Why Fulani herdsmen are on rampage — Defence Minister

*FG reviews US harsh conditions for sale of military aircraft
* raises new Commission on control of arms/weapons
By Chesa Chesa
After a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday at the Aso Rock Villa, the Federal Government has insisted that the blockade of grazing routes and promulgation of anti-grazing laws in some states are the causes of latest killings of farmers and villagers by armed herdsmen in the country.
The Council meets quarterly and comprises of the Chief of Defence Staff; Service Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Airforce; Inspector-General of Police; National Security Adviser; Department of State Services; National Intelligence Agency; Minister of Defence; etc., who all attended the meeting. The last session was in November 2017.
Minister of Defence, retired General Mansur Dan-Ali, who briefed the press after the meeting, explained that cattle grazing routes routes existed up to places like Bayelsa State as far back as the 1960s and the blocking of these routes or stopping the cattle from grazing is a disservice to the herdsmen, who he insists are Nigerians.
He said the security challenge, which has been experienced more in states like Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and Plateau, had been compounded by the existence of some armed militia groups who call themselves forest guards in some parts of the country.
To confront the security problems, Dan-Ali disclosed that President Buhari directed the Ministry of Defence and Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to transform the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons PRESCOM) into a National Commission on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons.
The Commission, to be coordinated by the NSA, will be headed by a yet-to-be-named retired Army general and will comprise of relevant security agencies in the country. This is to check influx of illegal weapons into the country and is line with a convention of the Economic Community of West African States, he said.
Another measure being considered by government is the establishment of Agro-rangers to be coordinated by the Ministries of Interior and Agriculture.
According to the Minister, “whatever crisis that happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis?
“Since the nationa��s Independence, we know there used to be a route whereby the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked what do you expect will happen?
a�?These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis.
“But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave. Finish!a�?
He adder that ” on the issue of arms, there are all over. In the killings you are talking about, there are also militias that also did the killings. Some people were caught with arms and they call themselves Forest Guards, or whatever, with AK- 47 rifles.
“There is nowhere in this country where arms are allowed to be carried apart of legitimate security forces. So, anybody carrying any arm is doing so illegally. Militias were caught in the same land doing the same killings. So, the killings are not done by any particular group, it is a communal issue.a�?
Asked to explain why some other government officials had blamed foreign terrorists for the deadly attacks, Dan-Ali replied: a�?Of course, that is why I said they are militias. Militias are part of illegal immigrants. They are the peoplea�?.
The Minister further revealed the Federal Government’s decision to invite the America ambassador review the stringent conditions given by the United States government for sale of 12 Super Tucano A-29 military aircraft to Nigeria, even with a payment deadline of February 20, 2018.
The contract sum is $494 million and includes training, where the facilities will be accommodated and continuous servicing but he explained that some of the conditions are the refusal of the US government to allow Nigerian technicians understudy their American counterparts; as well as the insistence on release of the aircraft only by 2020.
His words: “Some of the stringent measures include that we will start having them from 2020, which is two years from now. They are also thinking of not allowing our technicians to be part of the production inspection.
“But this is what we normally do in all the defence contracts – we send our personnel to go and understudy especially when it comes to specialized contracts; like in Russia, our personnel are permanently based there where the production is being done for MI-35 helicopters.”
Other issues discussed at the quarterly security meeting are: *to increase the strength of the Armed Forces to address manpower problem, the three services have in the last two years enlisted and recruited qualified Nigerians.
*The Ministry of Defence is also building befitting accommodation for members of the Armed Forces in the six geopolitical zones. Similar accommodations in Abuja were commissioned last month.
*The Military Pension Verification Exercise was conducted in all the 36 states and FCT to update its data payroll and ensure financial savings for the Government.
*The Minister also briefed the Council on the update of the Presidential visit to Royal Kingdom of Jordan from 2-3 December 2017, which provided an avenue for implementation of agreement for the procurement of Excess Defence Articles from Jordan, to modernise Nigerian military platforms.
*The Defence Minister expressed the need by the relevant security agencies to as a matter of urgency tackle the propagation of hate speeches, especially through the social media particularly by some notable Nigerians.

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