- Reject Dev. Commission for the North Central
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Christiana Ekpa
The controversy trailing the proposal to create cattle colony across the country as a measure to address the conflict between herders and fathers resonated in the Senate yesterday, as the lawmakers failed to adopt a consensus on the proposal.
This is even as the lawmakers rejected the recommendation by the Senate ad hoc committee to establish a Development Commission for the North Central, following the distraction which has aggravated over time in the region due to incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen; but unanimously endorsed state police as a way forward in the security crisis in the country.
In the debate at plenary, while the senators from the Muslims dominated states of the North argued in favour of the proposal, those from Christian majority states both in the North and Southern part of the country argued against the proposal, calling rather for the adoption of reaching as a solution.
The debate was sequel to the presentation of the report of the Senate ad hoc committee on the review of the security architecture of the country, headed by the Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, which visited the areas affected by the Benue crisis.
However, in the debate, the former Senate President, David Mark, said there are modern ways of doing things, and Nigeria must grow with time. He said the country cannot be operating on archaic system that it has now, if it does not fit into the modern situation, stressing that the issues must be addressed.
Mark said the issue of Creation of cattle colonies, devolution of power and state police are long term solutions, because they cannot be implemented immediately, adding that unless government addresses the issues on the basis of what is immediate and long term, to stop the killings going on in the state and the country at large, it will be failing in its responsibility.
“I am more worried if indeed it is by foreigners. So foreigners are invading this country; they are killing people and government cannot protect them. How can any person justify this? I think it is worst if we say the killers are foreigners. Nothing can be worse than that – because it means we are just waiting for invasion by any group of people.”
On proliferation of arms, Mark said: “If there are so many people bringing in the AK47 all over the country and government cannot do anything about it, people will resolve to self defense. That will be worse for everybody.”
On the contrary, the former senator of the Federal Capital Territory, Adamu Aliero, in his contribution said cattle colonies, as being proposed by the federal government, should be looked into because Fulani are Nigerians.
He said the ECOWAS protocol is still there, which also allows the Fulani to move large herds of cattle across the borders, spiraling into Nigeria. He lamented that some governors said they do not have land for colonies, but have for ranch which he said is ironical; explaining that the colony is like grazing reserves.
He said also that the proliferation of arms should be curtailed through a national disarmament policy by the government, if the country should be serious about the insecurity across the country.
He also spoke in favour of Community policing, which he said should be the way forward because the Nigerian police does not have the manpower and logistics to cover all the country.
However, the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, in his remarks insisted that cattle rearing is a personal and private business of some persons, and should be treated as such. He noted that time has come for the nation and the politician to speak the truth.
Dino said there is no wise or foolish person in the country today, but that the time has come for things to be done in the right way.
Responding, the senator representing Bauchi Central, Ali Wakil, advocated for the accommodation of the Fulani people, whom he said are not foreigners but Nigerians. He said they can be provided an enabling environment in terms of the cattle colonies, as being proposed by the federal government, to enable them thrive in their business as a measure to address the crisis.
He said the Fulani person is not educated, and sometimes value their cattle more than their children; hence anything that affects their cattle rearing is not easy by them.
He was, however, countered by the senator representing Abia North, Mao Ohuabunwa, who said the colonies for cattle will not work now because a lot of things have changed in the country, which has made availability of land to become very limited.
He said people even in the east, unlike before, no longer give out lands to people to farm because land is not sufficient anymore. He rather called for restructuring of the country to allow states make laws to address the challenges of the herdsmen and farmers crisis, and design it in a way best suitable to develop the respective states. He said some Fulani people have become indoctrinated that they now carry complex guns, unlike before when they use to be peaceful.
While making her remarks, the senator representing Adamawa North, Binta Masi, recalled that during the time of General Ibrahim Babangida as Nigeria’s president, the cattle colony was propounded in a decree made by the government.
She said in the decree, the Normads were settled in one location and given western education, and their cattle taken care of, stressing that this should be reconsidered in the cattle colony establishment being proposed by the government.
Meanwhile, the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, in his remarks, said the president should be called up to wake up and stand up to defend the nation.
He said that he expected that in the wake of the killings, ‘the villa should rather go to Benue and not Benue going to villa”, lamenting that while things are going wrong in the country and many governors are trooping into the villa to endorse the president for second tenure.
He said there is no unity, peace and progress in the country, even as armed people who should be arrested and prosecuted, but rather peoples are massaging the personality of the president because they want to come back to the 9th Senate.
Also, senators, Kabiru Marafa, Ike Ekweremadu, Gorge Akume and Godswill Akpabio, all spoke in favour of state police as a long term measure to resolve the crisis.