Nigeria: Governors Backtrack, Say – Talking to Bandits Not a Bad Idea

State governors yesterday backpedaled on its initial stand against dialoguing with bandits, saying they may engage the criminals as a last resort to end security challenges in the country.

The chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who made the disclosure, stated that there is need to explore other avenues side by side with what security agencies are doing, including the option of dialogue.

Fayemi spoke yesterday in Minna, the Niger State capital, when he led some governors, on behalf of the forum, to commiserate with their Niger State counterpart, Abubakar Sani-Bello, on the recent abduction of students of Government Science College Kagara and passengers of the state transport service.

The NGF chairman said, “We also need to explore other avenues side by side together with what security institutions are doing, if that means engaging in dialogue, we may not have a choice, we may have to do that; anything to help us to deal with this immediate crisis.

“We will begin to address much more on a longer time basis, the root causes of this social dislocation responsible for what we are witnessing all around us.

“The past few weeks have been disconcerting, we all feel your pain and the anxiety of the good people of Niger State, this is not something that is uncommon, what happens here is not unique to you.”

He, however, said the NGF delegation was not in Minna “on the circle of lamentation” but to feel what the people of the state were feeling.

“Our people just want us to find a permanent solution to this circle of violence, banditry, insurgency, of criminality and brigandage in our country,” he declared.

Fayemi added that as governors, they were aware that the federal authorities were doing their best to make sure that those abducted were released and that they were also aware of the effort of Niger State governor.

He continued: “Our people out there don’t have the privileged information you have shared with us, they don’t know the extent you are going just to ensure that peace reign in this land and they need not know, all they want is to be able to sleep in their various homes with their two eyes closed and that is the duty we owe them and that is what you have being doing which led to the release of the passengers caught up in the last kidnapping and the ongoing negotiation that you and your team are still having on our students from Government Science College Kagara.”

The Ekiti state governor said instead of engaging in blame game, either as leaders or citizens, all hands must be on deck to end all forms of security challenge in the country.

“Our security institutions need to come together, they need to be better coordinated, better sharing of intelligence and a concerted arrangement and synergy that will enable us to defeat this menace.

“We can only defeat terrorism collectively and not in isolation. What we are witnessing is terrorism, we may call it banditry, kidnapping, these are remnant of the actors in Northeast that have found themselves in other parts of the country,” he added.

Responding, Governor Sani-Bello said state governors have no powers to tackle the menace of kidnapping and banditry ravaging the country, adding that they have no control of the Army, Navy, Air Force and even the Police in combating the challenges.

Farmers Also Carry AK-47, Not only Herdsmen – Lalong

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Northern States’ Governors Forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, alleged yesterday that farmers in the country also carry AK-47 riffle contrary to the belief that only herdsmen are in possession of arms.

Lalong also explained reasons why he rejected the Rural Grazing Area Programme commonly referred to as RUGA from being implemented in Plateau State.

Lalong, who was speaking on Channels TV breakfast show, ‘Sunrise Daily’ from Jos, the state capital, said, “Today, we are now seeing the hazard of allowing people do open grazing here and there. But they (herders) also want solution. By the time you explain to them, they also want to stay in one place, they would also want to keep away from carrying AK-47.

“I’m not justifying anybody to carry AK-47 but don’t forget that in the course of our deliberations and investigations, it was not only Fulani herdsmen that were carrying AK-47, even farmers were carrying AK-47.”

He, however, condemned the act of violence perpetrated by herdsmen who bear arms and called for strong measures to end the ugly trend while lamenting that there were many non-state actors who were in possession of arms, a situation that must be addressed urgently.

A statement issued in Jos by the director of press and public affairs to the governor, Simon Makut Macham, quoted the governor as saying the RUGA initiative was a strange concept that came after the National Economic Council (NEC) thoroughly debated, scrutinised and adopted the National Livestock

Transformation Programme (NLTP) as a very comprehensive and inclusive idea to tackle herder-farmer clashes and other associated challenges.

Governor Lalong further said because the RUGA initiative did not have the buy-in of stakeholders and fell short of addressing the concerns of most governors, it was not possible to embrace it.

This, he said, further fueled the misconception around the NLTP which is neither for one ethnic group nor meant for land grabbing.

“I was one of the first governors to kick against the RUGA programme when it was introduced. To start with, the concept was literally sneaked in for reasons we did not understand. For me as governor of Plateau State, I just heard that they have erected signposts in some sites within some local governments. How can you earmark such a project without my knowledge and buy-in of the people in my State?

“I had no interest in it because it was far below the NLTP which was more robust and passed through series of engagements with critical stakeholders. Plateau State subscribed to the NLTP because of the fact that it will carry along many groups and individuals involved in livestock business and its associated value chains,” the governor said.

He added that the state was chosen as one of the pilot grounds having earmarked the Wase and Kanam grazing reserves, noting that the implementation of the NLTP would go a long way in addressing many of the issues associated with the activities of herdsmen which have led to clashes with farmers and other crimes.

Lalong noted that in order to address the situation, deliberate efforts must be put in place to curtail the influx of light arms while other ways such as the NLTP must be embraced to take the herdsmen away from the old-way of farming and then introduce them to the modern system.

Nothing Can Be Farther from the Truth, Farmers Hit Back at Plateau Governor

But hitting back at the governor, farmers and other stakeholders in the country said nothing could be farther from the truth than the statement credited to Lalong that they also carry AK-47.

The national coordinator, National Prayer Network, Ambassador John Pofi, said it was unbecoming of a chief executive of a state whose peace is being threatened and people are being killed in their numbers on a daily basis to make such a statement.

According to him, it was rather unfortunate hearing this from a governor “who has failed woefully in protecting the poor and innocent farmers and other citizens in the State who are being attacked, harassed, raped and killed on daily basis.”

He pointed out that the same people he is accusing of carrying arms are poor people who can hardly afford two meals a day yet are being accused of buying and carrying AK-47 rifles that are far beyond their financial reach.

Also, the Plateau State chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said no farmer in the state has ever been arrested with AK-47 in the state.

State chairman of the association, Mr John Wuyep, who spoke with our correspondent via telephone in Jos, said carrying AK-47 is a big offence, insisting that farmers in the state are law-abiding and that they go about their business peacefully.

“So far in Plateau, there has been no case of any farmer caught with an AK-47 or any weapon,” Wuyep said.

We’re Determined to End Insecurity, Service Chiefs Assure Senate

Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Maj-Gen Lucky Irabor and other service chiefs have yestyerday expressed their individual and collective readiness to bring the scourge of insecurity to an end in the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter dated January 27, 2021, forwarded the nominations of the service chiefs to the Senate for confirmation.

When the nominees appeared before a joint Senate Committee on Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force chaired by Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko for their screening yesterday in company of the minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), they all pledged their best to ensure that insecurity becomes a thing of the past.

The new CDS, Irabor, said the mandate of President Buhari was very clear to him and his colleagues; hence they would deliver on the core mandate.

For his part, the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, assured the panel that if confirmed for the position, he would provide the right leadership for the Nigerian Army and reposition it.

Also, the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Auwal Gambo, said his vision was to leverage on all factors to re-energise the Nigerian Navy in fulfillment of national security objectives.

For his part, the Chief of Naval, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao, recalled how the country spent the taxpayers money to train him right from 1984 to date, promising not to let the country down in his new capacity.

The Senate screening panel excused journalists and continued the exercise behind closed-doors, saying the closed door session was necessary in order not to jeopardise national security.

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