Friday, 26 January 2018

Defence Minister Blames Anti-Grazing Law For Benue Killings

The Minister of Defence, Col. Mohammed Dan-Alli (rtd.), Thursday stoked the embers of fire, when he claimed that the enactment of the anti-grazing laws by some states was the immediate cause of violence by herders.

The minister, who made the claim while briefing journalists at the end of a security council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja, blamed the enactment of such laws on the unwillingness of the affected communities to accommodate their fellow Nigerians.

Disclosing that the meeting discussed the herders-farmers’ conflicts, Dan-Ali who said there were immediate and remote causes of the crises, highlighted the remote cause as the blockage of cattle routes which he said were available at independence.
He insisted that the immediate cause for the herders-farmers’ conflict was the unwillingness by communities to accommodate the herders whom he described as their fellow Nigerians.

“You see, whenever a crisis happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (of killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis?
“Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be routes whereby the cattle rearers took because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?

“These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other.
“Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!” he said.

But when asked if the claims of the immediate and remote causes of the conflicts that he listed were justifiable reasons for the mindless killings of hapless Nigerians by the herders, Dan-Alli described the situation as a matter of internal security, claiming further that some of the killings were perpetrated by militants.

He also attributed the rampant killings by the herders to the proliferation of arms in the country, a reason he said propelled the approval for the establishment of the new National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons by the security council Thursday to check the menace, pointing out that no unauthorised person is allowed to possess or carry arms in the country.
“You are deviating from what I came here to do. However, this is internal security. I can provide some answers: I have told you that the immediate cause is the grazing law. Since independence, there were clear routes where these people passed.

“On the issue of arms, they are all over the place. In the killings you are talking about, there are also militias that also did the killings. Some people were caught with arms and they call themselves forest (livestock) guards or whatever with AK47s.
“There is no where in this country where arms are allowed to be carried other than by legitimate security forces. So, anybody carrying any arm is doing so illegally.

“Militias were caught in the same land doing the same killings. So, the killings were not done by any particular group. It is a communal issue,” he claimed.

Reminded that there were claims by the presidency at the weekend that the killings were being carried out by foreign terrorists, Dan-Ali swiftly added: “Of course, that is why I said they are militias. Militias are part of illegal immigrants. These are the people.”
He also disclosed that the security council approved the establishment of the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, which shall be chaired by a retired army general and will include all the service chiefs, the National Security Adviser and Minister of Interior to come up with measures aimed at checking the proliferation of arms.

According to Dan-Ali, the commission was inaugurated Thursday and commenced work immediately.
He also said the meeting deliberated on the planned sale of 12 Super Tucano A29 aircraft by the United States to Nigeria and the terms and conditions for the sale.

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