‘Amnesty Should Not Apply to Criminal Herdsmen’

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong holds a discussion with businessman and politician from Abeokuta, Ogun State, Otunba Adejare Adegbenro. He is the grandson of the first Republic Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Dauda S. Adegbenro

Recently, President Muhamadu Buhari appointed new service chiefs, what is your take on the appointments?

Interestingly, this set of service chiefs happen to be all officers of the 34th, 36th and 35th Regular Courses from the Nigerian Defence Academy. This is a welcome development as it is anticipated that there will be synergy and a lot of cooperation amongst the chiefs. They are amply qualified to hold their respective offices and while such appointments are at the President’s discretion, the onus of competency on the job lies on the chiefs themselves.

The Service Chiefs have assumed office at such a time that there is a lot of distrust and distress in the body polity because of crass insecurity across the entire nation. While their work seems cut out for them, it is also daunting at the same time. The security architecture of this nature is rather baffling as all efforts to contain insurgency and rout criminality seem to be failing. Just on 17 February, about 42 students were abducted from a Niger State school almost in a bid to show off the brazen nature of banditry in the land. Overall, the Service Chiefs are qualified, but they need our prayers and support to succeed.

Besides banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram, how do you feel about the incessant clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers and how do you think the problem could be solved?

In fact, it is disheartening to note that despite the menace of some ‘criminal’ herdsmen and bandits across the land, such elements in the land are not treated as criminals but are being handled with kid gloves while the repercussions of their menace reverberate across the land.

The criminals amongst the Fulani herdsmen ought to be treated as criminals and prosecuted in accordance with the laws of the land or eliminated through tactical battlefield operations as applicable. The idea of amnesty or rehabilitation should not apply for criminals who have no ideology, demands or pleas. They are outright bandits who steal, kill and destroy and must be dealt with decisively.

So, in order to contain the menace of clashes between herders, farmers and indigenes, there must be outright legislation to halt itinerant grazing and establish ranching as the de facto means of raising cattle. They should also procure the land for ranching and should not be purchased with government funds. It is like any other business and must be run like every other business by the owners. Not only is ranching more secure, it actually increases yield for both meat and dairy as well as improving the leather industry.

If properly harnessed, the herders and farmers will have a working synergy, security will be improved and as a corollary, educating the young herders will also be an added benefit. The herdsmen should be trained on modern ranching methods for their cattle. There should be orientation and reorientation of the herders and farmers to foster better relationships and aid the security of the nation.

What is your take on the perceived marginalization of the Igbos in the scheme of things in Nigeria?

It is sad to note that the discontent in the land is occasioned by marginalization of many by entrenchment of a few. Despite the presence of the Igbos in military and paramilitary services, ppointments to top security and government positions elude them despite the obvious competence of Igbo personnel. The Igbos and indeed other tribes have equal rights to any military or paramilitary appointment, including Service Chiefs if suitably qualified.

Appointment in the army should be based on seniority in rank and it should be rotational. The right officers should be posted to where they can perform optimally. No officer should be posted to man a duty post where he is not competent to handle. If all these are put into consideration during postings, the officers would be motivated and encouraged to perform. I believe this is a key aspect they should look at when assigning responsibilities to their personnel.

Owing to the sensitivity of the matter, it can be raised and vigorously pursued through back-channel processes rather than through the media. The media may make things worse by inciting sentiments which may lead to a further clamour and thereby heat up the polity the more.

The polity is heated up already with the Igbo agitating for restructuring while the Yoruba have declared an outright war on the herdsmen. The other tribes caught in-between are not having it easier as the whole nation seems to be on a downward trajectory.

Are you satisfied with the appointment of a younger generation to head the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC)?

In fact, it is a laudable step in the right direction. The whole nation is clamouring for youth inclusion in governance. This appointment is commendable as it pushes youth inclusion in a modern 21stcentury government. This new chairman is from the EFCC Academy and I understand he has the requisite qualifications to hold the office. This is also a clear departure from the past, when EFCC bosses were drawn from the Nigerian Police Force. Hopefully, he will have a different approach to fighting financial crimes in Nigeria using the advantage of age and knowledge of technological instruments of governance. It is hoped that he will act and respond to the dictates of his office with youthful vigour.

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Despite the presence of the Igbos in military and paramilitary services, ppointments to top security and government positions elude them despite the obvious competence of Igbo personnel. The Igbos and indeed other tribes have equal rights to any military or paramilitary appointment, including Service Chiefs if suitably qualified. Appointment in the army should be based on seniority in rank and it should be rotational. The right officers should be posted to where they can perform optimally. No officer should be posted to man a duty post where he is not competent to handle. If all these are put into consideration during postings, the officers would be motivated and encouraged to perform. I believe this is a key aspect they should look at when assigning responsibilities to their personnel. Owing to the sensitivity of the matter, it can be raised and vigorously pursued through back-channel processes rather than through the media. The media may make things worse by inciting sentiments which may lead to a further clamour and thereby heat up the polity the more. The polity is heated up already with the Igbo agitating for restructuring while the Yoruba have declared an outright war on the herdsmen. The other tribes caught in-between are not having it easier as the whole nation seems to be on a downward trajectory