After days of tension occasioned by the quit notice given to herdsmen by Ondo State government to vacate the state’s forest reserve, the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) yesterday agreed to work together to flush out criminal elements across the length and breadth of the South West region of the country.
Governor Akeredolu had issued the quit notice in response to incessant killings, kidnappings, and crises between herdsmen and farmers in the South West geopolitical zone.
But in a communiqué issued after a meeting between the state government and the leadership of Miyetti Allah held at the International Centre for Culture and Events (DOME), Alagbaka, Akure, it was resolved that criminal elements should be apprehended and punished no matter their origin, class or status.
At the meeting convened at the instance of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) led by its chairman, Dr Kayode Fayemi, it was agreed that insecurity is a national challenge which is not peculiar to any tribe or region, and must be addressed by the cooperation of all.
The communiqué noted: “No one sent anyone away from any state or region but all hands must be on deck to fight criminality. MACBAN is a peace-loving, law-abiding organisation which does not harbor or condone criminals.
“The order by the Ondo state governor was misconstrued and misrepresented by a section of the media. He only ordered those occupying the Forest Reserves in Ondo state illegally to quit. Security agencies have been trying to stem the tide of criminality in the country but must step up their efforts.
“There is the need to build a partnership for peace and security with MACBAN and jointly wage war against criminality.”
The meeting which lasted for hours further agreed that night grazing be banned henceforth, and that underage herding is inimical to security, hence should be banned.
The communiqué stated: “Occupation of state forest reserves illegally is condemned. MACBAN also suffers insecurity and kidnapping and thus desires peaceful coexistence.
“MACBAN is ready for any peaceful move by the states to engender security. Fake news is another issue that makes our security worse than solving it. There must be an enduring framework with MACBAN in a way that free-range addresses security issues.
“That free-range grazing must be stopped to avoid conflicts with alternative security arrangements, and makes them complementary to the mainstream security agencies in Nigeria.
“MACBAN should embrace and be committed to the modern breeding process by creating grazing reserves and practice ranching to prevent cattle roaming about.
“Standing committee comprising farmers, MACBAN and the government should be set up in each state (where they don’t exist) to ensure synergy and result.
“We must create economic opportunities for our people and reduce opportunities for criminality in our country.”
On his part, the national president of MACBAN, Muhammadu Kirowa, noted that they were a peaceful and democratic group.
Represented by the national secretary of the association, Baba Uthman Ngelzama, the Miyetti Allah leader sued for peace, saying dialogue is key to ensuring peaceful coexistence.
According to him, poor management of the relationship between herders and farmers led to clashes recently recorded.
He, however, pointed out that members of MACBAN were worse affected by insecurity in the country where 10,000 of their members had been killed and over 5,000 cows rustled.
He said MACBAN was open to working with the government to combat all forms of criminality because they are a peaceful democratic association.
“All our state excos are to work with security outfits within the ambit of the law. We condemn all forms of criminality and will not condone such”, the Miyetti Allah leader said.
Earlier in his address, the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, disclosed that the statement by Ondo state governor, Akeredolu, was misconstrued by a section of the media.
Fayemi who said Akeredolu didn’t ask herdsmen to vacate Ondo State noted that the statement was twisted by the media, particularly the social media.
He said, “Many members of MACBAN were born in the South West.
So, Akeredolu cannot ask Fulani to vacate Ondo state. The area concerned is the forest reserves and it is about registration and also to work in line with the law.
“What we are after are the criminals, not Fulani herdsmen, criminals are criminals, irrespective of their ethnic group.”
The meeting was attended by Governor Fayemi and Osun state governor, Gboyega Oyetola. Others include governors, Engr Seyi Makinde, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu Oyo, Jigawa and Kebbi states respectively.
FG Allays Fears Over Heightened Tension
Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday urged Nigerians to lower the tension created by insecurity in the South West, insisting that the matter would soon be addressed.
The government said security agencies and other political leaders were
already addressing the insecurity crisis in the South West.
Speaking at a press briefing at the Radio House Press Centre, minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the government was doing everything possible to address the crisis in the Southwest.
“With the situation in the Southwest, security agencies and political leaders are on top of the matter,” Mohammed said while urging Nigerians to lower the temperature of threats. Nigerians should lower the temperature and stop politicising security matters. Efforts are being made to contain this issue and other security issues”, the minister said.
Mohammed who said President Buhari had provided all the necessary equipment needed by the security agencies to achieve success in their jobs stated that the security situation in the country is now better than they met it in 2015.
He said, “Mr President has continued to provide the security agencies with the wherewithal to successfully prosecute their various operations.
“The increase in the number of vigilante groups is to improve surveillance. The purpose of the conference was to highlight what we have achieved and if you are talking about vigilantes, such will reinforce confidence. Vigilantes are what the people need and people must change tactics to the changing security situation.
“Prior to 2015, bombing took place in 12 states including Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Borno, Gombe, Adamawa and others. If you look at the number of lives that were lost we are better off today.
“Prior to 2015, how many local governments could open their rooms?
Bama, Konduga and other places in the Northeast were no-go areas. There was no single house in Bama when we visited. When people compare what happened before and now, they forget the bad times. In Abuja here, how many media houses were attacked?
“Gentlemen, I can tell you today that the armed forces, the police and other security and intelligence agencies are ramping up their efforts to enhance security of lives and property across the country, and the results are beginning to show,” minister of information, Lai Mohammed, said during the press conference.
“Since the beginning of this year, which is barely three weeks old, the armed forces of Nigeria have neutralised 158 criminal elements across the country. This is in addition to scores of other terrorists and armed bandits killed during air strikes. Some 52 criminal elements were arrested, with scores of arms, ammunition and equipment recovered. Troops have also rescued a total of 17 kidnapped victims across the country. In addition, a total of 684,856 barrels of stolen crude oil, 1,724,000 litres of stolen Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) and 500,000 litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) have been recovered.
“Furthermore, a total of 1,184 of 25kg bags of Yaraliva Nitrabor Fertiliser were impounded by the troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Please note that in addition to the numbers of neutralized criminal elements quoted above, many others were incapacitated and their camps destroyed.”
In the North West, Mohammed said 118 armed bandits were killed in action and a total of 11 kidnapped victims were rescued since the beginning of the year.
“During the same period, a cumulative total of 358 livestock and 5 assorted rifles were recovered from the armed bandits by the gallant troops in the zone. In the same vein, a total of 11 arrests were made, and those arrested include high profile armed bandits, gun runners and bandits’ collaborators,” he said.
Minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, who was at the press conference said anyone engaged in kidnapping, killings and other nefarious acts are all criminals.
Noting that Nigeria has a wide huge border line from the eastern flank up to the gulf of Guinea, he said government is putting measures in place to install electronic surveillance system which will improve the border system.