President Muhammadu Buhari is poised to take on killer herdsmen head on the way he dealt with the Boko Haram insurgents in Northeast geopolitical zone where sustained action from the government prevailed until the menace was finally contained, the presidency said yesterday.
Accordingly, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotum-Idris, has relocated to Benue State on the orders of the president that he should quickly restore law and order, prevent further loss of lives and forestall the crisis from escalating and spreading in the state.
The presidency faulted those accusing Buhari of condoning the killings by the killer herdsmen, saying while whipping up hate may captivate the public and score political points on social media, it will in no way put an end to the crisis.
In a statement issued by senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the presidency noted that the president seeks the support and cooperation of all Nigerians, especially the media, to join hands with his administration to find lasting solutions to the killings instead of aggravating and escalating tensions in all conflict areas of the country.
Shehu said, “It will be recalled that as he did in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, which required sustained action from the government before it was finally curtailed, President Buhari gave the relevant mandates to the country’s security agencies to put a stop to the Benue killings.
The killings must stop and the security agencies have the President’s support to do this as quickly as possible. Whipping up hate may captivate the public and score political points on social media, but it will not bring an end to the crisis.
“Let every stakeholder instead sit down with the government and security forces and carry everyone along in finding an all-embracing solution.
As a father, a military General and a statesman, He said President Buhari has maintained lasting relationships with Nigerians, Muslims and Christians among every ethnic group.
“It is also a known fact that the young people who trek the whole distance of thousands of kilometers tending the cattle do not own the cattle. In fact, many of the cattle are not owned by Fulanis or Muslims. The point is that it is too simplistic to see the conflict as ethnic or religious”.
And to find short term and long term solutions to the incessant conflicts between farmers and cattle rearers, the presidency said it is coming up with a conference of stakeholders on infrastructural and agricultural development to put in place a plan for immediate relief and long term plan for the expansion of agriculture in the country.
Shehu explained that the conference will tap into experiences and best practices to draw up a planned development of 20-30 years ahead based on population and development projections, while taking into consideration environmental impacts so as to find a lasting solution to the menace.
He said President Buhari has been concerned about the conflicts each time he receives gruesome pictures of mayhem from several parts of the country, especially as it affects Benue and neighbouring states.
The presidential spokesman continued: “He is equally worried about some public pronouncements and finger-pointing that are, in most cases very unhelpful to peaceful coexistence of our diverse peoples.
“The president is conscious of his duty to Nigerians, not least because he is held accountable for everything that goes wrong. He deeply sympathizes with the families and all the other direct and indirect victims of this violence. He is determined to bring it to a permanent end.
“While there are many Nigerians who see the conflict between the nomadic herdsmen and peasant farmers as an ethnic problem, others point to religious differences and agenda. The President does not subscribe to such simplistic reductionism”.
Shehu further noted that President Buhari holds the view of many experts that the farmer/herders conflicts are more often than not, as a result of major demographic changes in Nigeria.
He recalled that when Nigeria attained independence, the population of the country was estimated at about 63,000,000, a figure that has tripled up to 200,000,000 over the years.
Noting that, while the land size has not changed and will not change, urban sprawl and development have simply reduced land area both for peasant farming and cattle grazing.
The presidential spokesman pointed out that it is therefore both unfair and unkind for anyone to keep insinuating that the president is condoning the spate of killings in Benue and other neighboring states
He stated: “President Buhari has publicly condemned the violence at every turn. He is prepared to permit every possible step that can lead to the stoppage of the killings.
“It is on account of this he brushed aside an opinion that the federal government should challenge the constitutionality of the anti-open grazing bill. He wanted to give a chance to the State government to succeed in stopping the senseless killings.”