• Want administrators for Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Zamfara
• Reject state police, want disbandment of all militias
• Seek withdrawal of quit orders by S’East, Delta State
• Herdsmen ‘ready to abide by Benue anti-grazing law’
Following an emergency meeting, yesterday, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency in Taraba, Kaduna, Benue and Zamfara States to curb bloody clashes between farmers and herdsmen. It also demanded the suspension of political structures and the appointment of administrators to run the states’ affairs until security is restored.
The Spokesman, Mallam Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, who disclosed the group’s position on key national issues, warned that dire consequences await President Buhari and other public office holders particularly from the North in the 2019 polls, if they fail to take decisive steps to arrest the level of insecurity in the country.
The CNG asked the Federal Government to disband all militias by force if necessary, and vehemently rejected calls for the establishment of state police, arguing it would be a recipe for disaster and an oppressive and manipulative tool at the hands of governors.“We emphatically repudiate the vilification of one ethnic and religious group or the other for whatever reason or justification. In this light, we deem the targeting of the entire Fulani and by extension, Muslims, for vilification, systematic dehumanisation, profiling, alienation or any action that will render them objects of attack and persecution, not only immoral and illegal, but also abhorrent to our sensibilities and ordinary decency and therefore unacceptable,” the coalition said.
The CNG said federal and state governments “must immediately identify suitable lands across the country and create grazing reserves and cattle routes.” But where “resistance is shown,” the lands must be “expropriated through resort to extant provisions of the Land Use Act and other related laws.”It demanded the establishment of a “National Policy on Grazing and Livestock Development,” to oversee the needs of pastoral communities across the country. It also demanded the “immediate setting up of a National Pastoralist Commission, to act on all matters affecting the wellbeing and interests of all citizens whose livelihoods depend on livestock rearing.”
Giving reason, the group argued that successive governments had put in place structures like the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission and the Niger Delta Development Commission “aimed at resolving a specific set of challenges affecting specific communities in the South.” Hence, there is “no justification whatsoever to resist or even question the creation of special initiatives to address the needs of herdsmen if these will lead to lasting peace and stability.”
The CNG pushed for “a Special Intervention Initiative” to be operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministries of Finance, National Planning, Agriculture and Water Resources, “for supporting special livestock development policies and the establishment of special funds to support pastoral communities along the lines of the Anchor Borrowers Programme and other types of Federal Government interventions.”
It warned “persons or groups that feel strongly against the politics and policies of Mr. President to direct their grievances at him or his government, as further attempts to rub political opposition on an entire race or religion would no longer be tolerated.”It pressed for the “immediate withdrawal of the quit orders separately issued to the Fulani in the South East by Ohanaeze, and to northern communities in Delta State by the state government.” It vowed South East governors and leaders “would be held responsible” if consequently any harm befalls northerners.
The coalition called on the Federal Government to proscribe “all religious groups, political parties or ethnic and tribal organisations undermining Nigeria’s peace, security, and peaceful coexistence through unguarded utterances and deliberate actions aimed at fomenting unrest and engendering inter-religious and inter-communal conflicts.”
It took a swipe against media organisations, accusing them of “slanted reporting of events with greater bias against a particular religious and ethnic group as witnessed in the herdsmen and farmers clashes recently.” It therefore asked the Federal Government to “call media operators to order in their reporting of all security situations.”It reminded the government of CNG’s “earlier patriotic advice for the enactment of appropriate laws to deal with all manifestations of hate speech from any quarter,” and gave “notice to instigators and perpetrators of all hate crimes that the CNG is ready and willing to take matters to the International Criminal Court for redress where local remedies could not be provided to the victims of such actions.”
The coalition asked the Federal Government to rethink its decision not to interfere with state laws on land. It said: “Contextually, we see this decision as a veiled affirmation of the injurious and vindictive anti-grazing laws that are not just in conflict with the supremacy of our Constitution, but also repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.”It condemned the blaming of the North for “everything that is wrong with Nigeria,” and warned that the region would no longer put up with “deliberate and sustained attacks on its unity, integrity and dignity.”
It also cautioned “detractors coming from outside the North to foment trouble and escalate tension among our people,” saying: “Their actions will not go unnoticed and in the fullness of time, they will be held accountable for their instigation to violence and killings of innocent people on both sides involved in the herders and farmers conflicts.”
The region’s “noble dispositions” must not be perceived as “weaknesses,” the CNG warned, because “the North is no longer going to turn the other cheek.” But “if the mutual respect and peace which have evaded us throughout this country’s independent existence cannot be achieved at this point, we would all be left with no choice but to support the suggestion for the conduct of a referendum so that each component can peacefully decide its fate.”
Meanwhile, the committee set up by the National Executive Council to find a solution to clashes between farmers and herdsmen has revealed that herdsmen are willing to abide by the Benue State anti-open grazing law.The Head of the committee and Ebony State governor, David Umahi, made the disclosure in Makurdi, the Benue State capital yesterday.
He told reporters after meetings with stakeholders: “The cheering news is that the herdsmen in Benue and Nasarawa States are ready to abide by the law. But that they would need more time for ranching and support from the Federal Government, and more time to move to grazing reserves with the support of the Federal Government.”
He added: “We observed in the course of our investigations and meetings that the Benue people are so passionate with the law. We observed that security agents are already implementing the law and they told us that 32 persons are already standing prosecution for violating the law. We also observed that the security agents are very neutral. In the course of discussion with Miyetti Allah in Nasarawa, they denied ever claiming ownership of the Benue Valley, so we left that issue with the social media.”