In what could be described as last minute response to the deadly and incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in Nigeria, the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) has said it is set to hold a conference aimed at reviewing and making recommendations on the May 1979 Free Movement Treaty as well as sharing regional data.
The minister of Interior, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, made the revelation in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday after commissioning some infrastructural projects at the headquarters of the Nigerian Immigration Service and decorating the newly promoted Deputy Comptroller of General (DCG), Fariku Juliet.
Dambazau disclosed that the conference, which is slated for April 26, 2018, will be attended by all ministers of Interior and Agriculture from the fifteen ECOWAS states as well as non-member states from Central Africa Republic and a host of others affected by the dreaded activities of herdsmen.
The minister explained that contrary to fears that the review of the treaty may have security implications, the meeting would be approached with all seriousness so that the efforts at the joint tackling of the myriad of immigration challenges confronting the region will yield the desired results.
He said he is optimistic that the conference will treat the issue of irregular migration holistically without criminalising it, considering the contiguous nature of the borders within the region.
Vice president Yemi Osinbajo had recently established a link between the protocol and the spate of killings by herdsmen, suggesting that Nigeria might opt for a review.
This was further corroborated by the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, who pointed out that the pact was undermining internal security.
Meanwhile, experts have warned that ECOWAS could break up if Nigeria does not tactfully handle its concerns over the bloc’s Protocol on Free Movement of Persons.
Mr. Augustine Echemi, a security expert, warned that “there is no policy in international relations that does not have a drawback.
“What is important is for the member states to understand where problems are and how to tackle them. This call led by the Nigerian government us too risky.”
On his part, the Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, who described the projects as a feat worthy to be celebrated advised his officers to be loyal to the service and shun corrupt practices
According to him, the decision to put up infrastructures stemmed out from his resolve to create a conducive atmosphere for enhanced Service delivery.
13 Killed in Plateau, Taraba
Meanwhile, no fewer than 13 persons have been confirmed dead in herdsmen attacks in Plateau and Taraba States.
In Plateau State, suspected herdsmen killed five people and injured three others at Inding Village in the Barkin Ladi local government area.
The public relations officer of the Plateau State Police Command, ASP Terna Tyopev, confirmed the development to journalists in Jos yesterday.
Tyopev said the gunmen carried out the killing late on April 8.
His words: “Gunmen suspected to be herdsmen attacked and killed seven people, injuring three others at Inding Village in Barkin Ladi local government area.
“The attackers struck the village on Sunday at about 8 p.m.,’’ he said, noting that investigation had commenced to unravel those behind the killing”.
In Taraba State, no fewer than four people were yesterday night killed at Tati village in Takum local government area at about 8:00 pm by suspected herdsmen.
An eyewitness who spoke to LEADERSHIP on telephone said the villagers were resting when the attackers came and opened fire on them.
Meanwhile Taraba State governor, Mr Darius Ishaku has condemned herdsmen attack on Tati village in Takum local government area of Taraba State.
He said his administration would not spare anyone found wanting in respect of the crimes and mayhem going on in some parts of the state.
In a similar development, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris has said the Police have deployed a helicopter in the state to help in surveillance operations.
Idris stated this during a courtesy call on Governor lshaku at Government House Jalingo.
Idris thanked other security agencies for assisting in providing peace and security in the state.
He noted that he was in the state to personally supervise the deployment of Police personnel and see what else can be done to ensure better policing of the state.
LEADERSHIP reports that the IGP is expected to hold meetings with traditional rulers and also commission the Mobile Police Squadron Base in Takum today.
Farmers, Herders Clash May Escalate In 2019, FG Warns
Meanwhile, the federal government warned yesterday that farmers/herders clashes might escalate next year if the government does not create ranches.
Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, gave the warning yesterday after the National Food Security Council meeting at the presidential Villa.
The minister who stressed the need to move the cattle to the old grazing reserve added that ranching is the way to go, even as he noted that herdsmen are prepared to pay tax to support the programme.
He said, “We have to move the cattle to the good old grazing reserves and we just have to create environment for them- clusters of ranches where they have water, grass and security against rustlers. For nearly 40 years we didn’t do much about cattles, we also forgot that cattle contribute 6 per cent to GDP”.
He also disclosed that the federal government is targeting single interest rate loan for farmers as a means of forcing down the prices of food in the market.
Citing the high interest in agriculture as a major challenge, the minister said the government must make agriculture lending cheap to make farming interesting.
On his part, Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, called on President Buhari to hasten the training of agro- rangers so as to solve the incessant farmers/herders clashes in some states.
“Part of the recommendation we have made and we are working on is the issue of Afro-rangers. And we noticed that if you are talking about farmers/herdsmen crisis, you have to train a specialized group of security outfit to handle those issues. It is not to concentrate on conventional security”, he noted.
Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi said the essence of the council is to increase productivity in agriculture and create employment.
President Buhari had two weeks ago inaugurated the National Food Security Council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The council, which comprises six governors drawn from six geographical locations of the country, as well as ministers and security agents, has among its key mandate to continuously assess existing food security policies, trade and national planning programmes, “thereby guaranteeing that they achieve their full potential.”
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