FG sets up mediation team for talks with Miyetti Allah

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (right) with some state governors during the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting on pastoralist –farmers’ clashes at the Presidential Villa, Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA 

• Cattle colony is modern slavery, say Ajimobi, Alaafin 
• Soldiers deploy in Gboko, as govt imposes security measures
• Benue leader petitions int’l community over ‘genocide’ against Tiv

The Federal Government has set up a team to mediate with the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) with a view to ending herdsmen’s attacks on farmers in the country.Headed by Ebony State Governor Dave Umahi, the team’s other members are: Governors Simon Lalong (Plateau), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Jibrilla Bindo (Adamawa) and Abdullaziz Yari (Zamfara).

The move followed a three-hour meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, yesterday. At the closed-door session were the Minister of Interior General Abdulrahman Danbazau (rtd), his counterpart in the Ministry of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, and Deputy Governors Benson Abounu (Benue) and Moses Adeyemo (Oyo).

Osinbajo had, recently, stressed President Muhammadu Buhari’s resolve to bring the crisis to a stop. “Much damage has been done, not just security-wise, but also to the psyche of the people. Due to the series of attacks, people are afraid. We are looking at repairing the damage that has been done to the infrastructure of the communities and rehabilitating the people,” he had stated.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari told State House correspondents that the meeting, held at the instance of the National Economic Council (NEC), sought solutions to the problem.”As a government, we have to take all measures, despite the fact that the army, police and other security agents are on the field at the respective places. Still, we have to form this committee to interface with those actors, so that this matter can be reduced to the barest and possibly wiped off,” Yari said, adding: “Other people will be brought in to join the committee from the hotspot states of Benue, Taraba, Adamawa and Zamfara.”

The Nigerian Army, meanwhile, has dispatched troops to the streets of Gboko town, Benue State, sparking fear among residents that an attack by the soldiers was imminent.The deployment followed the killing, last week, of seven persons in a mob action.But Major Olabisi Olalekan Ayeni, spokesman for 707 Special Forces Brigade, Makurdi, refuted the insinuation.

He said via telephone: “Yes, soldiers are in Gboko. But what happened was that when they got there, they went round in about seven Hilux vans to register their presence, to scare away criminals and lawbreakers who may want to cause disturbance in the area.”The people were merely afraid, seeing the movement of the soldiers. We have heard about the insinuation. But it is not true. The army’s presence in Gboko is to maintain peace, not kill or burn houses. The army is for all Nigerians and not for a single set of people. It is against our ethics; it is against our profession to take sides.”

It came as the state government rolled out new security measures. It ordered security agencies to impound vehicles with concealed number plates, giving traditional rulers a reprieve until the end of February. It also banned the use of sirens by individuals.The government further denied it had been sponsoring militias and warned livestock guards not to bear arms. It regretted the Gboko killings and increased the ransom for wanted criminal, Terwase Akwasza (alias Ghana), from N10 million to N50 million.

Also in Makurdi, Benue State, the President General of Mzough u Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege, in a statement, yesterday, called on the international community to stop the “deliberate move by Fulani herdsmen to annihilate the Tiv nation.”His appeal followed the alleged killing of 12 people in Kadarko in Nasarawa State and similar incidents in Taraba and Benue States.He said: “The leaders of Miyetti Allah have made it abundantly clear that the crisis in these states is a struggle for resources in the Benue Valley and that they will invite Fulani from across the world to annihilate the current inhabitants and take over.

“Let’s be informed that while the killings in Benue continue, thousands of Tiv people whose ancestral homes are in Awe, Doma, Keana and Obi Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State are being displaced.”In a related development, the Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, and the Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi, yesterday, voiced their disapproval of the Federal Government’s plan to set up cattle colonies across the country. They spoke when the monarch led a delegation of traditional rulers to Government House, Ibadan.

Ajimobi said the cattle colony initiative amounted to modern slavery, because the concept of colony is synonymous with colonisation. He said Oyo State would not accept the idea, which according to him “is a pointer to the fact that federalism is not working in Nigeria.”He noted: “If poultry farmers or owners of piggeries are not being offered colonies for their livestock, why should herdsmen? Our position is to support controlled ranching, under which we will provide land and other basic modern facilities for good cattle business, as well as breeding. Those wishing to rear cattle will use the facilities at moderate cost. No more, no less.”

The Alaafin expressed support for the governor’s “forthrightness on the issue and for standing for the rights of the downtrodden, especially the people of his state,” stressing: “The Federal Government does not own land; it belongs to the state.”

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