Appalled by the rampancy of horrendous killings by rampaging herdsmen in parts of the country,state governors have read the riot act to Security Chiefs to sit up or be fired on their recommendation and at the same time calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to unmask and prosecute perpetrators of the blood letting in the country. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH writes on the quandary the president may have found himself in the circumstance.
About two weeks ago, rampaging herdsmen went on a killing spree in Plateau State, leaving behind tears, sorrow and blood. The herdsmen reportedly killed over 100 persons. The killings on the Plateau have opened old wounds by recalling past massacres in the country. Keen observers say over 1,000 persons have been killed by rampaging herdsmen in Kaduna, Taraba, Nassarawa and Plateau states this year alone.
According to a Global human rights group, Amnesty International, independently verified figures indicate that at least 1,813 persons have been murdered across 17 states, which doubles the 894 people killed in the entire 2017. TI explained that the killings are usually the result of the farmers-herders conflict and Boko Haram attacks, as well as armed banditry, among others.
The gory killings have put the Buhari administration in a catch-22 situation where he is to choose between the credibility of his presidency and his security chiefs. It has also brought to the fore the arguments for the establishment of State Police. Last month, Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, relinquished his position as the chief security officer in his state, citing lack of power to summon the commissioner of Police in the state. Zamfara State has been one of the epicentres of killings in the country. Armed bandits and rustlers have killed over 300 persons in the state this year alone.
It is worthy to note that most state governors have been funding the Police in their states by way of buying operational vehicles for the Force and sometimes provide monthly allocation for security personnel in the state.
Dismayed by the killings their domains, the governors decided to take the bull by the horns in the wake of the latest massacre by calling on the federal government to prosecute the perpetrators of the recent killings in Plateau State.
Rising from a meeting held under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) in Abuja last Wednesday, the governors also resolved to hold a security meeting with the Service Chiefs. Condemning the attacks, they also commiserated with the government and people of Plateau State, even as they planned to pay a condolence visit.
Chairman of the Forum, Governor Yari, who read the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting to journalists, said, “NGF at our meeting held today at the NGF Secretariat, Abuja deliberated on several issues and resolved as follows: The forum strongly condemned recent attacks in Plateau State and the spate of insecurity in the country. Members commiserated with the government and people of Plateau and other States including victims who were caught in transit traveling to and from neighbouring states.
“Governors unanimously called for the prosecution of the perpetrators of the attacks and resolved to find a quick and common solution to the security crisis. The Forum resolved to pay a condolence visit to Plateau State to commiserate with the government and people of the state.
“Governors noted with delight and thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President for their quick response and visit to Plateau State to show empathy to the people of the State. We equally commend Governor Simon Lalong for the way he handled the very sad situation. Governors resolved to hold a one-day meeting with the security chiefs to come up with a holistic solution to the country’s security situation.”
Two days later, the governors fulfilled their promise and visited Plateau State to commiserate with their colleague. In Plateau, they asked service chiefs in the country to put an end to the security challenges in the country or they would be compelled to pressurise President Buhari to sack them.
To this effect, Yari said, “We are going to very soon, as we have agreed collectively, have a one-day interface with the security chiefs to ensure that they understand where we are and how this thing is depleting the relationship between the citizens and as a nation the threat that we are under, we are under a time bomb as leaders.
“They should do their jobs perfectly or else, we have no option than to ask the President to relieve them, that’s the only point. Our hands are on deck, the little resources we have are going to handling of security challenges, instead of focusing on development”.
Consoling the state governor, the NGF chairman said, “We are here to encourage you that you shouldn’t lose focus. And we are worried because Plateau State during your time has experienced relative peace and we are happy with that, but all of a sudden, things began to take another dimension.
“We promise we are going to be behind you and our president to give both of you the necessary encouragement and support, to ensure that the relevant security agencies must stand up and do their jobs”.
Responding, Governor Lalong thanked the Forum for the visit, saying since he came into office in 2015, his focus has been to ensure peace and prosperity in the state.
He said, “We achieved this for three years. If you ask an average Plateau person, how this thing happened, he will say ‘we don’t know’.
“To me as a governor, we were taken by surprise in Plateau State, because once the devil plans his action, he will want to take people by surprise.”
Also, former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, on Monday lent his voice to those calling on the federal government to identify and punish the culprits behind the spate of killings in parts of the country in order to ensure justice for those aggrieved. Speaking during the 2018 national prayer rally of Nigeria Prays, North West Zone, tagged: “The Lord’s Inheritance,” held at St. Martins De Porres Catholic Church, GRA, Katsina, Gowon did not mince words when he told the federal government point blank that the ball is on its court to fish out the culprits.
Gowon, who is also the board chairman of Nigeria Prays, expressed regret that the killings had been going on for too long, even as he condemned the coldblooded murder of people of any race, tribe or religion. “I want to appeal to the government to identify and deal with the culprits and ensure justice to the aggrieved,” he said.
Dismissing the insinuation that most cases of violence in the country were reprisals over perceived wrongs, Gowon warned that such violence was totally unacceptable. The former military head of state urged Nigerians to eschew violence and continue to pray to God to heal the country, the land and the people, saying these killings were pushing the nation to the brinks.
According to him, those who are unwilling to change their bad attitude are the ones creating the challenges confronting Nigeria. “That is the reason there is need for more prayers for those in authority to be able to deal with the problems. We are gathered here in the true spirit of worship; we intercede fervently at this difficult time for our dear nation. The situation in Nigeria calls for prayers and best wishes from men of goodwill,” he added.
Indeed, Gowon’s call resonates with those of many Nigerians, including other past leaders, for the federal government to end the killings and punish the culprits and their sponsors.
President Buhari had told the US president Donald Trump that those behind the killings in Nigeria were foreign bandits trained and armed by the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddaffi, while the minister of defence Mansur Dan Ali had attributed the killings to herdsmen’s reaction to the blocking of grazing routes.
Both Dan Ali and the Inspector General Of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, also blamed the bloodshed on the anti-open grazing laws enacted in some states and called for their suspension as a way of de-escalating the violence.
Anti-open grazing laws are in place in Benue, Taraba and Ekiti States. However, conflicts between herders and farmers have been recorded in about 30 states, with the heaviest killings recorded in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Zamfara states.
The latest mass killings in Plateau State in which over 100 people were slain are the cutting-edge for the public outcry. Different accounts put the number of deaths in such attacks and reprisals at nearly 2000 since the beginning of the year.
But how President Buhari will resolve the puzzle of killings in the country is what keen observers of the polity say they are waiting to see in the build up to the 2019 general polls. The thinking is that this will, to a greater extent, determine his chances in the presidential poll. As it stands now, security chiefs are expected to make remarkable impact in the effort to stop the killings and ensure justice or leave nothing for the president to show and get fired.
On his part, Buhari is left with the options of either driving the security chiefs to unmask the killers and bring them to book and if they fail to do so, he gets them fired or allow them to remain to the detriment of his own presidency.
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