Furthermore, the command and control structure of the Army formations and units in Benue and contiguous states have been reorganized.
Accordingly, more troops were deployed and the Commander 707 Special Forces Brigade was reassigned to Taraba State for effective command and control of troops operating in the entire Benue/Taraba general area. And next week, the Nigerian Army will flag-off Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA, to checkmate the activities of armed bandits and militias in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and environs.
Although generally the security forces, the entire infrastructure, have performed creditably given their resource constraints, the problem is that in some of the worst killings, security agents were simply not there in time. Whenever that happens as was the case in Logo, Guma, and Mambilla last year, the failure to protect the lives of the innocent is inexcusable, and we cannot rationalize or diminish that failure of our security apparatus of government in any way.
One direct consequence of the scaling up of military and police presence in these parts of the country most vulnerable to attacks by armed herdsmen and other such attacks, is the arrest and detention of hundreds of suspects. And it is in this vein that we will require not only the full investigation of these cases, but also the cooperation of the Judiciary, to enable the speedy dispensation of justice, so that those who have committed these heinous offences are brought to book and are seen to have been brought to book.
One thread running through all of the security challenges in Nigeria is the proliferation of light arms and small weapons. This age-old problem appears to have intensified in recent years on account of the fall of the Libyan Government under Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. These events unleashed large numbers of well-trained fighters, as well as the contents of Gaddafi’s armories.
Today, all across West Africa security and intelligence agencies are seeing the devastating impact of these mercenaries, and their arms and ammunition.
Complicating our situation in Nigeria, is the porous nature of our more than 4,000km of borders, which allows the easy flow of illegal weapons. To combat this, we are devoting increased resources to our Customs and Immigration agencies, as well as upgrading the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons into a well-resourced Commission for all of the movement of arms going back and forth through our borders.
Another issue worth taking into account is the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol which Nigeria signed in 1998. This guarantees free movement to pastoralists, herders across the sub-region. As signatories to that Protocol, we are obliged not to restrict the movement of herders and their cattle from other ECOWAS countries.
This has added a further complication to the problems we already have, besides most foreign herdsmen are exposed to the firearms market noted earlier and are unknown to the local farming populace. What we are doing and must continue to do, is to ensure robust documentation of all entry and exit through our borders, and as we develop new methods of cattle breeding, we must get those coming through other countries to comply with the laws of Nigeria.
Because we know that the security solution is only one dimension of a multifaceted issue, we are also working with the State Governments and Local Communities. In January the Ministers of Interior and Agriculture, on behalf of the President, met with the affected State Governors, and Security and Intelligence Agencies, to discuss workable solutions.
The President and I have at various times this year held Stakeholder Meetings to bring all concerned parties to the table and discuss ways of ensuring peace and security.
On January 15, President Buhari met with Benue political, traditional and religious leaders. A week ago, I met with traditional leaders from the Batta and Bachama Communities of Adamawa State. I also met with Fulani groups, the Myetti Allah and several other such groups.
These meetings and consultations are crucial, human beings have not yet to my knowledge, developed another way of reaching understanding aside from dialogue. There can and will be no lasting peace without dialogue, and that there can never be too much dialogue regarding a matter that involves the safety of the lives and property of Nigerians.
We are also mindful of the peace-building efforts of some State Governments. In Plateau State, for example, the Government constituted a Peace and Reconciliation Committee to work with the Berom and Fulani communities which had been at loggerheads for years.
The Government also went ahead to establish the Plateau State Peace Building Agency, the first of its kind by any State Government in Nigeria. Since its creation in 2016, the Agency has fulfilled its mandate of resolving conflicts and tackling the underlying causes and triggers. The results have been encouraging; Plateau State, once the hotbed of ethnic and communal violence in the North Central, has enjoyed a great deal of peace in the last two years.
While some tensions continue to flare up every now and then, there has been none of the high-intensity violence which we have seen in other States. In neighbouring Kaduna State, there have also been efforts to ensure lasting peace. In September 2017, the State Government inaugurated a Peace Commission under the Chairmanship of the Most Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary-General of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and founder of the Kaduna Center for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations.
The Federal Government fully endorses these peacebuilding efforts, and will continue to give our support and assistance to State Governments in this regard.
We are also, with the collaboration of States, and the Governors of Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and along with seven other Governors, have constituted the working group which I chair, where they have been seeking to proffer solutions to some of the problems associated with farmer/herdsmen clashes, but in particular, how to ensure that there is a plan for cattle breeding and rearing which takes into account, contemporary methods of doing so in other parts of the world.
Also in collaboration with the States and other stakeholders, we have been developing solutions to the issues of resource scarcity which is at the heart of the conflicts - the increasing competition for grazing land and water heightened by climate change. All stakeholders agree that we must now develop new ideas to prevent clashes between herdsmen and farmers; in particular enabling the cows and herders to become more sedentary. It is obvious that the physical movement of cattle in an endless journey on the move, must now begin to take a different shape. We cannot afford it even from the economic perspective, there must be another way.
We believe when cattle is sedentary, it will improve the productivity of the cattle. Our beef cattle Sokoto Gudali adds 0.5 Kg per day while the Brahma in Brazil which is bred in a ranch adds 2.5kg per day. Our dairy cows produce 1 litre per day, whereas in other parts of Africa, there is production of almost 15 - 20 litres per day.
There is also a clear sense which I think must be appreciated, that the Federal government cannot dictate to States what to do with their land. This is so because the Land Use Act of 1978 puts land under the control of Governors on behalf of their States. Also, the Supreme Court in the case of Attorney General of Lagos State versus the Attorney General of the Federation in 2004, held that use of land resources and permits for such use, lie firmly in the hands of State Governments. Even for use of Federal lands in the States according to the Supreme Court, building or development control permit must be sought from the Governors of the States.
However in several States, especially in the North, there are duly gazetted grazing reserves. A majority of these grazing reserves are degraded and are without pasture or water especially in the dry season.
Grazing routes leading to these reserves, must also be secured. The grazing reserves to be effective and operate effectively, should operate as ranches or livestock production centres on a commercial basis. The ranches will have adequate water from boreholes, salt points and pasture.
The locations would serve both as forage points, but also centres for providing extension services to boost animal care, feeding and veterinary facilities, and even abattoirs. Because the ranches are commercial ventures, cattle owners will pay for its use.
It is important to note that by and large, in consultation with stakeholders, all agree that where adequate provision is made on a commercial basis, there is no reason why there won’t be cooperation to use those ranches because there are both economic and social benefits for everyone, including herders.
Aside from States that have gazetted grazing areas, so far about 13 States have agreed to allocate 5,000 hectares of land for the ranching or livestock production. We must emphasis that in arriving at any of these decisions in the States, the States, Federal Government and all of the Stakeholders have to seat together and work out solutions that will benefit everyone. This cannot be done by fear or force, people have to work together to ensure that there is adequate consultations.
Let me reiterate, that on no account will any lands be seized or forcefully taken to create these ranches or grazing areas. All insinuations to that effect should be disregarded. No one is giving land to herdsmen, as is being falsely alleged. Instead, it is in our view that States that are willing and which have set aside land for development should cooperate with willing investors into commercially viable, government-supported ranches or livestock production centres for commercial use.
Let me close by summarizing some policy objectives that we need further work on, some of which will benefit from both Legislative and Judiciary cooperation.
The first is that the nature of our security challenges are complex and nuanced. Securing Nigeria’s over 923,768 square kilometers and its 180 million people, requires far more men and materials than we have at the moment. It also requires a continual re-engineering of our security architecture and strategies. This has to be a dynamic process. For a country our size to meet the 1 policeman to 400 persons UN prescribed ratio, would require nearly tripling our current police force, far more funding of the police, military and security agencies is required.