Security forces and herdsmen attacks
The nation was thrown into another round of mourning with recent killings in Benue State. Critical questions that many people are asking are: What is really happening in this country? Are the herdsmen more equipped, trained and skillful than our security forces? What makes it extremely difficult to apprehend, arrest and prosecute the killer herdsmen? Are there official backing or cover up for the nefarious activities of these people? These and many more questions remain unanswered. This pondering over the mysteries surrounding these senseless killings, armed herdsmen unleashed another terror killing many persons, including two Reverend Fathers, continue unabated. The killing of the two Catholic priests and worshippers has sparked off protests across the state, as the people have called on appropriate authorities to fish out perpetrators. After this episode, more attacks were reported to have occurred in other parts of Benue State. The attack on churches and killing of worshippers have introduced a more worrisome chapter in the herdsmen conflict, which appears to have severe in Benue, Taraba and Zamfara states, suggesting that these attacks could have religious reasons.
Violence and brutal killings of innocent people seemed to have heightened following a move by the state Governor, Samuel Ortom to sign the Anti-Open Grazing Bill into law with the hope of curbing killings and destruction of farmlands associated with open grazing in the state. The governor not only took that step, which is actually in order, he also gave an ultimatum to herdsmen to either ranch their livestock or leave the state. Rather than toeing the right path, the herdsmen have proved to be the stumbling block to peace, as they have become notorious for destruction, rape, trespass, mass murders and destroyer of agrarian produce in places they invade. It is on this strength that the response of the governor to the enactment of the law can be said to be the logical and legal thing to do. The law is, therefore, a pro-active step by making it possible for ranching to be practised by eliminating frequent impasse over land between farming communities and nomadic livestock owners.
Without prejudice, the nation’s security system has functioned far below standards and this is evidenced in the incapability to fight crime and defend the territorial integrity of the nation. With the upsurge in the activities of criminals, many people are no longer sleeping with their two eyes closed due to the inability of our security agencies to discharge out their duties efficiently and effectively. To begin with, on a number of occasions, those attacked have prior knowledge of the invasions, but when alarms are raised and reports given to security forces, nothing much is done to prevent the onslaught. This has been the experience of invaded villages that got prior information on the impending attacks and law enforcement agents were unable to salvage the situation. Following the massacres in Benue earlier in the year, it was reported that terror groups had established cells in the Middle Belt and South South areas of the country. However, not much had been done to resist such attacks. Is this not criminal conspiracy? Are we not tending towards becoming a failed state?
Another recurring decimal is the narrative that in cases where security forces get to scenes of attacks, they put up mild resistance to insurgency, suggesting that they (insurgents) are shielded for violent confrontation and repulsion. Furthermore, there are allegations that when names of suspects and those identified for taking part in the attacks are given to security operatives in anticipation that they would be apprehended, investigated, tried and brought to justice, nothing tangible had been done or seen to be done, as perpetrators and their sponsors are left off the hook. This has been the main reason why stamping out the scourge of herdsmen attacks has become extremely difficult in the country. The present situation is worsened by the sorry state of our security apparatus, whereby they have to contend with the challenge of poor funding, shortage of personnel and equipment, motivational problems and too much concentration of powers at the centre.
What we have presently are stunted police and other security forces that are insufficiently kitted to face the superior powers of terrorists and insurgents that are better funded to unleash havoc on the Nigerian people. This unfortunate situation cannot continue, if the nation claims to truly exist as a sovereign state. Or, of what use is a state that merely exists on paper without the ability, capacity and capability to defend its people and territory from internal and external aggression? The inability of the government to take decisive action against lawlessness continues to embolden the herdsmen, to commit more atrocities against their fellow citizens. Failure on the part of the government to protect lives and property is a clear manifestation of the inability of the state to enforce the relevant portions of the constitution, as envisaged by the Social Contract doctrine of citizen-state relations.
No doubt, the time has come for the Federal Government to demonstrate true leadership and take decisive action to end the menace without further delay. It is simply unacceptable for killers of such magnitude to take the lives of people with impunity and without resistance. It is shameful that such attacks are taking place without our security agencies working hard enough to stop them. Despite denials by Nigerian security forces, Amnesty International, has accused security agencies of carrying out widespread abuses such as extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, mass detention in sub-human facilities, in its 2017/2018 Human Rights Report. Recently, former Minister of Defence, Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, accused the Nigerian military of prejudice, calling on the people to defend themselves, rather than rely entirely on the institution for protection, alleging that security forces collude with armed bandits to attack innocent Nigerians.
Ranching of cattle is the way to go to modernise and boost cattle rearing in any civilised society. The insistence of herdsmen on open grazing of their cattle on the farms is nothing, but a barbaric practice and an open invitation to anarchy that is playing out now. Security agencies should rise up and protect all Nigerians, wherever they may be and not only in Benue State, as the deadly herdsmen are far spreading across the land. The reality is that Nigerians are fed up with the incessant attacks going on in several parts of the country. Is this how things would go on? Government should direct all security forces to do the needful by justifying tax payers resources on them. Inter-agency rivalry should be curbed.
People should offer intelligence to security agents. Better funding is key. It would amount to double jeopardy for the people to suffer in the hands of terror groups and at the same time suffer from ineptitude of the government over of its failure to protect them, as expected. We should desist from playing politics with security matters. Those found culpable must be sanctioned while their sponsors should be fished out and punished, appropriately, no matter how highly placed or connected. This is the least expected from the state by the citizens. Further killings must stop.
Kupoluyi wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB).
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