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Sultan exonerates Miyetti Allah from killings in Benue

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Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III

• Herders demand repeal of anti-grazing law
• Ortom alleges blackmail, Yoruba elders reject cattle colonies
• Court insists IPOB a terrorist organisation, Ohanaeze kicks

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) is not responsible for the wave of killings by herdsmen across the country, according to the Sultan of Sokoto and President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III.

The leader faulted calls for the proscription of the group and condemned the killings in Taraba, Benue and other states of the federation.

MACBAN had been in the eye of the storm over massacres by herdsmen, with many Nigerians accusing the group of culpability.

At the first General Assembly of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace in Abuja, yesterday, the Sultan argued that Miyetti Allah had existed purely as a business organisation for more than 32 years, and that a call for its ban was equivalent to demanding the proscription of Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other socio-cultural organisations.

“Anyone carrying arms is not one of us,” he said, urging the Federal Government to go after perpetrators of the killings.

“There are criminal elements in every organisation,” the sultan said, adding: “We will never condone anybody taking up arms to kill innocent citizens. We will never be a part of it, whether it is a Fulani cattle herder, farmer or anybody trying to place himself at a strategic position as we move towards the 2019 general elections.

“The Fulani we know, since we were children, never went about with weapons. Where do these get weapons? How is it possible that they attack villages and disappear without being traced? What are the security agencies doing? We must get to the bottom of this problem”

The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, expressed hope that the forum would help to douse tension in the polity. He stressed the need for sincerity among religious leaders.

The Catholic Bishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, called for the building of trust among religions. “We need to know that we are in the same boat on a turbulent sea. If we continue to fight in the boat, it will sink,” he warned.

Yesterday in Kano, the National President of Miyetti Allah, Alhaji Bello Bodejo, called for a repeal of the Benue State anti-open grazing law. He said the crisis between the Tiv and Fulani in the state was aggravated by the enactment. He said the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, should be blamed for innocent lives lost in the clashes.

“The major problem in Benue remains the law enacted by Ortom, preventing our fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria and the Africa Charter that provide freedom of movement anywhere within and outside the country. The law is clearly against the cultural interest and business nature of a Fulani man who is a Nigerian and more concerned about the survival of his cattle,” he said.

“A Fulani man will always want to be on the move, to look for greener pastures and water for his animals anywhere and everywhere, as guaranteed by the constitution. But when you look at the law in Benue, it is clearly dissonant to our interest and survival as Fulani people, especially Article Nine of the law, which says anybody interested in ranching will only be authorised for one year.

“We saw it as a potential danger. And that was why we quickly approached the Federal High Court in Abuja. The case is still pending. But the governor threatened us with security agencies. I have received several threat messages just because we want peace.”

He asked why spotlight had not been cast on killings of herdsmen and their cattle and warned: “Let me caution those attempting to use the Benue incident against the present administration in 2019 to have a rethink because the clash predates Buhari’s administration.”

But Ortom said persons peddling the rumour that he owns armed militias are blackmailers seeking to derail the anti-grazing law.

He stated this, yesterday, when he received members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who had come to pay him a condolence visit at the Government House, Makurdi.

“These people have now resorted to blackmailing me. I have never sponsored any militia. That is why I am insisting that the Nigerian security should handle the attack by herdsmen in the state. The herdsmen are out there threatening that there will be more bloodshed. But nothing is being done,” the governor said.

He insisted the state would make no land available for cattle colonies, adding that anyone who wished to keep livestock must use ranches.

The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) also kicked against the Federal Government’s proposal to create such colonies, saying no part of the South West would be allowed for the enterprise.

The body condemned what it described as President Muhammadu Buhari’s insensitivity to the security of farmers in Benue, wondering why the killer herdsmen have not been arrested.

The Secretary-General, Dr. Kunle Olajide, who spoke after the group’s 26th National Executive Council meeting in Ibadan, said: “YCE totally rejects cattle colony and anti-grazing law as solutions to Fulani herdsmen brutality. We believe restructuring is the only solution. Once restructuring is done, it will solve all these problems.”

He said: “The Federal Government is encouraging Nigerians to go into farming. If we are promoting agriculture and Fulani herdsmen move about with their cattle destroying the farmlands then that is a paradox. The Federal Government doesn’t have power to acquire our lands. Land belongs to the states.”

He also said: “YCE condemns the ineptitude of the security agencies on the crisis. Three weeks after the gruesome murders, no arrest has been made. YCE is alarmed that the leadership of an association, Miyetti Allah, which had openly been issuing threats, have not been questioned.

“YCE believes that the dysfunctional geo-political structure is the root of the nation’s woes. The situation is further complicated by the wasteful system of government, which is defective and which compels corruption by breeding mental and physical indolence.”

Reacting, yesterday, to the Benue crisis, indigenes of the state resident in Kaduna issued a statement calling on the Federal Government to bring the perpetrators to book.

“We urge the Federal Government to act. This is a new form of terrorism. If all other business groups decide to kill and confiscate other people’s lands for their businesses, what will become of the country? The Federal Government has been silent about bringing the perpetrators to justice, thus encouraging the deed.”

The Benue Community Development Association said: “From all indications, the genocide appeared well orchestrated, overpowering even the government security formations as was seen in Logo on January 8, where a police inspector and a sergeant were murdered like animals.”

In the statement by the President, Comrade Paul Wachihi, and Secretary, Chief Agbo Emmanuel, the group noted: “We have been experiencing incessant attacks on communities in Benue State by people masquerading as Fulani herdsmen. These attacks have spread across Guma, Logo, Kwande, Makurdi and Gwer-West. There is also the devastating Agatu episode. Taraba, Plateau, communities in Nasarawa, and the southern part of Kaduna have not been spared.”

The Federal High Court in Abuja, meanwhile, has insisted that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a terrorist organisation.
That was the ruling on an application filed by IPOB through its counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, pleading with the court to set aside its order of September 20, 2017, where it slammed the group with the designation.

Following agitations for self-rule in the South East by members of IPOB, the Federal Government in September, last year, through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, filed an application before the acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, asking the court to declare IPOB a terrorist group.

Subsequently, IPOB filed a motion on notice, urging the court to invalidate its earlier order.

Ejiofor, leading a five-member team to the court, yesterday, argued that the Federal Government fraudulently procured the ban.

Kafarati held that IPOB’s request “lacked merit.”

On alleged violent activities of IPOB members, the court upheld the submission of the Federal Government that the group had been unleashing mayhem on people.

The court consequently awarded a N500,000 cost against IPOB.

Striking out the application, Kafarati stated: “I found this application unmeritorious and it is hereby struck out.”

Ejiofor vowed to appeal the ruling.  Ohanaeze Ndigbo deplored the judgment. Its President-General, Chief John Nwodo, said: “It is unfortunate that our courts are allowing themselves to be used for unlawful and political ends. IPOB has done nothing to, as defined by international standards, be called a terrorist organisation.

“Sadly, the Attorney General in parochialism, unmitigated bias and calumny has not found it necessary to classify Fulani herdsmen as terrorists, in spite of their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist organisation in the world. Ohanaeze frowns on this nepotism. This a denigration of our judiciary and stigmatisation of our children.”



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