The leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has again said that no ethnic or regional group was ordered to quit Igbo land, warning herdsmen, however, to stop destroying farmlands in the South East.
This came as Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, yesterday flayed his Kaduna State counterpart, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, over his comments that governors in the North West zone were not united on how to tackle the security problem in the region.
Ohanaeze, which stated in a statement yesterday that though herdsmen have not been ordered out of the South East, said the herders must stop encroaching on farmlands and destroying them.
Ohanaeze’s statement came on a day Benue State governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to rein in rampaging herdsmen causing trouble everywhere before they plunge Nigeria into avoidable civil war.
Noting that Igbo were peace and hospitable people, Ohanaeze Ndigbo advised non-Igbos in general and the herders in particular not to take undue advantage of the Igbo character of hospitality and friendly acceptance of non Igbos in Igboland by engaging in actions, behaviours or attitudes inimical to the culture and wellbeing of Ndigbo.
Ohanaeze also reminded herders that freedom of movement guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria for all citizens does not include and will never include the right to destroy, desecrate or violate the laws and cultures of any part of Nigeria you live in and certainly not forceful entry into another’s farmland with impunity and disregard of the peoples’ customs and traditions over land.
In a statement signed by publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze said: “The attention of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to the news making rounds that an ethnic or regional group has been ordered to quit any part of Igbo Land.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo views such statements as reprehensible and highly unacceptable. We are aware of the various interest groups with weird claims on leadership of Ndigbo. However, Ndigbo recognizes the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, led by Ambassador (Prof) George Obiozor as the apex authority on such matters of national importance.
“It is therefore very instructive that the general public is hereby emphatically advised to always verify the sources of information regarding the position of Ndigbo on where they stand on sensitive national issues.
“The Igbo are very outreaching, hospitable and hardworking. They adapt themselves to legitimate businesses in all parts of Nigeria and the world. Igbos are known to promote cordial relationships all over the world. It is therefore highly inconceivable for a sensible Igbo group to issue quit notice to non-Igbos who are engaged in lawful means of livelihood in Igboland.
“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo advises non-Igbos in general and the herders in particular not to take undue advantage of the Igbo character of hospitality and friendly acceptance of non Igbos in Igboland by engaging in actions, behaviours or attitudes inimical to the culture and wellbeing of Ndigbo.
“It must be categorically stated and understood that freedom of movement guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria for all citizens does not include and will never include the right to destroy, desecrate or violate the laws and cultures of any part of Nigeria you live in and certainly not forceful entry into another’s farmland with impunity, and disregard of the peoples’ customs and traditions over land.
“Freedom does not mean anarchy or lawlessness. Therefore, it is in the interest of peace and mutual coexistence that the sensibilities of host communities are respected.
“May we also here, call on the relevant federal authorities to come up with actions, policies and strategies that will stop all the objectionable acts of destruction of farmlands, violation of community and cultural sanctify over land customs, kidnappings that generate conflict between the host communities and the herders.
“To this effect, we congratulate the South East governments and governors for their recent ban on open grazing in the South East zone.It is clear that only by creating an environment of social justice, equity and fairness that Nigeria can attain a sustainable political and economic stability.
“For purpose of clarity, the said quit notice is unknown and did not emanate from any known political or socio- cultural recognized authority or institution in Igboland”.
Stop herdsmen before they plunge Nigeria into civil war
Governor Ortom who pleaded with President Buhari to stop the herdsmen menace spoke at a press briefing in Abuja, adding that he made the appeal as a patriot who is concerned about the president’s reputation and the fate of Nigeria as a country.
Before the briefing, Ortom had delivered a letter dated February 8, 2021 to President Buhari with the caption: “Appeal to Act before herdsmen drag Nigeria into civil war”
Governor Ortom said in the letter: “Mr. President, we are not oblivious of the challenges that the country has faced in the life of your administration. These include two recessions, the COVID-19 global pandemic and the unprecedented nationwide security challenges resulting into the largest loss of lives and property since the Civil War. These security challenges especially have unsettled the country economically, socially and politically.
“Your Excellency, these security challenges have assumed new dimensions where the now emboldened assailants and armed herdsmen daringly enforce their will on legitimate owners and occupants of ancestral lands. There are many areas of concern over the Federal Government’s actions and inactions, including the widely discussed concern over inequalities in key appointments. These have reinforced the perception that the administration is not fair and just to all Nigerians.
“Mr. President, please recall my earlier letters drawing your attention to the murderous activities of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and other armed Fulani socio-cultural groups and their leaders who publicly and brazenly claimed responsibility for the killings and destruction of property across states of the country. These groups and their leaders have also boasted that Nigeria belongs exclusively to them.
“I am writing to you as a patriot who is concerned about your reputation and the fate of our dear country. I am imploring you once again to rise to the challenges of these times to avert the country’s drift to anarchy and disintegration, a situation that sycophants and praise-singers might be unwittingly shielding from you.
“In 2015, Nigerians enthusiastically welcomed your return as a leader with a reputation for uprightness, fair-mindedness and integrity. The current situation is raising doubts in the minds of many Nigerians who had believed in you. Mr. President, your compatriots are looking up to you to act fast to redress the situation,” Ortom said in the letter.
Ortom, however, regretted that despite the series of letters he had written to the President drawing his attention to the nefarious activities of herdsmen in Benue State, the president has not done anything about the letters, thereby emboldening the herders to attack the more and render the state’s anti-open grazing law almost comatose.
“We are alarmed that rather than being censured, these leaders and organizations have been emboldened and intensified their atrocities. They have received encouragement in the process through various actions and inactions by the Federal Government, including the following:
(i) Open Visa Policy which has promoted unprecedented influx of Fulani herdsmen carrying sophisticated and prohibited weapons into Nigeria;
(ii) Non-compliance with the ECOWAS protocol on transhumance;
(iii) Swift condemnation of any perceived or real threats on Fulani while maintaining silence over their atrocities and admonishing victimized host communities to accommodate their oppressors and learn to live at peace with them;
(iv) The failure to arrest, disarm and prosecute armed herdsmen and Fulani militia;
(v) Disarming other Nigerians who have licensed weapons;
(vi)Continuation of open grazing and support for grazing reserves, stock routes, cattle colony and Ruga despite nationwide acknowledgement that this practice is unviable; and that ranching is the global best practice for livestock production;
(vii)The non-implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan despite its approval by the National Economic Council and its acceptance by pilot states.
“This ugly situation has caused devastation across the country. In Benue State, 19 out of 23 Local Government Areas have been affected by attacks of Fulani herdsmen leading to loss of lives, destruction of property and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Benue people who are now living in Internally Displaced Persons Camps and host communities across the state. The total number of Internally Displaced Persons currently in the Camps in Benue State is 483,692 persons.
“Returning these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes has been impossible as herdsmen continue to attack, kill, maim and rape those who return. The Federal Government is also yet to redeem the pledge made on 15th May, 2018 by Vice President Prof. Yemi Osibanjo to contribute N10Billion to Benue State towards the reconstruction, rehabilitation, reintegration and resettlement of displaced persons. The failure of the IDPs to return to their ancestral homes to resume normal farming activities, together with the impact of climate change, has posed a serious threat to national food security, as evidenced by rising food prices.
“Mr. President, this call for justice is the heart cry of every patriotic Nigerian. It is not a call against the Fulani race or any other ethnic group, but a call to make Nigeria work for every Nigerian in line with the Oath of Office we took as leaders and your pledge to be a President for all Nigerians and to be for everybody and for nobody. Unfortunately, you seem to be tilting towards the Fulani at the expense of other nationalists.
“Many citizens including patriotic Fulanis like Dr. Nura Alkali are alarmed at this tilt and the boast of Miyetti Allah that Nigeria is the heritage of the Fulani of the whole world. These citizens continue to condemn the atrocities of the Fulani across the country while also calling on the Federal Government to end these atrocities by withdrawing from their one-sided sympathy for herdsmen.
“Only recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, added his voice in this regard. He acknowledged that seven or eight out of every 10 kidnappers arrested in Nigeria are Fulani. This is not a good testimony. More so, the consequences this image has cast on the Fulani tribe should be corrected now.
“It is important to point out that these are not sentiments directed against Fulanis who are indigenous to Nigeria and have been living at peace with other Nigerians. Testimonies abound in that regard. For example, my wife and I were accommodated by a Fulani man while in school at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Till date, we are still very good family friends and he visits me occasionally in Benue. This point underscores the pain we all have had to go through to understand the tragedy where armed herdsmen from Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries are pushing the whole country to the precipice. While addressing the Nigerian community on Tuesday 19th April 2019 in Dubai, you also blamed these foreign herdsmen for the attacks on Nigeria.
“Mr. President, as a major stakeholder in the Nigeria project, I have a responsibility to raise these major concerns and to offer some recommendations towards addressing them,” the governor pointed out.
Among other strategies, Ortom recommended to the president, the immediate development of a national ranching policy in line with global best practice in animal husbandry, pointing out that open grazing is extinct in most countries of the world.
Ban foreign Fulani herders, says Ganduje
In a related development, the Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, faulted the recent comments made by Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, on the security situation in the North-West and called for the ban of foreign Fulani herders in the country.
Recall that Gov El-Rufai had recently stated on BBC Hausa Service that lack of synergy among governors of the North-West was hampering security efforts in the region.
But speaking on Radio France International, monitored in Kano yesterday, Ganduje said El-Rufai might not understand the security efforts put in place by the governors of the area.
According to Ganduje, security agencies in the country have advised Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi States to collaborate and check security challenges in the notorious Falgore forest in Tudun Wada and Doguwa LGAs of Kano State.
“The issue of lack of synergy does not arise in this context because security agencies have advised us to come and meet with Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi states to see how the activities of bandits in Falgore forest could be contained.
“I intimated both governors of Kaduna and Bauchi. Both had sent their delegations. There was the issue of the fund. Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi had all donated their funds and the exercise was eventually successful.
”The way I see it, the governor did not understand security issues well because the security situation depends on the nature of a state. For instance, no matter how we strongly collaborate as governors, how should we check ethnic clashes in Kaduna?
”How should we check religious differences in Kaduna? You see, this is a problem that can only be checked by the Kaduna State government itself.”
“Therefore, any security issue in a state depends on the efforts of the state government, the federal government, the security agencies and the people of the state.
”For instance, in Kano, we have a harmonious working relationship with security agencies. We have state-of-the-art security gadgets. In Dansoshiya forest, we are building houses to accommodate Fulani herders in a bid to stop them from grazing in the southern parts of the country.
“In Falgore forest, there is an ongoing project of a military training camp. In the project, there is a provision for areas where Fulani herders would be accommodated.
“We have enough places to accommodate Fulani herders in Dansoshiya and Falgore forests. To restrict them into those places in order to prevent them from grazing in the southern part of the country is the only panacea to the lingering crises.
“There are three categories of Fulani. There are Fulani, there are herders and their foreign Fulani herders who commit crimes.
“It is often forgotten that there are foreigners among those Fulani herders but nobody is talking about them. The moment a foreign Fulani herder infiltrated Nigeria and committed a crime, he would be considered as Nigerian Fulani. Therefore, it is high time we banned them from entering Nigeria.
“Secondly, those herders traveling from the north to south should be banned from doing so. Those that are saying they should not be banned from trekking to the southern part of the country for grazing should use their children to do so.
‘’This is a national issue. A robust bill by National Assembly is the only answer to the issue of farmer/herder conflict,’’ Ganduje said.
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