Amidst killings farmers and destruction of communities, especially in some North Central states, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, has advised the Security Council meeting convened by President Muhammadu Buhari to insist on the suspension of anti-open grazing laws enacted by some States.
Benue, Ekiti and Taraba States are currently operating the law as passed by their respective Houses of Assembly.
Abia State yesterday joined the fray as its House of Assembly passed a related law.
The security meeting held at the Aso Rock Villa was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, and a representative of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique.
Also at the meeting were the National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar, and the Inspector- General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence on the meeting, Dan-Ali said that apart from suspending the anti-open grazing laws, alternative but safer grazing routes should be made available for the herders and their cattle.
The statement, signed by the Minister’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Col. Tukur Gusau, said that Dan-Ali stressed the need for the Council ” to employ other channels with the affected states to reduce tension by suspending the implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing Law while also negotiating safe routes for the herders.
“The urgent need for the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Services (DSS) to prosecute all the suspects arrested in states as well as the need to hasten the establishment of a National Commission on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons.”
Although the suspension of the law is in line with the demands of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Dan-Ali’s positions is contrary to past recommendations by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the National Economic Council (NEC) that the option of cattle ranching be adopted to end the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
The minister told the Council that “in the North Central zone, the incidents of herdsmen-farmers clashes in Benue and Taraba States have reduced considerably. Several arrests have been made in connection with the killings and destruction of property by troops in conjunction with other security agencies.”
Dan-Ali further suggested the launch of a Joint Task Force Operation, similar to “Operation Safe Haven” in Jos, with headquarters in Gusau to cover Zamfara and Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State, where kidnappings and killings have been in the rise.
This was after he drew the attention of the Council to the incessant killings and kidnappings by armed bandits and criminal activities across the North West.
He mentioned Abuja-Kaduna Expressway as a source of concern as there were still recorded incidences of kidnappings within the period under review.
He had also noted that the situation had been characterised with killings and kidnappings by armed bandits and criminal elements predominantly in Anka, Maru, Kaura Namoda and Talata Mafara LGAs of the State.
Concerning the North-East, the Minister reported that Boko Haram terrorists’ activities had been contained.
He said that “in the South-South/South West, the situation of illegal oil bunkering, militancy and pipeline vandalism is on the decline in the Niger Delta following the efforts of the Federal Government to engage stakeholders in dialogue.
Similarly, Operation AWATSE has continued to dislodge militants and pipeline vandals from Arepo and other areas in Lagos and Ogun waterside.”
Speaking to State House correspondents, IGP Idris disclosed that fresh joint security operations against criminals in the Birnin Gwari axis would commence in the next two weeks. The operations would be carried out by about 2,000 officers of the military, police and the DSS.