Human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana SAN has blamed incompetence and impunity for the wave of insecurity in the country. While addressing the Catholic community in Ekiti last Friday at a public lecture delivered in honour of Bishop Felix Ajakaiye, Mr. Falana said that the unimaginable incompetence displayed by the federal government in preventing the massacre of innocent people has endangered the corporate existence of the country. Mr. Falana stated that “President Buhari and his officials have not helped matters as their reactions have tended to give the impression that the federal government is conniving with armed herders and bandits. For instance, during his last visit to the United States last year, President Buhari blamed the killings by herders on Gaddafi’s men who had infiltrated the country through our porous borders. The federal government has since turned round to blame disgruntled politicians for the killings.”
The senior advocate joined issues with the federal government for accusing the Benue state government of vicariously liability by enacting an anti-grazing law. He wondered why the federal government has failed to adduce any reason “for the bloodletting in Plateau, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Zamfara states which have not enacted anti grazing laws.” Mr. Falana said that the statements credited to Mr. Audu Ogbe, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development that the federal government was going to acquire land to establish colonies for herders “immediately fuelled the rumour of a planned annexation of certain parts of the country by Fulani people.” The senior counsel also accused the Defence Minister, General Dan Ali (rtd) of misleading the Nigerian people by saying that herders have been moving cattle from one part of the country to another from time immemorial.
Going down memory lane, Mr. Falana pointed out that “contrary to the misleading claim of the minister, there was no basis to move cattle all over the place because the Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo had ranches at Mokwa (Niger state) and Akunu (Ondo state) respectively while the Obudu (Cross River state) was built by a Scottish in 1951. Under the Gowon regime the Audu Bako regime in Kano state had the best ranches in the country. Owing to the destruction of the ranches, grazing routes were acquired for herders in many northern states. But the routes have since been seized by a handful of absentee farmers and other latifundists for alleged commercial farming. However, the Kano state government has since revived the collapsed local ranches. Hence, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has offered to integrate all displaced herders in Benue and Taraba states in the ranches in Kano state. The Nigerian army has recently built a ranch in Giri in the federal capital territory and has undertaken to establish ranches in other army formations in the country.
In dismissing the allegation of persecution of Christians and ethnic cleansing in the country, Mr. Falana drew the attention of the leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to the fact that “the dreaded Boko Haram sect has continued to kill thousands of Muslims in mosques and markets under President Buhari?” He then asked “was President Jonathan, a Christian, not similarly accused by some Muslim groups of allowing the Boko Haram sect to massacre Muslims and kidnap school children?” Mr Falana asked if the CAN leaders had forgotten that on May 14, 2004, President Obasanjo said ‘CAN my foot’ when the body condemned the brutal killing of Christians during one of the ethno-religious violent clashes in Plateau state. Was a state of emergency not later imposed while Governor Dariye was suspended for 6 months by President Obasanjo for his alleged negligence in containing the crisis?
Mr. Falana wondered why the leaders of religious organizations and ethnic groups have continued “to identify the victims of the reckless massacre by religion and ethnicity? Why should some media organizations continue to publish stories like ‘20 Christians killed in a church’ and ‘30 worshippers bombed in a mosque?’ Instead of mobilizing the Nigerian people to compel the federal and state governments to secure the life of every citizen the faith-based groups, ethnic societies and some media organizations are asking Nigerians to count the number of Christians and Muslims massacred by the merchants of death who have taken over the monopoly of violence due to the incompetence of the neo-colonial State.”
The civil rights lawyer appealed to the masses not to allow their class enemies to divide them. According to him, “The members of the ruling class who are promoting discord among the masses are doing so for their selfish interests. They are not interested in the security and welfare of poor people or in the education of their children and wards. They are not worried about the report that Nigeria has the largest number of poor people in the world. Neither have they expressed concern over the fate of the 15 million children of school age who are roaming the streets. That figure is also the highest in the world. Notwithstanding that the legislators belong to different political parties, different ethnic groups and different religious persuasions they are solidly united in padding the national budget for personal enrichment.” It was recently disclosed that senators from all the ethnic and religious groups in the country are paid about N13.5 million per month as ‘running costs’. But the decision of the federal government to give part of the recovered Abacha loot to a group of extremely poor Nigerians is considered illegal by all the legislators. In a country where 350 citizens are said to be owing the federal government N5.4 trillion are the masses are told that there is no money to address unemployment and poverty which have continued to drive young men and women to criminality?”
On the opposition to the planned provision of N179 for the establishment of ranches on the ground that agriculture ranching is a private affair Mr. Falana asked why there was no reaction to the disclosure by the House of Representatives that the sum of N100 billion which was set aside by the Jonathan administration for the establishment of ranches was diverted by some state governments. No doubt, the establishment of ranches is a private commercial venture. But is cassava production not a private commercial affair? Did the Olusegun Obasanjo administration not invest hundreds of billions of Naira on cassava production?
Is rice production not a private commercial venture?
Why then, has the federal government not been criticized for investing hundreds of billions of Naira on rice production? Or why have Lagos and Kebbi state governments not been challenged for investing huge public funds on the production of ‘Lake Rice’. Notwithstanding these questions the N179 billion should not be a gift but a loan to the herders.”
Mr. Falana identified official impunity on the part of the nation’s Attorneys-General as a major cause of the reckless killing and kidnap of citizens by armed gangs when he said that “It is on record that the hundreds of murder suspects indicted by several administrative and judicial tribunals of inquiry for killing innocent people in Plateau State in the past 10 years have been treated like sacred cows by the state government. The Federal Government has adopted the same nonchalant attitude to the detriment of law and order in the country. In April 2011, the federal government set up the Ahmed Lemu Presidential Panel to probe the political violence in some northern states and Akwa Ibom State which greeted the announcement of the results of 2011 presidential election. At the end of the investigation the panel recommended the prosecution of 626 suspects who were found to have killed 943 people and injured 838 others in some northern states and Akwa Ibom state.
Similarly, the Garba Judicial Commission of Inquiry instituted by the Kaduna State government to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the attack on the Shiites by the Nigerian Army in December, 2015 recommended the prosecution of the soldiers who killed 347 Shiites and buried their bodies in a mass grave in Mango, Kaduna state. Even though the Kaduna State government accepted the recommendations of the aforesaid judicial commission of inquiry it has refused to prosecute the suspects. In 2016, 2014 people were killed in Southern Kaduna area. But for reasons best known to the affected state governments, the suspects were never prosecuted.”