed to possess or carry arms in the country.
“You are deviating from what I came here to do. However, this is internal security. I can provide some answers: I have told you that the immediate cause is the grazing law. Since independence, there were clear routes where these people passed.
“On the issue of arms, they are all over the place. In the killings you are talking about, there are also militias that also did the killings. Some people were caught with arms and they call themselves forest (livestock) guards or whatever with AK47s.
“There is no where in this country where arms are allowed to be carried other than by legitimate security forces. So, anybody carrying any arm is doing so illegally.
“Militias were caught in the same land doing the same killings. So, the killings were not done by any particular group. It is a communal issue,” he claimed.
Reminded that there were claims by the presidency at the weekend that the killings were being carried out by foreign terrorists, Dan-Ali swiftly added: “Of course, that is why I said they are militias. Militias are part of illegal immigrants. These are the people.”
He also disclosed that the security council approved the establishment of the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, which shall be chaired by a retired army general and will include all the service chiefs, the National Security Adviser and Minister of Interior to come up with measures aimed at checking the proliferation of arms.
According to Dan-Ali, the commission was inaugurated Thursday and commenced work immediately.
He also said the meeting deliberated on the planned sale of 12 Super Tucano A29 aircraft by the United States to Nigeria and the terms and conditions for the sale.
Dan-Alli, who said the aircraft were being offered to Nigeria at the cost of $494 million, added that the terms and conditions for the purchase of the aircraft were stringent, disclosing that the deadline for payment given by the U.S. government was February 20.
He added that the $494 million includes the cost of training.
Speaking on the terms and conditions for the sale of the Super Tucano aircraft, the minister highlighted these to include undertaking training where the facilities will be accommodated as well as the inclusion of continuous service contracts for the aircraft.
Another stringent condition included the arrival of the aircraft in two years time and disallowing Nigerian technicians from participating in production inspection.
“Some of the stringent conditions include that we will start getting them from 2020, which is two years from now. They are also thinking of not allowing our technicians to be part of the production inspection.
“But this is what we normally do in all defence contracts: We send our personnel to go and understudy the production process, especially when it comes to specialised contracts.
“Like in Russia, our personnel are permanently based where the production is being done for the MI35 helicopters,” he said.
Providing further clarification on the deliberations at the security council, the minister’s spokesman, Col Tukur Gusau, said the president Thursday gave approval for the establishment of a National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
The presidential approval, he said, automatically transformed the previous Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons into a full fledged commission to function under the purview of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Ministry of Defence.
“In compliance with the presidential directive for the establishment of National Commission on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the country, the Ministry of Defence in conjunction with the Office of the National Security Adviser has set up a committee to work out modalities to transform the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) to a national commission,” he said.
Gusau said the minister commended Buhari for his continuous funding of the Armed Forces to perform its constitutional role, especially now that Nigeria is confronting multiple security challenges.
“The minister informed the council that in line with the decision of the present government to increase the strength of the Armed Forces to address the manpower challenges, the three services had in the last two years enlisted and recruited qualified Nigerians.
“The Ministry of Defence is also building befitting accommodation for members of the Armed Forces in the six geopolitical zones. Similar accommodation was built by the Defence Headquarters and commissioned by the minister in Abuja last month.
“This has gone a long way to solving accommodation problems and boosting the morale of personnel serving in Abuja.
“Similarly, during the period under review, the military pension verification exercise was conducted in all the 36 states and the FCT, the process enabled the Military Pension Board to update its data payroll and ensure financial savings for the government,” he added.
Gusau also revealed that the minister briefed the council on the need by the relevant security agencies to, as a matter of urgency, tackle the propagation of hate speech through the social media particularly by some notable Nigerians.
On this, he said the Armed Forces were currently synergising with other security agencies through intelligence sharing and joint operations to address the various security challenges in Nigeria.
Though Gusau did not specify the class of notable Nigerians, the move may not be unconnected to the government’s plans to monitor the social media activities of Nigerians across board.
The plan last year was greeted with public condemnation over the attempt by government to prevent citizens’ right to free speech.
“The minister also briefed the council on the update of the presidential visit to the Kingdom of Jordan from 2-3 December 2017. The visit provided an avenue for the implementation of an agreement for the procurement of excess defence articles from Jordan. The agreement entails rebuilding and modernisation of some of our military platforms,” Gusau said.
Policeman, Farmer Killed in Benue
But even as the council deliberated on the security challenges in the country, at least two persons including a police officer were among those killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen Thursday in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, just as several others were reported missing.
This was disclosed by the Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, when he hosted the former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, in Makurdi, the state capital.
According to the governor, a farmer in Guma was slaughtered and burnt in his house while the policeman was shot dead.
He said despite the presence of security agencies, the attackers were still carrying out horrific killings in the state.
The governor also reiterated his call for the arrest of members of the Miyatti Allah Kautal Hore, whom he said were behind the killings in the state.
According to him, “People who are saying I’m talking too much. They should give me justice and I will keep quiet.”
He alleged that those attacking Benue were known to the security agencies but the agencies had not been able to arrest them.
In his response, Kwankwaso said he was in the state to pay condolences to the governor and people of Benue over the killing of innocent people by criminals in recent weeks.
He condemned the killings and disclosed that he and his colleagues in the National Assembly were putting heads together to find a solution to the age-long crisis.
He also donated 1,200 bags of rice to the 80,000 displaced persons in various camps in the state.
Meanwhile, the police Thursday confirmed that one policeman was shot dead in Guma while another officer was missing.