‘Security agencies should trace source of weapons used by herdsmen’
Dr. Chinye Bone Efoziem is a member of the American Society For Industrial Security (ASIS) a prestigious body for big players in the private security corridor in Nigeria and overseas. A holder of PHD in International Security Control Management, Efoziem is the Managing Director of Strict Guard Security Company with over 5,000 personnel scattered all over the 36 states of Nigeria. His company provides security for frontline banks in Nigeria and many others. In this interview with ODITA SUNDAY, he noted that access to sophisticated arms by herdsmen poses a dire threat to national security. He urged security agencies to trace the source of those weapons.
Cattle herdsmen have now gone out of order, how do we check this aberration?
The challenge of herdsmen poses more serious threat than Boko Haram insurgency. I had spoken on this so many times for people who care to listen. Measures needed to counter it may not be limited to creating one political solution or the other. Boko Haram insurgency was earlier limited to North Eastern part of the country, herdsmen are men who have unlimited knowledge of every roads, bushes, jungles and nooks and cranny of Nigeria.
There are many bushes in our villages, which due to ancestral belief or faith people are not allowed to pass through, but a Fulani herdsman would pass through such bushes; meaning that they know some villages better than the inhabitants. It means that they are more widespread than the Boko Haram itself. This calls for serious concern.
What is your view on the proposal for the creation of grazing areas for them by government?
Herdsmen are no threat, but it is the access to sophisticated and prohibited arms that poses a serious threat to national security. If they are limited to just carrying their sticks, no matter where they are, their threats to those communities would be limited to just physical combat. Check out their attacks in the past few years, you would realize that they maim people with sophisticated weapons (prohibited firearms). The question now is, how did they have access to these prohibited firearms?
Would you now term their actions as terrorism?
Before you say it is an act of terrorism or tribal clash, there are three basic indicators you can base your judgment. One is, who are their sponsors, the other one is their mode of operation, which is basically tactical, and another is the supposed motive for their action. The Enugu attack was on a massive scale; that is why it has drawn so much attention.
Recently, a man I know very well was shot dead on Uromi Road. He was not stopped, he parked his car at a point and was attending to something, and the next thing was that he was shot in his head in the presence of his family. They killed the young man and abducted his two brothers. They have made contact with his family demanding N20million. The issue is that how do we attribute it to cattle rearers or Fulani herdsmen? Those who were witnesses saw that the criminals were cattle herdsmen carrying military rifles. In this situation, do we try to reconcile that with what happened in Enugu? You would tell me yes, but I tell you the truth, the answer is no; they are not the same thing. The mode of operation may have been the same, the people may have been the same, but the motive is not the same. The motive is not to graze cattle; the motive is cash drive.
If the motive is cash drive, then here comes a security question: what is that money meant for? Is it not yet time for Nigeria’s security set- up to begin to consider that if they are blocking all other sources of money or sponsorship for Boko Haram, would they not have resorted to local crimes to raise money? I personally have spoken to a few friends in the government security setting who would listen to me to look inwards for the financing of Boko Haram.
If these herdsmen are going about carrying out robberies, kidnapping people for ransom, does it not call for suspicion? An average herdsman does not need N10million. If you give him N1million, he might not be knowledgeable enough to count it. Check the level of literacy of these herdsmen and ask: are they the people who could carry out such crimes and be able to pattern how to collect ransom?
Ransom collection is not for people who are not literate. Now, why would we still continue to call all these people who carry out all these nefarious activities mere cattle herdsmen? I completely disagree that these are herdsmen. The herdsmen have been with us in our villages for many decades. The worst you could see with them are cutlasses and daggers. When they have problems with the communities, the youths chase them away with ease. The question now is can’t our security agencies trace back history and ask: between what time and year did the herdsmen get sophisticated that they are able to sack police stations and overrun military checkpoints? What caliber of weapons are they carrying? What is the source of the weapons? How were they able to acquire these weapons?
What is the solution to this whole mess?
Rather than creating grazing zones, we should talk about Livestock Reception points. If we create grazing zones, we are creating a problem. We all know the Jihadist mentality of every Fulani man and it rests with every Fulani born. Any piece of land given to an average Fulani man is considered a conquered area. If we make the mistake of saying this zone is a grazing zone and mandate the governors of the 36 states to implement that, you have just established jihadist in all the 36 states. At that point, they have the legal right to the grazing zone because the government gave it to them. I totally disagree with the proposal on grazing zone. Federal government should discuss with the states to create a ‘Livestock Reception zones’ or ‘Cattle reception zone’. The problem is not just the grazing, but also the access to sophisticated weapons in the possession of the wrong people with a wrong mindset and wrong mentality. Manipulation of every firearm requires a lot of training. Was it the same cattle herdsmen we have known in decades who grew up as nomads so addicted to their sticks? At what point were they groomed in the use of arms, if truly the people causing this havoc are the same nomadic people? The concern of government would have been to probe the source of weapons used by these herdsmen rather than talking about grazing zones.
Decision on grazing zones should be an exclusive preserve of the states. Don’t forget that we have our Land Use Act that establishes state ownership of lands. If the state says that between Epe and Ajah, we create this area as cattle reception points, it becomes Lagos State owned, managed by Lagos State in collaboration with security agencies. It means that the ownership of these cattle and the herdsmen would be on record with the state government.
The state would also need to create a grazing route within the grazing area. They are not expected to move at will. The implication of the grazing area President Buhari is talking about would be chaotic. The Federal government should liaise with the state governments to fine- tune individual states approach to solving this problem.
Pundits believe that actions of the herdsmen give credibility to the call for state police?
Although I am not one of those who really supported state police, but if you look at some of the things happening now, it gives credence to those calling for state police. The Commissioner of Police is not accountable to the Governor. The governor may call him or the state Director of SSS to say ‘this is the information reaching me, act on it’ which is within their discretion to act or not to act. The Commissioner of Police may say ‘ I tried reaching the IGP to get orders from him, but I could not get him’. But if there were a state police whereby the police boss was appointed by the state government, things would be different. The fear is that politicians might abuse the concept of the state police.
How do we stop the use of arms by herdsmen?
The government should first ensure that the arms and ammunitions are mopped up as soon as possible. To become a killer, you need the courage to commit the first murder. If you were able to summon the courage to commit the first murder, subsequent killings would make no difference to you. We have been blocking the Boko Haram insurgents from external support and external sponsorship; we have not looked inwards to whether these people are sourcing sponsorship internally. I am convinced that the issue of nomadic violence has gone beyond cattle herdsmen.
People are saying that members of the community should also be armed?
If you arm the communities in order to quell this current upsurge, after the upsurge has been quelled, what happens to the people you have armed? They, too, would become a monster that would challenge you. Managing Bakassi boys at some time became a problem.
Mr. President has failed to come out hard on the herdsmen. Why?
Mr. President is a Muslim and a Fulani man, no matter how we look at it; he won’t be expected to come out so hard on this at the earlier stage. The command structure of the Nigerian security agencies had been in the wrong hands for too long. Do you know that if we had four Divisions in the Nigeria Army, a Muslim and possibly Fulani must have commanded three of them. Check out the Commissioners of Police, check out the Directors of DSS. Government should work towards total re-overhauling of the system, being conscious of tribal and religious sentiments. Nigeria is a secular country.into one institution and fund it appropriately or fund all of them properly and insist that they all function rightly. For example, the NDDC and the Niger Delta Ministry have no business building hostels for existing universities in Port Harcourt, Benin, Calabar or Asaba; neither should the East West road be the sole responsibility of the ministry. In any case, some of these projects are already variously captured in their respective local, state and federal budgets. Rather, the East West road should go to the Federal Ministry of Works. NDDC and Niger Delta ministry have no business providing dustbins and electric poles in urban centres such as Port Harcourt, Calamari, Benin, etc. These agencies must be made to purely concentrate on the development of rural and riverine oil producing communities. This way, the youths in these areas can now benefit directly.
The rural and the riverine communities are not benefitting enough from these agencies like the city centres. The operators are conniving with state governors and their elite friends to the detriment of the rural areas. The President should take a guided helicopter trip through the riverine communities and see for himself. On the other hand, these agencies are poorly funded. Yet, people from other regions are baffled with the proliferation of interventionist agencies in the Niger Delta.
How would you react to the militarisation of the Niger Delta in response to renewed restiveness in the region?
Well, it is sad for one reason and good for another. It is bad in the sense that the more the military comes, the more the resolve of the youth or some criminals, who feel challenged to do their worst as a test of their capacity and knowledge of the environment.
It is also good in the sense that it affords Nigerians from other regions the opportunity to begin to appreciate the plight and challenges of the Niger Delta region.
A case in point was when I gave a ride to a serving JTF officer from Kebbi State, from Warri to Lagos some years ago. As we discussed along through our journey, he swore that what was happening in the Niger Delta would never be tolerated by either the Hausa or the Yoruba for one day. According to him, before he was posted to the Niger Delta, he was always angry with the Niger Delta youths because of their ‘criminal activities.’ He confessed that his first and second trips to the creeks in Rivers and Bayelsa states afforded him the opportunity to feel and see the pathetic situation in the region. I was happy with him for being forthright. However, when he was alighting at Ojota in Lagos, he said to me, “Oga, as soldiers we have to do our job.”
One of the demands of the Avengers is the release of detained leader of the Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu. What is their business with that?
Well, like the two-year-old baby breaking glasses and pots in the house, once you recognise his or her importance along with the new baby, you can begin to have your peace in the house, otherwise, you have to contend with his or her nuisance. To me, it is in the interest of the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kanu to reduce tension in the zone. This is not necessarily because of the NDA’s demand, but that this can massage Mr. President’s ego in the Southeast region. I equally advise Mr. President to appoint him as his Special Adviser on South East. The benefit of this gesture to the President is inestimable.
What is your message to members of the NDA and Niger Delta youths in the face of the present situation?
My message to Niger Delta youths is that they should not close their eyes or sleep because there are too many thieves around, both within and outside. They should shout and when necessary, make noise but don’t kill or maim.
As for the NDA, my message is that they have already shown capacity and willingness. They need not blow up more facilities. They should not mind that segment of the press that is always stigmatising and demonising them as criminals; they cannot police or protect the strategic facilities at our backyard except the security forces. But can the security forces stay inch after inch along the pipeline 24 hours? Would they not be paid? I will like to salute them for not taking the lives of innocent people as Boko Haram. Pipelines can always be repaired but life can’t.
I also want to strongly advise that the NDA should get in touch with the Coordinator and Chairman of the Amnesty Programme Brig-Gen Boroh. I strongly believe the Boroh I know will not betray them. Whatever their demands are, Boroh will take it to the President and it would be resolved. He is a true Niger Deltan.