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Gov.Ishaku,Herdsmen attack and the reality of state police

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Nick Dugba, Jalingo
These are not the best of times for states along the Benue River valley including Taraba state- popularly known as ‘nature’s gift to the nation’. The states have been embroiled in series of attacks by militias, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen,who have not hidden their aversion to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, popularly known as the Anti-open grazing Law. In this article, Correspondent Nick Yashi, tries to find out the present situation of the Law and why the idea of state police becomes necessary.
The incessant crises between Fulani herdsmen and natives in Taraba and neighbouring Benue- at least since the inauguration of the administrations of Gov. Darius Ishaku and Gov. Samuel Ortom in 2015, may not be unconnected to the promulgation of the anti-open grazing Law in those states. Even though, it may not be the remote cause since the farmers/herdsmen crises have predated the current administration. Going by the intractable nature of the present crises, it is obvious the factors responsible for the herdsmen/farmers crises are multi-dimensional and multi-faceted.

There are many theories as to why we have those crises. Some say the Fulani have an unfinished expansionist agenda started since 1804 by Othman Dan-fodio. Another school of thought have it that ‘scarcity’ of rich pasture land in the face of competition with farmers is the economic factor giving rise to the clashes. The domineering authoritarian nature of the Fulani tribes men and manipulations by political opponents aimed at crippling the establishment has been attributed as another factor. Yet, the effect of climate change on the environment which forces the herdsmen out of their traditional bases in the far north to the rich lands around the Benue valley and others is yet another factor.
The rest however is history and on the table now is a new policy- the Anti-open Grazing Law which the Taraba State Government says is aimed at checking the clashes between the two groups.
According to government, the implementation of the Law would be in phases and gradual. It intends to run pilot ranches in the three senatorial zones as a test-run. Speaking during a Channels TV program recently, the state Commissioner of Information, Anthony Danburam, revealed that the Taraba version of the Law was different from that of Benue state and that the practice of ranching was already well in practice in Sardauna LGA. Ironically and unfortunately too, Sardauna had experienced some of the most vicious clashes in the recent past between Native farmers and Fulani herdsmen.
So far, the government has begun the gradual implementation of the Law by setting up a public enlightenment Committee well represented across board, which is headed by a renown grassroots mobiliser in the person of Galadiman Muri, Abba Tukur. He usually appears on radio and Television stations to speak about the policy and also hold town Hall meetings across the state to sensitive the citizens. Also, dramas, playlets and jingles are been carried out in major Native languages as a way of reaching out to the people who may be ignorant of the Law.
Apart from that, the government has begun the training of what it calls ‘anti-grazing marshals’, preparatory to the full implementation of the Law.
Unfortunately, the plan by the Taraba state government to begin full implementation of the Law, has been overtaken by events. No thanks to the attacks in the State, specifically in Lau LGA and Gassol LGA, where over 70 persons perished in the hands of suspected Fulani herdsmen in this year alone. Coupled with the disaster that happened in Benue recently and parts of Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa and Benue, the authorities had no choice than to muster the political will long overdue, to deal with the menace headlong and this time, the Federal government intervened, to suggest that the issue is beyond the states.
In a meeting of the National Economic Council recently, chaired by Vice president Yomi Osinbajo, decided to set up a committee on Farmers/Herdsmen clashes in those troubled states to be headed by Zamfara State Governor and Chairman, Nigeria Governor’s Forum(NGF), Abdulaziz Yari. By extension, a sub-technical Committee headed by Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, was set up to visit those troubled states. Part of its terms of reference was to interface with the stakeholders aimed at bringing an end to the crises and having swung into action, the Committee was able to visit the states of Nasarawa, Benue as well as Taraba which it visited between 19 and 21 February, 2018.
Having met with stakeholders and Tarabans in a Town Hall meeting spanning 14 hours in three days, the committee concluded its findings and observed that the major feuding party, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association(MACBAN) did not attend any of the public hearing held by the state legislature for the Anti-open Grazing Bill, neither did it appear before or make submissions to the panel of Inquiry established to investigate the farmer/Herdsmen conflict in Sardauna. Yet it was quick to run to the courts over the issue. It also observed and recommended that Sections 23, 24 and 25 of the Law be amended to address the fears of the herdsmen.(these sections merely provided for fines to be paid by persons whose animals are caught straying in contravention of the Law).
Besides that, the committee did not find anything wrong in the Law and therefore asked all citizens to accept the Law and not resist it as by doing so, a wrong signal might be sent and a negative precedent set in the citizens’ attitude to Laws at the federal, states and local government levels- a situation which might lead to anarchy. Such a situation might not after all augur well for a nation seriously desirous of peace.
By and large, the Umahi Committee had succeeded in interfacing with all the stakeholders including the Taraba government, tribal and religious groups, politicians, herdsmen and farmers, youth associations and critical stakeholders. It was more like a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” popularised by the Aparthied regime of South Africa and if we are to go by statements by Chairman of the sub-committee, Gov. Umahi, the findings, observationa and recommendations were agreed upon by all parties. To this end, he disclosed that there was a caesation of hostilities-meaning Taraba and the other troubled states might not experience further attacks by reason of the Anti-open Grazing Law.
Also, the committee had asked the feuding parties to withdraw any court case to allow for a committee known as the Peace committee to articulate and implement the recommendations in the interest of all parties.

Gov. Ishaku and the prospects of State Police

Having come this far in the quest to resolve the Farmer/Herdsmen conflict, there still remains a vacuum and more questions than answers to the problem. For instance, if it has been agreed that the attackers are Aliens, who then are their sponsors? Is the Fulani socio-cultural group, MACBAN, aware of these attackers and do they have control over these attackers? Are the Anti-open Grazing marshals currently being trained by the government, able to police Taraba State with a landmass of 54,473km2 in the face of a highly weaponized and anonymous enemy? Well, these are questions that have not been addressed in the various findings of the Umahi Committee.
But in an event held recently in Jalingo, by office of the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Public Affairs, the State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General, Yusuf Akirikwen, simply said there is no cause for alarm.
According to him, “all these marshals are drawn from each locality in the State and if you see a sinister movement, you report it to the Law enforcement agencies. They are the ones that would enforce it. It is just like the vigilante. You have the right to arrest but if the person you want to arrest is stronger than you, you will use wisdom and ask the man that has bigger authority to help you do that…One, the marshals are picked from every locality in the State and their purpose is to enforce the Law and the enforcement is as directed by the rules”, he stated.
However, an on-the-spot assessment of the workability of the Anti-open Grazing Law in the State, carried out by this reporter, using one of the affected communities as a case study, leaves much to be desired. In the wake of the attack at Wuro-Jam community in Gassol LGA, a team of Journalists were at the scene of the incident. One noticeable factor that might work against the seamless implementation of the Law is the state of infrastructure. The entire stretch of the untarred road to the scene of the attack is straddled by hamlets and farmsteads tens of kilometres into the bush with no presence of a police post and means of communication. It was a journey that almost all members of the team were convinced, upon arrival at Jalingo, that they took an uncalculated risk. Yet people live there and they belong to a community that produced some of the highest volumes of yams in the State. Therefore, the issue of infrastructure, must as a matter of priority, be addressed before the Law can be successfully implemented in the state.
This then brings us to the issue of state police, in which the State Governor, Darius Ishaku, had always hammered on. The necessity of it was even brought to the public domain by no one else but the vice president, Yomi Osinbajo.
The nation had been inundated with debates on State Police in the recent past. Perhaps, the variegated opinions might have been shaped by those who have need for it and those who don’t. The often imaginary fears that it could be used by those in authority against their political opponents, have now been overshadowed by the real threat of its absence. The Taraba Governor has however, never hidden his preference for a state police and to him it could be a solution to the killings been experienced at his backyard. Recently, during a function in Jalingo, Gov. Ishaku did not hide his fears over the current structure of the nation which has helped in exacerbating the security situation in his State. “We swore as leaders to defend the lives and property of Nigerians… unfortunately, we are given the powers as chief security officers. We have the crown without the staff. How can you be the chief security officer when you don’t control the power that goes with it? I always believe if I have the police under me, i will not have the troubles at all because I would have rooted all the crimes”, he boasted. Shockingly, a few days after the Governor exposed the plan to attack the State, WuroJam community was attacked and a family brutally murdered.
As a matter of fact, the fears that state governments might resort to self-help by raising ‘militias’ might not be far from realisation if there is no deliberate step taken to give states the power to run their own security apparatuses. An unfortunate scenario took place recently when the Emir of Kano, accused the State of training militias. He might have percieved the anti-open Grazing marshals, as ‘militias’. All these are recipes for future disasters. Ultimately, should state governors be forced to run their “security outfits” in order to contain their predicaments, we might end up triggering what we initially feared- a state of anarchy and disorder.They need constitutional backing.

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PERSPECTIVE: How Senator Bwacha Distinguished Himself At The Eight Senate-Emmanuel Bello

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He is the Deputy Minority Leader of the eight Senate, but Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, representing Taraba South, is one of the most respected figures in the Nigerian National Assembly. And this appeal is bipartisan as both members of the green Chambers and the red of various political leanings are in unanimity when it comes to assessing the University of Jos trained lawyer.

Bwacha is the quintessential law maker who started from the very lower rungs as member Taraba state House of Assembly years ago. At the state’s level, he’s seen it all: Commissionership, member and insider back home before ascending the ladder in Abuja. It was indeed a powerful preparatory ground. So when, in Abuja, he started from the House of Representatives, he was, in the words of a popular hip hop song, “all way up”!

Bwacha’s colleagues attest to his unique style in the chambers: respect and friendship. His warmth and friendly disposition anchored on a deep sense of the value of humanity is one of his talisman confessed a colleague. Although, Sen. Phillip Aduda, for instance, is clearly a close compatriot of Senator Bwacha, the Donga born politician, is perhaps closer to many of his colleagues than is readily known. And this cuts across the age and status divide. There is practically no senator involved with Bwacha that does not feel he is with a special friend. And Bwacha knows how to be jocular with all of them, understanding their individual quality, even playful nicknames. So while he could laughingly tap the back of a Dino Melaye as a younger brother, Sen. Gemade, for instance, could easily relate to the courageous “Jukun boy” from Taraba state. The elderly Senators often pull the younger Senator Bwacha aside for commendations and for boldly speaking their mind.

Courage! This is one of the reasons Bwacha’s views are highly regarded in the Senate. Never scared of baring his mind on even controversial issues, Senator Bwacha would even tread on grounds seen as politically slippery. He once boldly made a case for decent dressing- an area many may want to avoid as not to offend the ever fiesty modern fashion scene. But once Sen. Bwacha is convinced about a matter, he chases it with unbridled zeal.

On security matters, Sen. Bwacha was very vocal when he condemned the weakness of the security agencies in tackling the herdsmen menace. He dropped the bombshell when he suggested the Federal Government admits its failure and seek for external help if it thinks the battle was too hot.

When Bwacha is on his feet, it is always pin drop silence on the floor as he brings deep perspective on issues. A delight of the Senate Presidents, Bwacha’s views always come in handy in unravelling knotty issues.

But it is behind closed doors that Senator Bwacha’s measure and stature is more pronounced when it comes to legislative business. That’s where he brings in his wealth of experience, his years in the minefield and his familiarity with power to weigh on matters of national development.

Decency also stands him out. A respected Christian leader, often leading the devotional sessions in the senate, Bwacha does not suffer fools gladly. Firm and principled, not for him the Epicurean preoccupation of powerful men in Abuja. Spare time goes to family and his constituents. Work and worship takes up the rest. A devote Christian of the CRCN hue, his convictions are deep and engaging. He believes in shunning materialism, while rejecting primitive accumulation. He says pride is the cardinal sin of man and so Sen. Bwacha strives to be humble at all times. Not flamboyant or extravagant, he cuts the image of a genial next door neighbor.

This has helped in shaping up his leadership qualities: honesty, plain talk, ability to easily forgive, compassion, kindness, meekness among others.

His understanding of how the Executive works is also an arsenal in his kitty. Being a former Commissioner and someone very close to several governors and ministers has helped. A receipt of the prestigious Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), Senator Bwacha is atop his game in this city of power, even as he retains his principles and sterling character.

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Let Anybody Lead This Country, Not PDP – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari has again faulted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for allegedly mismanaging the nation’s resources.

He stated this at a meeting with a select group of South East leaders on Friday at the State House in Abuja.

The President believes that although the forthcoming elections should not be a do or die affair, he will never support the opposition party to rule the country.

“Let anybody lead this country but not the PDP,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.

President Buhari added, “They (PDP) were so reckless with the resources of the country. The state of infrastructure we inherited was terrible – no roads, the railway was killed and power.

“They lacked conscience because anybody with a conscience will not do what they did. We will report them to Nigerians.”

The President noted that the reported split within the Ohanaeze Igbo socio-cultural group over the purported endorsement of the PDP candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, did not come to him as a surprise.

He said the moment the said resolution was announced, he got calls from some leaders from the region asking him to disregard it as it was without any substance.

“From that moment, I knew that the resolution would not stand, and alas, there it was,” said President Buhari who added, “We have done so much. Given the chance, we will do more. Given every chance, we will tell Nigerians where we were in 2015 and what we have achieved up to now.”

He stressed further, “We will not get tired of speaking about the golden opportunity Nigeria lost during 16 years of the PDP. We earned money, which we didn’t use.

“If you ruin the economy, send your children abroad to get an education; won’t they come back? I said it 30 years ago that this is the only country we have. We must stay here and salvage it together.”

The leaders of the delegation, Mr Emeka Ekwuosa and the National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr Chekwas Okorie, promised to mobilise support for the President in the South East.

They informed him that his re-election would be a national consensus, adding the people of the South East understood the good things he was doing for the country.

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Saraki, Lai Mohammed in Battle for Supremacy as Kwara Holds By-election

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It will be a test of popularity and acceptance today for President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki as they battle for control of Kwara politics in the by-election for Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero federal constituency.

The seat became vacant following the demise of Princess Funke Adedoyin.

President Buhari had charged the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the state headed by Lai Mohammed to take back the state from Saraki who defected from the ruling APC to the main opposition party- Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Although, Lai Mohammed, being the highest office holder in APC from Kwara comes from Oro, Irepodun Local Government Area, which is within the federal constituency in contest, Saraki, who is highly influential in the state, would prove that he remains in control and could command followership even after dumping his former party.

Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has distributed sensitive electoral materials to all the four local government councils where the exercise will take place.

Thisday reports that tension has gripped residents of the state, following alleged arrest of some PDP officials and members in the constituency by men allegedly in police uniform. .

Besides, scores of the PDP members in Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state had been declared missing in the wee hours of yesterday’s night ahead of today’s by-election.

However, the state police command has deployed 1,500 policemen to maintain law and order during the by-election, which will be a straight fight between Saraki’s PDP candidate Mr. Saheed Alatise and Lai Mohammed party’s candidate, Mr. Raheem Olatunji.

Both parties have been throwing barbs at each other resulting in the palpable tension in the state. Besides, there have been accusations and counter-accusations on plots to rig the election.

The PDP camp had accused the APC leader in the state of planning to “import” political thugs from Lagos and Osun states to manipulate the exercise with the state chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu also alleging plots by the federal government to arrest their party leaders so as to make way for the ruling party to muscle through and rob them of victory.

The APC leadership, on the other hand had accused the PDP of planning to use uncollected permanent voters cards to rig the election.

The state chairman of APC, Hon. Bashr Bolarinwa told journalists that the party advised the INEC in the state to check such illegal plot so as to have a free and fair bye-election.

Tension heightened Thursday over a reported attack on the campaign train of APC’s candidate, Mr. Olatunji by unknown gunmen though no casualty was recorded.

However, the state police command said that it was still “investigating the veracity of the claim raised by the APC candidate for the bye-election.”

The state police Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi told journalists in Ilorin yesterday that “the report on the attack was being awaited from the reported area where the incident purportedly happened.” He however assured the people of safety within the area of the by-election and the state generally.

Despite the tension, the two leading political parties campaigned across the federal constituency soliciting the support of the electorates.

Speaking at the campaign rally of the PDP at Omuaran, the headquarters of Irepodun Local Government, the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed urged the residents of the four local government councils that make up the federal constituency to come out en masse to vote for the PDP and its candidate, Alhaji Alatise.

He said that the people of the area should allow the good work of the later holder of the seat, Princess Adedoyin to continue.

The governor also urged the people not to be intimidated by the heavy presence of security men in their communities, but should feel free to go out and cast their votes for the PDP.

Ahmed said that the PDP would continue to win election in the state because of the transformation that every section of the state had witnessed between 2003 and now under the administration of Saraki and his own government.

The government in a statement condemned the alleged crackdown on members of the PDP and charged the people to fearlessly guard their votes.

Also at a mega rally of the APC at Omuaran, Alhaji Mohammed urged the people of the area to come out and cast their vote for APC candidate, Mr. Olagunju.

The minister, who condemned the alleged attack on Olatunji by unknown gunmen during his campaign tour of the area, said that the party would work with relevant agencies to ensure free, fair and credible election today, with adequate security before, during and after the election.

He said the election would begin a new chapter for the party and would be used to show the world that the APC was intact and the preferred party.

Meanwhile, INEC said that a total of 170, 918 ballot papers and other electoral materials were distributed to all the four local government councils where the by-election will take place.

Madami also said that “1,855 electoral officers would be involved in the election. A total of 125, 865 PVCs were collected from the four local governments where the election will take place.”

He however restated that the commission would conduct free, fair and credible by-election.

Ahead of today’s election, the police had banned the activities of vigilante groups in the affected areas.

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