Kingsley Nweze, Chuks Okocha in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Apparently apprehending open grazing as the root cause of the prevailing tension between herders and farmers nationwide, North-west governors at yesterday’s meeting with security chiefs in Kaduna, reportedly sought more time to develop ranches seen to be the panacea for the raging conflict in the country.
A reliable source close to the meeting told THISDAY last night that although the governors expressed reservations over the profiling of herders from the Northern part of the country, more recently in the South-west, they, however, agreed that the lasting solution to the incessant conflict is ranching but asked for more time to develop the modern way of animal husbandry.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), service chiefs, and heads of other security and intelligence agencies had met with the governors as part of a planned tour of the six zones of the country to discuss with stakeholders the way out of the worsening security.
The security chiefs assured the governors that efforts are being intensified to arrest the worsening insecurity in the country and proposed another meeting to draw up a roadmap to better security in the region.
“In a bid to develop a road map for peace and security in the region, it was resolved that a date for a follow-up meeting of the North-west stakeholders would be announced to fully deliberate and agree on the new road map,” a statement issued by the ONSA said last night.
Monguno, in company with the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao; the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo; and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, at a town hall meeting on the security crisis in the country, in Kaduna, said President Muhammadu Buhari was determined to end insecurity in the country.
While Gambo was represented by an official, the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Muri, stood in for Adamu.
The meeting with governors of the seven states in the North-west and other stakeholders was conveyed to discuss the security challenges bedevilling the region.
As parts of efforts to reinvigorate the fight against insecurity, Irabor told the gathering that the country’s security architecture is being reviewed.
The northern governors, however, asked for more time to implement the ranching option to end the crisis occasioned by transhumance, which has led to frequent clashes between herders and farmers.
The seven states in the North-west, especially Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara, have been under constant attacks by bandits, who invade villages, kill, rape and abduct people for ransom.
The meeting, which was supposed to be a town hall meeting with the governors and key stakeholders in the region to discuss the security challenges, however, did not hold as many of the stakeholders, especially traditional, religious and community leaders did not attend due to the short notice given them.
However, all the seven governors – Kaduna (Malam, Nasir el-Rufai); Kano (Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje); Katsina (Hon. Bello Masari); Kebbi (Senator Atiku Bagudu); Sokoto (Hon. Aminu Tambuwal), and Zamfara (Hon. Bello Matawalle) as well as the chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NSGF) and Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, attended.
Addressing the gathering, the NSA said the purpose of the meeting was to address the security challenges facing the country.
According to him, with the new service chiefs, there is a new direction in confronting the security challenges.
He said Buhari was worried about the insecurity.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is very worried about what is going on. He is concerned about loss of innocent lives all over the country.
“What is going on in the North-east and North-west is very troubling to all of us and the president is committed to stopping this terrible situation in which we keep killing each other without regards to the other person’s right to undertake his legitimate undertaking of what choice of work he has decided to undertake,” he stated.
The NSA added that security is the primary responsibility of government, saying: “Nobody is shying away from that.
It is the fundamental responsibility of government to secure the lives of its citizens and their property.
“That is why we decided to take the bull by the horns with my colleague, the chief of defence staff.”
He, however, urged political, traditional and religious leaders to complement efforts by government at all levels to end insecurity.
He said: “I don’t want to believe that we are unable to put an end to what is going on in this country. We want to reassure you that with the appointment of new service chiefs, the government is determined to secure its citizens.”
He charged all the stakeholders to work not just within their local communities, but with the wider society and security agencies to deal with insecurity.
Monguno said: “I know there are some people trying to undermine efforts of the government and also security agencies. This will also be brought to an end. It is difficult but not impossible.
“One thing President Buhari has always said is that as diverse as we are, our greatest strength resides in that diversity.
“Other countries have been able to achieve unity in diversity and there is actually no reason why a country like Nigeria cannot do the same.”
He reassured Nigerians that with the new service chiefs, there is a new direction in confronting this problem.
“All that we require is your understanding and patience. A lot of lives have been lost; unfortunately, we cannot bring back the dead from where they are. We can only pray for the repose of their souls,” he said.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Irabor had said some re-organisations in the security architecture were being undertaken to combat insecurity.
He said they intended to let everyone know, especially the governors in the North-west, as well Nigerians, that the situation in the North-west, security-wise, is of concern to the Commander-in-Chief and to everyone who is in the security and defence sector.
Irabor said security agencies were trying their best to combat insecurity.
“We have come to give you assurances that some reorganisations are being undertaken currently to change the tide of insecurity in the country and across the land.
“We are in no doubt as to whether there are issues. We are in no doubt as to whether you have concerns,” he said.
He said the essence of the meeting was to feel the pulse of the people and to reassure them that the federal government is not asleep in terms of security.
“The National Security Adviser, I as well as the service chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of SSS and every other arm of the security agencies are hoping to ensure that there is a difference,” he stated.
In his speech, el-Rufai commended the security agencies for working closely with governors to tackle insecurity.
He said: “Daily, the armed forces and security agencies are losing lives. The bandits are becoming bolder, they even have the audacity now to attack military camps and ambushed those on patrols, yet those that are not informed said that nothing is being done.”
However, a source privy to discussions between the security chiefs and the governors told THISDAY that the states’ helmsmen expressed concern about the profiling of Fulani as criminals, adding that they are under pressure from their people for reprisal against other tribes living in the North.
He said the governors urged their colleagues in the South to speak against the threat to Northerners in their domain.
The governors also reaffirmed that ranching is the best for cattle grazing but want more time for it to be implemented.
“All Fulani or Hausa people should not be profiled as criminals. The criminals among them should be arrested and prosecuted by constitutionally recognised law enforcement agencies. Even in the North, there are Southerners arrested for criminal offences but that does not mean that all Southerners are criminal,” the source explained.
The source added that the governors also pledged to hold regular security meetings with district heads, emirs, and religious leaders.
They also stressed the need to avoid reprisal against Southerners living in the North.