Defence Minister Fuelling Herdsmen Killings – Afenifere, NBA, Others
Socio-cultural groups in the Middle Belt and southern parts of the country have joined the Nigerian Bar Association to raise the alarm over a claim by the Minister of Defence, Brig.-Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali, blaming the anti-grazing law in some states for increased killings in Benue, Taraba and other states in the country.
Dan-Ali, after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, in company with the nation’s service chiefs, had demanded an end to the law, which is operational in Benue, Taraba and Ekiti states.
But the groups, in separate interview, queried the defence ministry for its failure to gauge the mood of the nation before making a volatile statement of that nature.
According to them, the minister should withdraw his statement “because it is capable of emboldening the killer herdsmen to perpetrate more havoc.”
A coalition of socio-cultural groups in Benue State, comprising the Mdgzou U Tiv, Idoma National Forum and Omi’Ngede, lambasted the minister for his insistence on the enforcement of cattle routes, instead of ranching.
The spokesman for the coalition, Chief Edward Ujege, said, “I wonder how a supposed educated and professional soldier will call for the suspension of an act of parliament in a democracy.”
“We are tempted to deduce from the utterances of Mansur Dan-Ali that he does not understand or is not familiar with the letter and spirit of Nigeria’s constitution, which he swore to uphold. He should help himself to be abreast of the document before making statements or suggestions.”
“It seems to us that Mansur Dan-Ali imagines that the current democratic dispensation is a military rule where decisions are taken unilaterally.”
According to Ujege, Dan Ali’s stance has emboldened the herdsmen to continue in their “heinous crimes.”
He added, “Less than 24 hours after he made the statement, herdsmen saw reason to continue with their dastardly acts, killing no fewer than 10 persons in the Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State.”
Also, the President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Emma Zopmal, noted that the defence minister should proffer a solution to the killings as a matter of urgency, otherwise he would be held responsible for his comments in spite of the perennial problem.
Zopmal said, “For the Minister of Defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to canvass the repeal of the anti-grazing bill, there must be a sinister motive against our people. The law was aimed at resolving the problem. So, when did it become a crime?”
“The statement of the minister is totally out of place. He should retract it and face his job of preserving the sovereign integrity of this country threatened by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen or resign now.”
In the same vein, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Benue State, Mr. Lawrence Onoja Jr., said there was no amount of advice or suggestion that would force the state to suspend the implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
Onoja stated that the constitution of Nigeria permits all state governments, through their houses of assembly, to make laws for the good governance of their people.
The spokesperson for the apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, also condemned the defence minister’s call for the reversal of anti-grazing laws.
Achi-Okpaga said, “The Minister of Defence is suffering from political malnutrition. Because of his military background, he thinks that his pronouncements are law, without recourse to the legislative process.”
“He shares the same background with the President and that is why he can make such utterances and expect Nigerians to abide by it.”
“In civilised climes, some officials like the defence minister, the Chief of Army Staff, the Inspector-General of Police and others should have resigned as a result of the severe insecurity in the country.”
Similarly, the Secretary-General of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, said Dan-Ali’s statement could aggravate the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen across the country.
Arogbofa added that the suspension of the law could never be the solution to the problem.
He said, “Every state has a government and every state has a right to make its laws. The minister of agriculture didn’t share that view, so if another minister is saying another thing, then it is unfortunate.”
“What Dan-Ali has said is not a solution; rather, it would aggravate the problem. That means he is telling the herdsmen to go ahead with their killings and it is rather unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, the Vice-President of the NBA, Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, criticised Dan-Ali for his statement.
Ubani, in an interview, noted that no minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had the responsibility to insist, advise or advocate that any validly passed state law be abrogated.
He said, “It is only the court or a proper procedure of an annulment of the law or an amendment that enables a law, which has been validly passed in the state, to be suspended, abrogated or amended. A minister cannot do that because he doesn’t represent the court.”
“Not even the president of the country or the security council or any other national executive council can annul a law that has been validly passed. So, we felt very uncomfortable with that statement coming from the minister of defence.”
Ubani added that Dan-Ali’s proposal raised questions as to whether the minister was speaking on behalf of the Federal Government or not.
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