Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for the escalating killings by herdsmen in the country and demanded decisive actions to halt the ugly development.
They said the President’s silence showed that he lacked the political will to tackle the problem head-on, demanding prompt actions by security agencies.
The lawmakers, who reconvened in Abuja on Tuesday after their Christmas and New Year break, spoke as they debated a motion on ‘Need for the Federal Government to Declare a State of Emergency on Security over Spate of Deadly Attacks in the Country by Suspected Herdsmen.’
The motion was jointly moved by Mr. Babatunde Kolawole and Mr. Dickson Tarkighir.
A large number of the lawmakers also supported the position of the Benue State Government that ranching of cattle would go a long way in reducing the conflicts between farmers and herders.
A member, Mr. Hassan Saleh, told the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, that the Monday meeting with Buhari in Abuja did not give any hope that a solution would soon be found.”
Saleh, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Benue State, described the government as having “failed woefully” in securing the lives and property of Nigerians.
He noted that a government, whose body language suggested that cattle had more value than the lives of its citizens, had failed the people.
Saleh told the plenary about the Monday meeting between the people of Benue State and Buhari over the attacks by herdsmen and the feeble reactions by security agencies.
He said the response the delegation got from the President did not indicate that any serious steps were being taken to contain the situation.
Saleh said, “What is happening is a failure of government right from Mr. President to all of us seated here.
“We met with Mr. President yesterday (Monday) and our takeaway was nothing. All he said was ‘go and investigate,’ (to security agencies).
“So, what is happening is that the political will to tackle this problem is not there.”
Another APC member, Mr. Orker Jev, observed that the lack of political will could be seen in the “fact that this government is not giving the herdsmen the same attention it has given to Boko Haram.”
Jev dismissed the excuse that the killers were foreigners as another sign of weakness by the government.
He said, “The political will is not there right from the Presidency. The government is not giving the herdsmen the same attention it has accorded Boko Haram insurgents.
“If the claim is that the killers are foreigners, is that not a failure of governance?
“Will you allow foreigners to come into your country, kill your citizens and you keep quiet because you have cultural affinity with the killers?”
Another APC member, Mr. John Dyegh, told the House that there was a “misrepresentation” of the anti-grazing law passed by the Benue State House of Assembly by some interests, who were opposed to it.
He informed the House that an impression was created that the state government’s intention was to chase the Fulani out of Benue, adding that “this is far from the truth.”
Dyegh said, “All the government did was to say that herdsmen could buy land, settle in the state and ranch their cattle.
“Nobody said Fulani people should leave Benue. This is where the misrepresentation comes in.”
More speakers, including Mr. Rotimi Agunsoye, Mr. Oghene Emma-Igoh, Mr. Sergious Ose-Ogun, Mr. Teseer Mark-Gbillah and Ms. Funke Adedoyin, condemned the killings by the herdsmen.
However, two members noted that both the government and Nigerians had not treated the herdsmen fairly over the years.
One of them, Mr. Sadiq Ibrahim, argued that while government, over time, provided comfort for other Nigerians, it left the herdsmen to their fate.
He stated that so long as state governors and Nigerians were unwilling to make sacrifices to protect the herdsmen by donating land to them, the violence would continue to occur.
Ibrahim opposed the idea of ranching, saying that the herdsmen did not have the technical know-how.
“The herdsman needs our pity. Nature has been harsh to him and government has not taken adequate care of him.
“We all have to make sacrifices in one way or another in order to address this problem holistically,” he added.
On her part, Mrs. Aisha Dukku, confirmed that a Fulani herder preferred to save a cow to saving his own life.
Dukku, who is an APC member from Gombe State, said, “Where is the N100bn that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave to governors to establish grazing reserves for cattle? Why is nobody calling the governors to account?”
Dogara, who had earlier welcomed his colleagues from the break, noted that the killings could be contained if security agencies were proactive.
He called on Buhari to constantly wield the big stick by sacking non-performing heads of security agencies.
“The accentuation of violent crimes is a chronic symptom of defects in our security architecture, which we must fix.
“I therefore call on Mr. President to apply maximum sanction on public officers who are derelict in the performance of their duties,” the Speaker added.
Members later passed the motion in a majority voice vote and set up an ad hoc committee to meet with service chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the Minister of Interior, Lt Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), for a dialogue on the killings by herdsmen.