The Federal Government has said the country’s military manpower is not enough to secure every village in the Middle Belt region in order to stop incessant killings occasioned by herders and farmers’ clashes in the area.
It has, however, mandated the National Emergency Management Authority to rebuild villages in Benue State and ensure they are not far from one another.
The Federal Government also said that the farmers and herdsmen’s clashes which had led to loss of lives and property were caused by the influx of weapons into the country through the trans-Saharan routes.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, and the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, stated this on Thursday at a town hall meeting in Abuja on the farmers and herders’ clashes.
Ogbeh said as was the case in Argentina, Pakistan and Namibia, there were ongoing plans to generate electricity from cow dung when the government finally put the reserves in operation.
Speaking on the N10bn to be given to troubled states, the agriculture minister said the money would be used “to rebuild the devastated villages as all the Internally Displaced Persons in Benue State wanted to return home as quickly as possible.”
Ogbeh added, “I was with the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, in Benue State on Tuesday and the money announced is not only for Benue, which is apparently facing this crisis.
“The crisis in the IDP camps is very severe. Lots of women and children want to return home, but there are no homes. So, the idea is to rehabilitate the homes as quickly as possible to let them return home.
“Two, NEMA is redesigning the settlements in the villages to bring more communities together so that people don’t live too far apart. Otherwise, we don’t have enough security to guard every settlement. Unless you have units of 10 or 11 soldiers to guard each village, there is no way that the current security network can cover the needs of villagers who may be attacked in the afternoon or night. That was one of the things we studied on Tuesday.
“Three, we have to do everything we can to end these pastoral movements, slowly and in the large scale later. We have 415 reserves. Some have been encroached upon while others are still there. We have to provide water and grass, and protect the herdsmen from cattle rustlers, who are also Fulani.
“The Minister of Interior and I are working on agro-rangers being trained by the military to guard these places so that there can be peace within those communities.
“We can also then do what has been done in Pakistan, Argentina, and even Namibia here, by using the cow dung to generate electricity. These things we have designed and we are raising funds to start them.”
The convener of the meeting and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the clashes between farmers and herdsmen were connected with “demographic, environmental, social and economic dynamics and it will be a distortion to attribute the clashes to ethnic and religious reasons.”
Mohammed said, “In 1963, Nigeria’s population was 52 million. Today, it is about 200 million, yet the land space has remained the same. Against this background, the contest for land and other natural resources is bound to be keener, and the friction, more.
“There are various measures that have been taken by the Federal Government to stop these senseless killings and curtail the criminality that has fuelled the clashes. The Nigerian Air Force has deployed its Special Forces to the newly-established 23 Quick Response Wing in Nguroje, Taraba State. The NAF also has a 1,000-man Special Intervention Force deployed in Makurdi to degrade bandits and criminals in Benue and Nasarawa states.
“In the last two weeks, the Police Intelligence Response Team and the Police Special Forces, whose work cut across Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, arrested 11 suspects and recovered 10 AK-47 rifles and other firearms from them. These are just some of the arrests made by the security forces in recent days.”
The Defence Minister, Dan-Ali, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s reference to the herdsmen being trained in Libya was in relation to the infiltration of weapons into the country through the trans-Saharan routes.
He said, “There are no foreigners such as Chadians and Libyans coming into Nigeria. What we mean is that the crises in Libya motivated the coming in of arms and ammunition into the country through the trans-Saharan routes. This is the situation. To handle this, the Federal Government has set up a committee whereby a commission to tackle small arms is being looked into.”
Also, the Minister of Interior, Dambazau, said, “As a result of the crises in Libya, quite a huge number of weapons have found themselves into the country. It is not just in Nigeria, but the whole of the sub-region of the Economic Community of West African States.
“We have organised, in conjunction with ECOWAS, a conference on the movement of people and services. The whole idea is to control the movement of weapons. There is also the concept of biometrics to screen those people who enter Nigeria.”
Some of the delegates at the meeting, including the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Miyetti Allah Breeders Association, advised the government to work on establishing ranches, noting that that was the 21st-century practice, and would guarantee lasting peace and security.