Momoh, security expert warn against dragging Nigeria into another civil war

Worried by what they described as a near-war situation due to the alleged criminal activities of Fulani herdsmen, former Minister of Information and a founding member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, former Security Adviser in Cross River State, Mr. Jude Ngaji, and President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYF), Alhaji Yerima Shetimma have warned politicians and their supporters to eschew politics of bitterness, hatred and one based on ethnic chauvinism if the country must avoid another civil war.

The trio spoke with The Guardian on the lingering sentiments permeating the country, especially the southern zone, where Fulani herdsmen are currently been branded as perpetrators of criminal activities like kidnapping, armed robbery, intrusion, and destruction of farmlands, rape, murder among others.

Most Yoruba leaders raised the alarm following the murder of the daughter of leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, last Friday, who was allegedly killed by armed Fulani herdsmen, who they claim are currently occupying forests across the zone from where they intermittently come out to strike, commit crime and retreat. They also accuse the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to be handling the issue with levity. To worsen matters, some leaders of the Southwest have vowed to defend their territory against alleged armed Fulani herdsmen’s invasion.

But in a quick reaction, leaders of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) gave counter-instruction to all Fulani cattle breeders to vacate the South, a situation that is currently setting the two regions against each other.

In a telephone conversation with The Guardian yesterday, Momoh warned that the manner in which some leaders and especially politicians are instigating the issue because of selfish political motives is a threat to the corporate existence of the country.

According to him, “The fact is, we are inadvertently politicising the Fulani herdsmen’s issue and crime, which is not healthy for the country. Instead of dealing with crime and how to resolve it, we are erroneously branding a particular ethnic group as criminals. The country cannot achieve any good results. There is nowhere in this country where we don’t have Fulani that has been living for ages. If we persistently accuse the Fulani as those perpetrating the various crimes in the South, what we are indirectly doing is creating hatred and fear of the Fulani in the minds of the younger generation, which I consider as another conquest.”

Momoh said Nigerians should not ascribe crime to a particular ethnic group, saying there is the need for politicians to change their approach to politicking otherwise the other option is to edit them (politicians) out if there must be peace in this country.

On his part, Ngaji faulted the idea of asking Fulani residing in the south to relocate to the north because of the activities of killer herdsmen. He said Fulani herdsmen had live peacefully with communities in the south over the years, alleging that those responsible for banditry and other forms of crimes were from the Niger Republic.

The ex-security adviser said it has been difficult to overcome Boko Haram and banditry because the insurgents seem to have more intelligence reports at their disposal than the various security agencies in the country.

According to Ngaji, “It is not right to ask the Fulani people to leave the south. By the time we begin to encourage such movements from north to south and south to north, it will not augur well since we have lived together with them in the south for a very long time. I believe they are not the same people that we knew when growing up that are committing these criminalities. Most of the Fulani people you find in the south now are from the Niger Republic and they have come in their numbers due to our porous borders.”

On poor information gathering, Ngaji advised all the arms of the Nigeria military to synergise with the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Police in order to gather the much-needed intelligence that would help tackle the rising wave of insecurity across the country. Ngaji added that the increasing spate of insecurity was as a result of the collapse in intelligence gathering, while on the other hand, the insurgents have become savvier in gathering intelligence.

“Intelligence is strictly lacking,” he stated. “The military and other security agencies will need to inject a lot of surveillance teams to be among the people in order to get to the root of the matter. Once that intelligence gathering channel is established, I am convinced that we would be able to address this challenge.”

He urged Buhari to consider having security advisers in all the six geo-political zones for effective monitoring, adding, “I also think that the president should have security advisers in the geo-political zones because of the peculiarity of the zones in order to effectively monitor the security situation in the country. These zonal security advisers will be answerable to the National Security Adviser. This is because the NSA cannot get details of what happens in the six geo-political zones and 36 states every day.

“I want to commend the president so far, but segmenting the office of security adviser into different zones will help by reporting to the national security activities. The whole attention has been on Fulani herdsmen but that is far from other criminal activities that must be eradicated.”

Shetimma said there must be synergy among the security agencies and Nigerians must eschew hate speeches and stop accusing a particular tribe as the perpetrators of crimes.

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