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‘Herdsmen attacks pose serious threat to security of lives and property’

Aliyu

A Retired Military Intelligence Officer and National Security Resource and Solution-Options Consultant, Capt. Umar Babangida Aliyu rtd speaks on the incessant killings in Benue, its security implication and other consequences.

What is your view on the incessant herdsmen/ farmers’ clash in some parts of the country especially in Benue State?
The issue of “herdsmen” as we seem to refer to them is in my opinion underestimated, if not even taken for granted. We must first understand that these men are outlaws, more or less the equivalent of what you know as pirates at sea.

They are outlaws and bandits regardless of whatever ethnic colouration we may want to attribute to them. They are a threat to the lives and property of Nigerians across the country.

Our government and socio-cultural groups must cease struggling to own or disown these bandits and their atrocities…nay even claim they are Fulanis or herdsmen. They remained a security threat and should be treated as such.

Why has it become difficult for security agents to tame them?
It is difficult because of the ethnic content of their identities that has remained the focus of our government, citizenry and media, rather than the atrocities they perpetrate.

While there is no gainsaying the persona and ethnic identity is irrelevant vis a vis the mayhem they commit. We must understand that the “persona” is not the issue here; more like the “act or crime” is the issue.

This ethno-political qualification of plunder, mayhem and violence makes the threat a dicey liability for all involved (government, ethno-cultural interest groups and citizens across the board). 

We must look at their actions and not the persona or ethnic designation of the perpetrators.

This basically informs law enforcement agencies dilemma in surmounting the dire situation at hand as it were. Other operational and logistics challenges may also abound.

Don’t you think that this ugly development is threatening the security of Nigeria?
It is and there are four dimensions to it-the Fulanis as an ethnic group risk being stigmatised (from the elite Fula to the ordinary citizen Fula) by these band of outlaws, who it is glaring do not have any regards for Miyetta Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) or any other allied umbrella Fulani socio cultural groups. Countless meetings and call for peace and dialogue has not found compliance with these brigands.

Left unhindered, this stigmatisation shall run deep and fester in the same way Boko Haram threat was allowed to stigmatise Islam and Nigeria, before it was recognised for what it really is.

Our corporate existence is infracted where men and women, especially of the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies particularly those from affected areas have to lay their lives to the service of the Nation, wherever they are deployed, only to hear of death tolls rising in their homesteads.

Let there be no mistakes here please: ethnicising or politicising the threat at hand undermines the ability of law enforcement agencies and the military to act decisively. It also portends a more worrisome possibility of straining relationships between soldiers intra-service, given that there is no single ethnic group, which has been affected by these outlaws, that has no sons and daughters in service of the country…that includes Fulanis, too.

There is indeed no better recipe for discontent and discord to fester within the ranks and files of our lines of Defence and Security as a Nation. We must undress this threat of its ethnic toga and address its acts or actions as they affect our national posture.

To think we owe these high-risk probabilities as mentioned above to a pocket of itinerant outlaws and bandits, is strategically very embarrassing, except of course if there is more to this than meets the eye.

Every Fulani interested in our corporate existence must disown these plunderers. While issues concerning grazing facility for cattle breeders is important and contentious, there is no wisdom or gain in taking ownership of or struggling to protect acts of mass murder, by passing them off as reprisal or retaliation for the challenges misgivings or undoings at hand.

There are better, more informed and respectfully-effective ways of addressing grievances than a resort to bloodshed. As we stand, aspiring Fulani youth to elected National Offices may find it tough doing so…except this incubus is handled decisively.

These bandits are certainly not an asset to the Fulani ethnic nationality nor this Country, not at all.

Still on our corporate existence; what then can we begin to say, (in the face of these senseless killings) to claims by agitators and fleeing youth for a saner country and greener pastures respectively.

Can these occurrences not only plunge us deeper into schism and strife if not curtailed boldly and decisively. 

Can these so called “Fulanis” be said to be driving the successes of our President their kinsman positively or negatively. Shall we not ponder these four dimensions and act in time to save nine stitches, lest these herdsmen become the albatross to APC, as Boko Haram was albatross to PDP.

Why has Benue State become a hotbed of herdsmen attacks?
It is the food basket of the Nation. We are unwittingly losing that asset to cattle and bandits.

Do you think that security agents and federal government is doing enough in handling the situation?
There is work to be done…more work than is being done at the moment.

What is the way forward?
First things first, a Strategic-Security Threat Impact Report of these outlaws and their activities. We need to compute the cost of violence as perpetrated by them till date. We then add the cost of rehabilitation for victims till date; not less so the cost of security post attacks as regards law enforcement deployment costs.

We then do an estimate or fair appreciation of the aforementioned in monetary terms, vis a vis our GDP and other relevant economic Indices.

From this, we should strategically gauge the economic impact per annum since the herdsmen attack started in Nigeria… not less so the projected impact by 2019 if left to fester and there-from grade/profile the threat appropriately. 

This gives us focus, direction and resolve, as opposed to a more or less “run- off-the-mill” approach that seems to greet festering security threat situations to our nation.

We must also strive to encourage our pastoralists to “Ranch-Up” as a superior and more proactive option; and not the somewhat punitive ‘win/loose’ ‘us vs them’ perception the entire solutions and options are receiving at the moment.

I hope the relevant institutions and agencies involved have or can bring together the relevant skill sets, innovation and imagination-ability to promote Ranching not as a “fall” or punitive antagonistic option for the pastoralist, but as “better and more friendly way of doing more with less.



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