In this piece, SOLOMON AYADO writes won the security measures recommended by the Senate in response to the worrisome incidence of killings by herdsmen.
Armed herdsmen attacks today, affects many states in the country. Whether it is brutal killing of men, women and children, both young and old, razing of houses, looting property, and destruction of farmlands and produce, the attacks are all heinous, simply callous and barbaric.
But nowhere are these dastardly attacks more gruesome and massive in recent times than in the agrarian Benue State. Scores of innocent persons are displaced from their ancestral homes, by heavily armed bandits said to be Fulani herdsmen. The killings are very difficult to bear and the memories are frightening.
From widespread allegations that the attackers are on mission for ethnic cleansing, some have attributed the killings to political maneuvering as 2019 election year is drawing closer. To some, it is a religious war while others have said the mayhem is a planned terrorist attack. Whatever may be the motive of the attackers, the ugly incident is simply more than a damage.
Reflectively, more than 70 persons were gruesomely murdered by armed herdsmen in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue state. It was on new year day. The attackers invaded, killed and quickly retreated. The agrarian people of the affected areas were left in mourning, without any apt security efforts to come to their rescue.
Aggrieved that the attacks occured and government seemed to be looking the other way, some youths took to the streets of Makurdi in protest, calling for quick intervention from all and sundry.
The state government held a mass burial for the victims of the attacks. But even after that, several attacks that resulted to killing of farmers continued unabated, although as security operatives were detailed to the affected areas to contain the situation. To show how prepared the attackers, two policemen were killed by the marauders while in the course of defending the areas.
With the dismal situation, the Senate had waded into the matter. The lawmakers were on holiday but had to suspend it and resume due to the seriousness the attacks deserved. The Senate was obviously not happy with the way and manner the people were being killed, with less effort from security agencies to curbing it.
To investigate the attacks and killings and proffer lasting solutions, the Senate constituted an ad-hoc committee on security infrastructure, led by the chairman, Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan, to visit Benue state and assess the situation.
As part of the Senate commitment to foster legislative actions towards enhancing security of lives and property of the citizenry, the ad-hoc committee visited the agrarian state. It met with Governor Samuel Ortom and the traditional institution headed by the Tor Tiv IV, HRH Prof. James Ayatse to acquire first-hand information. The committee equally met with all heads of security formations in the state, including Army, police, DSS among others, as well as the lawmakers paid assessment visit to the IDP camps, with the view to observe the living condition of the displaced persons.
After all was said and done, the committee returned to plenary with report of the visit. Of course, the security situation in the country is generally worsened and the lawmakers are insisting that the spade must be called by its name, by way of evolving all necessary measures to enhance peace in the troubled lands, without any play of politics.
Precisely on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, the lawmakers resumed plenary as the killings and attacks by herdsmen became the major order of the day. The Senators are infuriated over the continued ugly security situation and very bent on resolving the issue most permanently,
At plenary, the lawmakers debated extensively on the killings by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State and other parts of Nigeria generally. According to them, their resolutions, which it was gathered, were later conveyed to President Muhammadu Buhari by the leadership of the National Assembly, were “wake-up call” to the the Federal Government.
To leave no stone unturned, the Senators took time to debate one after another. It was a long heated deliberations which took a whole legislative day. They issued that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, should unfailingly, within 14 days, arrest the herdsmen suspected to have carried out the Benue killings.
The position of the lawmakers followed the adoption of the report by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of Security Infrastructure of Nigeria which was presented by Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, during plenary.
Among several issues, the lawmakers basically touched on restructuring of the governance structure, state police and the contentious cattle colonies or ranching being proposed by the Federal Government.
Taking the stage firstly was Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue Norrth East) who condemned the killings and noted that Benue state Governor Samuel Ortom had claimed that the suspects were known to him and therefore the urgent need for security agencies to arrest the attackers.
His words: “I do recall in the committee’s interactive session with the heads of security agencies in Benue State. It is at this meeting that security personnel did inform the committee that those harbouring foreign bandits were known and they had in fact compiled a list and sent it to Abuja, and that if the ‘high leadership’ requires to have the list they have sent to Abuja, heads of the Nigeria’s security organisations could be approached and they would provide that listI will therefore recommend that in addition to the report by the committee, this may be one of the areas that the Senate can explore.”
In his submission, Senator Shehu Sani, decried that the country was faced with a crisis but Nigerians were using ethnic, religious and sectional lenses to view it, making them to see an ethnic religious and sectional image. “This is not the time for diplomacy; this is the time to provide leadership for a nation that is in national emergency and distraught,” he said.
According to Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), “What happened in Benue State has showed like never before that in this country, we live in perilous times. We live in times where justice is the scarcest commodity in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I call on President Muhammadu Buhari to ring the bell of justice. I call on Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to ring the bell of justice. I call on the Nigerian Senate to ring the bell of justice.”
For former Senate President, David Mark, “Presently, there is no intelligence transmission between the organs, villagers and government. And if there is, government is not proactive. Nigeria is not the country with the largest number of cattle in the world, are they having all these crises in other place? There are modern ways of doing things and we must grow with time. We cannot be operating an archaic system that we have if it doesn’t fit into the modern situation.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has this to say, “What we see now going on in the country is a situation of killings followed by retaliations. A responsible institution must rise to the occasion and say that enough is enough,”
He further he recommended declaration of a state of emergency in the country.
Available information indicates that the legislature is not ready to listen to any aberrant response from the executive. It is not prepared to watch the ineptitude of security agencies either, just as it is urging traditional and religious leaders to rise up to the occasion.
Although, one thing that remains a big unanswered question is, can the federal government under President Buhari wake from the slumber and declare the armed herdsmen attackers are terrorists? Can the security agencies be realistic in arresting the perpetrators, without any complicity? Would the President act differently on the recommendations of the Senate, now that the lawmakers have submitted to him? For real, the Senators are joking this time.
Speaking on the attacks during the debate, Senate President Bukola Saraki insisted that, “We want to see immediate action. One point raised here today is the issue of justice. Without justice we cannot see unity and that justice stands as one of our recommendations.
“In the next 14 days, the Inspector General of Police must find the perpetrators, arrest them, and the Attorney General of Benue State must prosecute them. That is minimum requirement and it must happen. Our resolution is that some of our discussions here need to be conveyed to Mr. President.
“We appreciate his actions for calling us and giving us a brief on what has happened. Hence, we owe it to him to tell him what we have discussed and the seriousness with which we have taken the issue. It is a wake-up call for him and it is a wake-up call for us. It is a wakeup call for this government”.
“We must address the issue of security. We cannot continue to allow this violence to keep going on from one state to another. ““The President must act in this area, and those responsible for this must be held accountable. There must also be long term solutions. Part of this long term solution is that the members of the committee on security must objectively look into this”.
“The military cannot be the solution all the time. This is because sometimes the military is overstretched and that has its own impact and problem. Something must be done in this area, but more importantly we have condemned these killings but actions must begin to happen for us to re-assure Nigerians. We are not just here to just talk and we can assure Nigerians that they’ll see we’ll see that the executive and all those involved,” Saraki assured.
At the moment, Nigerians, not just the Benue people, are expectant hence the action of the Senate. With a federal government that seems to be looking the other way when its citizens are maimed unwarranted, there is less hope that the executive will implement the recommendations submitted to it by the legislature. Whether the security apparatus will be wakened to do the needful, it is another uncertainty that requires fervent prayers of the generality of people. As it stands, it is left to be seen whether a positive change shall truly come.
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