Senate Joins House, Summons Buhari over Killings

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 • Another 7 killed in Benue, Ortom warns APC-led FG over handling of killings 

 • NEC okays take-off of ranching in five states

Damilola Oyedele, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and George Okoh in Benue 

The Senate has summoned President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it to provide a comprehensive briefing on the efforts of his administration towards addressing the increasing security challenges in Benue, Taraba and other states.

This came just a day after the House of Representatives also summoned the president.

The Senate, however, said it would liaise with the House of Representatives to have a joint session with the president.

This is as the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, failed to honour the Senate’s summons over the maltreatment of Senator Dino Melaye, and to brief them on the renewed killings in Benue, Taraba and other parts of the country.

Idris, who was in Bauchi for the president’s two-day state visit, sent the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations, Mr. Habila Josack.

Josack was however turned back by the senators who insisted that Idris must appear next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, suspected herdsmen Thursday killed seven Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Ukemberagya, Gaambe-Tiev, Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State.

The latest incident comes on the heels of the killing of two priests and 17 worshippers during a burial ceremony in Mbalom, Gwer Local Government as well as the murder of more than 42 persons in Guma.

Reacting to allegations of complicity in the wave of killings in his state, the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has called on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to change the way of doing things in the country by ensuring that the killings in all parts of the nation are stopped.

And in Abuja, the National Economic Council (NEC) Thursday in Abuja gave five states of the federation the nod to commence cattle ranches. The states are Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa and Zamfara.

The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said the briefing by the president would afford the lawmakers the opportunity to know what was really going on as regards security.

After the briefing, the Senate would then consider and take a position on the call for a state of emergency in Benue, and on the status of the service chiefs, Saraki said.

“Going through these prayers (of the motion) that I see here, they really do not mean anything or touch the direction. We were here when Senator Gemade (Barnabas) came up with a motion on Benue killings sometime ago. Now, it is Senator Akume (George). Then we were talking about herdsmen and farmers, now we are talking about herdsmen and religious leaders,” he said.

Saraki warned that the latest dimensions to the killings, portend serious crises for Nigeria if drastic actions are not taken.

“These killings on a daily basis have to stop.What do we do? We cannot continue to say we are leaders. This is a failure, no doubts about it. We have made ourselves available and we have done a summit. What do we do differently? It is amazing that not even a constable or an officer has been held and sanctioned for this kind of thing. It cannot continue like this,” Saraki said.

The resolution of the Senate followed a motion by Senator George Akume (Benue APC) on the continued killings in the state, which he said have continued unabated since January 2018.

Akume said despite the military presence in the state, there is no end to the wanton killings and expressed worry that the latest attacks on worship centres have grave implications for the security and unity of Nigeria.

“The monumental refugee situation now estimated at over 200,000 which is being faced by the entire state, particularly Benue North West Senatorial District, where all the 7 local governments of the districts are affected by these invasions and killings,” he said.

Senator Sulaiman Adoke (Nassarawa APC) lamented that the axis of Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa and Kogi are now under attack.

“Army was sent to the axis but to the dismay of everybody, the killings have continued. Some of the killings are happening 20 or 30 minutes away from army bases,” he said.

Despite the failure of security agencies to stop the killings, the army and police were able to deploy dozens of troops to arrest IDPs who ‘pulled’ the governor when he visited, Adoke said.

“But the real criminals are out there,” he added.

Senator Mao Ohanbunwa (Abia PDP) queried the hesitation to declare the killer herdsmen terrorists, particularly after the president said they were foreigners.

“We are in a state of war, let the military go in and fight a war. We are close to elections and if we do not deal with this, only God knows what will happen,” Ohanbunwa said.

Senator Hamman Isa Misau (Bauchi APC) said the problem of the police is not that of manpower or resources when it is considered that they deployed over 200 policemen to arrest Melaye, with enough operational vehicles.

“But when it comes to real challenges, you would not find them,” Misau said.

He added that the president is being ill-advised not to fire the heads of the security agencies because they are loyal and therefore should not be changed.

“In Offa, young boys, not hardened criminals, went to the police station and killed policemen, then went to five banks and operated for three hours without resistance,” he said.

Misau also cited the invasion of the Senate chamber by some persons whose faces were splashed all over the media, but who are yet to be arrested by the police.

Senator Victor Umeh (Anambra APGA) urged Buhari to go beyond condemning the attacks and sending condolence messages to victims, and ensure that the perpetrators are arrested and made to face the wrath of the law.

“Afterall he has always promised to get to the root of it, let him do so. Let him declare a state of emergency in Benue which has been at the receiving end of the attacks,” he said.

IG’s No Show in Senate

The senators also expressed displeasure at the failure of the IG to honour their summons.

The Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said there are several issues which the IG needs to brief the lawmakers on.

“I am sure he will be glad to come and brief us at a joint session, so we can go back and brief our constituents. People are afraid to go out, to go to church and other places. There are issues he needs to address us on, outside our colleagues. There are the killings, and I think he will like to tell us what he is doing,” Akpabio said.

Senator Sam Egwu (Ebonyi PDP) said several appointees of the president continue to create an avoidable dispute, with other arms of government.

He noted that Idris had justification for this absence since he was in Bauchi with the president, he could have made effort to formally write the Senate informing them on why he could not appear on Thursday.

Saraki in his ruling said the president may have excused the IG if he (Buhari), was aware that the police boss had been summoned by the Senate to brief it on the state of security, adding that sending the DIG is therefore not respectful enough, Saraki said.

“The dignity and integrity of our democratic authority must be protected. We must not allow anyone to denigrate it. I tell you, neither myself nor the Chairman of the Committee on Police Affairs has been able to reach the IG in 72 hours,” he disclosed.

Seven IDPs Killed in Benue

Meanwhile suspected herdsmen Thursday killed seven Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Ukemberagya, Gaambe-Tiev, Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State.

The latest incident comes on the heels of the killing of two priests and 17 worshippers during a burial ceremony in Mbalom, Gwer Local Government as well as the murder of more than 42 persons in Guma.

The Logo killings, according to a resident, Mr. Joseph Anawah, happened around 12:22 am while the people were asleep. He said the people are camped in African Church and LGEA primary School, Mondo after being displaced from their homes by suspected herdsmen.

“At about 12:22 am, sporadic gunshots were heard in the area that woke the people up as they scampered for safety. In the process, seven (7) of them were killed on the spot and several others are said to be missing. The marauders did not stop there, they went ahead to mount roadblock along Wukari-Anyiin road and seized more than four(4) motorcycles. As I speak with you, the area is completely deserted,” he said.

Confirming the incident, chairman of the local government area, Mr. Richard Nyajo, said seven persons were killed.

Attempts made to get confirmation from the police failed as the Commissioner of Police Fatai Owoseni and the Public Relations Officer, ASP Moses Yamu, could not be reached.

Ortom Warns APC-led FG

In a related development, the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has called on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to change the way of doing things in the country by ensuring that the killings in all parts of the nation are stopped.

Reacting to accusations that he disarmed Benue citizens through an amnesty programme so as to make them vulnerable to the ongoing attacks, Governor Ortom said the programme targeted criminals who do not have the interest of the community at heart but were using weapons they possessed illegally to carry out criminal activities.

He said if he had not received and destroyed the weapons they surrendered, criminality in the state would have exceeded the present level.

He vowed that no amount of killings would make the state review the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law because it was the product of the entire people and that ranching was the only solution to the incessant farmers and herders crisis.

NEC Approves Ranching

The National Economic Council (NEC) Thursday in Abuja gave five states of the federation the nod to commence cattle ranches. The states are Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa and Zamfara.

Briefing journalists at the end of the NEC meeting in the State House, the Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. David Umahi, said the decision endorsing the commencement of ranching in the states followed the adoption of the recommendations by the committee earlier constituted by the council to come up with recommendations proffering solutions to protracted herdsmen-farmers’ violence in the affected states.

Umahi said a sub-committee further set up by the initial nine-man committee constituted by the council identified three categories of herdsmen operating in Nigeria.

He listed such categories of herdsmen to include foreign herdsmen whom he said entered the country on account of existing treaty in West Africa which he said gave the right to free movement within the sub-region to herdsmen from neighbouring countries.

Umahi said notwithstanding the existence of such treaty, there ought to be proper documentation of the personal details of such herdsmen, adding that their cows also ought to be quarantined while entering the country.

He listed the other two categories of herdsmen operating in the country as nomadic herdsmen whom he said often migrate from the North to the Middle Belt and later Southern part of the country and causing mayhem. He described the last category of herdsmen as migrant herdsmen whom he said often migrate to villages, settle among villagers and also causing conflicts.

He said the option of ranching had become imperative because the movement of cattle from one place to the other also affects their productivity, adding that such states will donate land for the ranches which he said would consist of schools and medical facilities. He added that movement of cattle from one place to the other for grazing need to stop.

“Today, NEC took briefing from the same NEC technical committee on the farmers and herdsmen conflicts in various states of the federation. NEC sometimes this year came up with a committee, being disturbed by the constant conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. The council came up with the committee of nine governors with the vice-president as the chairman, and the committee went into deliberations.

“After a couple of meetings, they decided that most five affected states should be visited. So, they came up with a sub-technical committee of three governors with myself, the governor of Ebonyi State as chairman and governors of Plateau and Adamawa as members.

“We were constituted to visit the five core states. Later, other states like Plateau and Kaduna states were also added. But we were able to visit only five states: Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Jigawa and Zamfara States.

“The core causes of the conflicts that we were made to understand were perception and of course, our media friends, competition for scarces resources and banditry or what you can call pure criminal activities through cattle rustling, kidnapping etc.

“Today, we look at three categories of herdsmen in Nigeria. We look at the foreign herdsmen that come in due to the treaty and we continue to say that the treaty is not being properly implemented. For any herdsman to come into Nigeria from outside, there should be a kind of certification.

“There must be a letter, even though you are not coming in with a visa. You have to travel with ECOWAS documentation. Animals that are coming into the country are required to be quarantined, but this is not being done. So, this is one category of them.

“Secondly, we have the nomadic herdsmen, who during the dry season, travel from up North to the Middle Belt down to the South. These cause conflicts. Also, foreign herdsmen coming all the way from neighbouring countries and travelling through farmlands also cause conflicts. “Then, of course, we have the migrant herdsmen who migrate for a very long time and settle with villagers and even inter-marry with them. These are the three categories we have in Nigeria.

“In all, we agree that movement is not profitable to the herdsmen because they value the milk from the cow even more than the cow itself. So, the movement is not healthy for the cows as it dries up the meat and gives less than two litres of milk per cow per day. So, we condemn the issues of foreign invasion by foreign herdsmen and l am happy that the federal government is doing something about it.

“Today, there was a meeting of ECOWAS countries on the subject and we also agreed that these movements have to stop and occasionally, by those who have settled and integrated from other parts of the country like the Middle Belt. They sometimes go into conflicts with farmers.

“So, in all, we agreed that there is a more profitable and modern way of raising these cows which is by ranching. So, we have agreed that the states involved are going to give lands. Niger and Kaduna have given lands and Plateau is also giving land. Ranching is being practised in Mambila in Taraba states and they have success stories with regards to that.

“We also agreed that through the Agriculture Ministry, we have the need to introduce new species of cows. The minister told us that there are new species that produce as much as 60 litres of milk per day per cow and that the cows weigh as much as 900 kilogramme but our own weigh less than 200 kilogrammes. So, we have agreed that we are going to work on these new species, while also working with our ranching. We also agreed that livestock production in Nigeria has not been taken care of.

“As we are taking care of the farmers by way of the Anchor borrowers scheme, of course, the farmers cry of the high-interest rate on the Anchor borrowers scheme. The rate of interests should be between 2 to 5 per cent. So, we should extend those gestures to the herdsmen. And it was discovered that most of these cows are not being herded by their owners. Big men buy these cattle and give them out to the herders. So, the children of the herders have nothing to inherit. They, therefore, go into cattle rustling and other forms of criminalities.

“Through this policy and intervention in the livestock production, it will be possible for the herdsmen to own their own livestock and have something for the future. We also agreed that there is a need for good lives for the herdsmen. Through these policies, their children will be able to go to schools. There will be nomadic education and medical facilities through these ranches for the herdsmen and their animals. Grasses will be planted, irrigation and dams will be created for a source of water. Lastly, we ask the public to begin to see livestock as another means of investment,” Umahi submitted.