The Federal Government on Monday took serious steps to curb the menace of armed herdsmen who strike at will in various parts of the country, leaving behind trails of pain, anguish and blood.
It warned the marauders who parade themselves as Fulani herdsmen that they would no longer be allowed to move about freely with AK-47s and harass law-abiding Nigerians.
In the words of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, “it is totally wrong for herdsmen to bear arms in Nigeria when their counterparts elsewhere do not carry any arms.”
Ogbeh, who spoke at a town hall meeting organised by the Federal Government in Umuahia, Abia State, denied that the
rampaging herdsmen were sponsored or protected by the Federal Government.
The minister however apologised to victims of herdsmen’s attacks in different parts of the country, declaring that “there is no justification for their barbaric activities which has brought untold hardships on innocent Nigerians.”
Ogbeh responded to questions by participants at the forum who expressed anger over the docility of the government on the atrocities of Fulani herdsmen in the country. They accused the government of using the herdsmen to achieve a hidden agenda.
The town hall meeting was attended by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; his Trade and Investment counterpart, Okechukwu Enelama; the Minister for Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige and the Minister of State for Mines and Steel, Abubakar Bawa Bwari.
Ogbeh expressed concern over the threat posed by herdsmen to agrarian communities in the country, stressing that the situation portends grave danger to Nigeria’s quest for food security.
The minister said that the government had set up a committee headed by one Gen. Nze to monitor the movement of herdsmen and stop them from wreaking further havoc on their host communities, especially farmers.
According to him, the “Federal Government is training 3,000 agro rangers’’ to protect farms against destruction by cows. “Herdsmen should not be allowed to carry AK-47 rifles in Nigeria because in other countries they bear no arms. The Federal Government is training 3,000 agro rangers to help secure our farms.”
“We need rice to feed the people, not cows. We won’t allow herdsmen to attack farmers again. I am a farmer, and I have been a victim, and I know how it pains,’’ he said.
The minister, who said that diversification of the economy remained the only viable option out of the current economic recession in the country, hinted that government had concluded plans to establish modern cocoa plantations in Abia, Ondo, and Cross River States.
He said that 20 million tonnes of cocoa is targeted from the plantations per annum, adding that improved cocoa seedlings that yield in two years would be used in the plantations.
Ogbeh noted with delight that Nigeria had been recognised as the seventh highest producer of rice in the world and called on the citizens to embrace agriculture instead of looking for white collar jobs.
He said the current administration will set up 100 mills across the country to help in the processing local rice.
Similarly, Ogbe said that 200 palm oil mills would be a set up in oil-producing zones in the next two years to help in oil palm processing.