The Senate has called on the Federal Government to direct states on the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which is aimed at establishing ranches and eliminating open grazing.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly also berated governors negotiating with bandits, saying such negotiations were fuelling banditry.
The senators stated these on Wednesday during an extensive debate on a motion by the Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice, on the growing insecurity in all parts of the country.
In its reactions, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria supported the lawmakers’ suggestion for the establishment of ranches.
But the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and its northern counterpart, the Arewa Consultative Forum disagreed on governors negotiating with bandits.
Recall that the Federal Government had in 2019 earmarked N100bn for the NLTP, which was conceived to settle nomadic herdsmen.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, during the inauguration of the NLTP at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa on September 9, 2019, had said, “It is a plan that hopes to birth tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods.”
According to him, seven pilot states for the scheme are Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
On Wednesday, the Senate said the plan would prevent farmer-herder conflicts and activate highly productive livestock sector in Nigeria.
It also called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)-led regime to immediately embark on an operation to eliminate proliferation of firearms.
It called for the immediate enforcement of the laws against illegal possession of firearms by arresting, disarming and punishing anyone in illegal possession of arms.
It stressed the need for governors to re-invigorate rural governance and convene state-wide inter-communal conclaves and dialogues to promote local conflict resolution and inter-ethnic harmony.
The Senate also asked Buhari to direct the National Security Adviser and the newly nominated service chiefs and the Inspector- General of Police to devise a proposal to rejig the nation’s security architecture.
It stressed the need for the deployment of forces for more effective counter-measures against the current security challenges, particularly in the rural areas
The red chamber urged the security agencies to actively deploy drones and helicopters in monitoring forests and ungoverned areas in Nigeria, to identify illegal camps of bandits.
The Senate lamented the constant invasion of Nigeria by armed herdsmen from foreign countries and urged the Federal Government to adequately equip the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigerian Customs Service to police and monitor the borders.
It also called on the Federal Government to resuscitate and inaugurate the National Task Force Commission to combat the proliferation of light weapons, small arms and ammunition.
The Senate admitted that the ECOWAS protocols that guarantee free movement of goods and people in the West African sub-region was doing more harm than good in Nigeria.
It therefore called for the review of the relevant ECOWAS protocols in the interest of peace in the country
In their various contributions, some senators condemned some North-West governors for negotiating with the bandits.
They also said seeking amnesty for the repentant bandits would spell doom for the country.
They reacted to Senator Sahabi Yau from Zamfara State who in his submission, supported his governor for negotiating with bandits.
He said, “ I support my governor for seeking amnesty for repentant bandits. The Zamfara governor is by so doing, protecting the lives of his people.”
But the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Uba Sani, drew the attention of his colleagues to the constant attacks of the state by bandits expecting Governor Nasir el-Rufai to also negotiate with them.
He said the refusal of the governor to negotiate with the criminals when neighbouring states were already doing so, was the cause of constant killings in the state, in recent times
Sani said, “The bandits have been attacking our communities on a daily basis.
“We have been able to liaise with Nigerian forces, they expressed a lot of frustration on the way neighbouring states have been managing the crisis.
“Our position is that some neighbouring states in recent times have been negotiating with the criminals, which on a daily basis kill our own people, destroy our communities, murder our children.
“Unfortunately, whenever the Air Force wants to attack them through bombardment, they move on to neighbouring states, some state governors will sit down with them, winning and dinning with them.
“I don’t know why we are compensating the bandits. We must work together as a team if we want to succeed on this issue of security because as far as I’m concerned, you cannot compensate criminals.
“As far as we are concerned these people are criminals, we have to be very careful because we cannot politicise the issue of insecurity.
“A lot of people are grandstanding, the issue of insecurity is not politics and we must be careful.
Also, Senator Chukwuka Utazi said, “Governors that are negotiating with criminals and bandits are setting a dangerous precedent. We have to look at it seriously and advise them against it.”
Senators attack Adamu for condemning Akeredolu
The Senator representing Nasarawa West, Abdullahi Adamu, incurred the wrath of his colleagues when he condemned Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who he claimed, ordered the herdsmen out of Ondo State.
Adamu said, “The custodian of peace are the political leaders. I found it difficult to understand that the governor would order that people should leave a particular place.
The Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, cautioned Adamu and said his submission was not the true situation of things.
He said, “I want to talk specifically on the matter whether people were being sent away.
“No Nigerian is being sent away from anywhere, criminals are being sent away from the forest reserves where they are.
“So when we now come here and say some people are sending people away, you send the wrong message.
“The message is simple, the police IG has told us these are criminal elements coming from outside Nigeria and what we should ask ourselves is that if somebody is a criminal and he is in the forest what is he doing inside the forest?”
Senator Tolu Odebiyi said the ban on open grazing would prevent incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
He said, “I completely support a total ban on open grazing and its replacement with ranching system which is a modern practice all over the World.
“We have a national crisis on our hands. It is a national crisis that has been devoid of leadership politically and morally.
“We must see it the way it is. Between May 2017 and May 2020, there have been 624 attacks, 2,239 killed, 393 wounded, 253 kidnapped, 16 raped and 752 homes destroyed.
“That is an analysis done by a research firm in Brussels on what is happening in this country.
“I have listened and for us to be saying that they (bandits/herders) are not Nigerians, that is an indictment on our leadership.
“That people are coming into this country and they are maiming our people, killing our people, they are raping our people and these are the same security people that we are now going to promote to be ambassadors of this country.
“It is an indictment and it is not acceptable. I represent a community that borders some countries, I went there over the weekend and the whole place has been destroyed by all these herdsmen.
“People’s earnings, people’s lives have been ruined. It is upsetting and we must rise. This country is on a precipice of a civil war.”
Rounding off the debate, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, said, “The Senate urges the Federal Government to direct the state governments, to implement the National Livestock Transformation Plan which is a modern scheme designed to eliminate trans-humans movement in order to prevent farmer-herder conflicts and activate highly productive livestock sector in Nigeria.”
Lawan also warned politicians against ethnicising the spate of insecurity in the country, warning that doing so was capable of inciting widespread bloodshed among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria.
According to him, the issue of insecurity remains one that the National Assembly will continue to debate, as it affects the welfare of Nigerians.