Senators met with the President last night on the security situation in the land.
They presented to him their resolution after a six-hour debate of the report of a committee that examined the Benue State killings and its aftermath.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, who led the delegation to the Villa, said that the President received the team and its briefs very well.
Also yesterday, the Senate mandated Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris to fish out perpetrators of the killings within 14 days.
Seventy-three bodies were buried last week in Makurdi – they were victims of the January 1 attacks on communities in Logo and Guma local government areas of Benue State.
Taraba State also said it lost 55 people to attacks by herdsmen, who are also claiming to have lost lives and cattle.
President Muhammadu Buhari, after a meeting with Benue State leaders on Monday, directed security agents to fish out the killers.
The resolutions followed the consideration of an interim report on the Benue killings submitted by an ad hoc committee headed by Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan.
Senate President Bukola Saraki said the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, must act on the resolution. The Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice should be prepared to prosecute the masterminds of the mayhem, the Senate said.
The police said yesterday they had accepted the challenge.
On behalf of the IG, police spokesman Jimoh Moshood said: “We are very optimistic of making good progress even before 14 days.
“Before now, the President had given firm directives and our investigation processes are moving expeditiously.
“We had eight suspects and more have been brought in.”
Saraki said: “We took almost six hours to deliberate. It shows that it goes beyond religion and ethnicity. It shows that there is breakdown of law and order. If we fail to act, it will be an indictment. We want immediate action. One of the issues is justice. Without justice, there can be no peace.
“I think that we owe to the President to tell him what we have discussed. This is a wake-up call on the President and on all of us. We must be seen to be doing something.
“The President must act. Those responsible must be held accountable. Military all the time cannot be the solution. The military is being over stretched. That is not good for us. Most importantly action must begin to happen to show Nigerian that we are not just talking. We need to ensure that this never happens again. We need to restore hope.”
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu canvassed the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency to enable the government to deal decisively with what he called dangerous developments in parts of the country.
The Enugu West lawmaker said with the declaration of a state of emergency, the Federal Government will have the leeway to deploy troops to every part of the country, close borders as well as take drastic actions to tackle the degenerating situation.
Ekweremadu said: “The failure of social contracts lead to impeachment, loss of elections, coups and other things. The government should look at Section 305 of the constitution to invoke a state of emergency.”
“The spate of killings in Nigeria is alarming. What is going on are situations of killings and retaliation. As a Senate, we must get up and do something. The Senate is not the only group that is upset. Nigerians are worried. Our leaders who kept mute are now speaking up.
“It is important for us to have a rethink of creating a state police. Every state should have the kind of police that fits into their system. Nigeria is the only democracy that still has a central police. Those states who can provide for it financially should be allowed to do so.”
Former Senate President David Mark put the blame squarely on the failure of intelligence.
Mark noted that the Government failed to be proactive in responding to national crises.
The Benue South lawmaker warned that if the prevailing security challenge was not tackled, Nigerians may be pushed to resort to self-help by taking up arms to defend themselves.
Mark who also asked the government to arrest the masterminds of the attacks to deterrent others, praised the Senate President for being proactive by sending a fact finding committee to Benue State for on the spot assessment of the situation.
Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio questioned why security agencies appeared to give preferences to some parts of the country more than others.
Akpabio noted that as long as governors do not control security apparatuses, insecurity will persist.
He said: “Maybe the security agencies are overstretched or they think that some areas are more important than the others. How can we best provide security? As long as a governor is helpless, we will continue to have this loss of lives and properties. I urge that we revisit constitution amendment so that we can find a way to bring in community or state police.
“As long as we have a centralised police, we will continue to have these issues. We maybe having mercenaries from other countries. But, I believe that a majority of them are from Nigeria. We are getting to that level of national emergency when we have to take a national decision.”
Senator Dino Melaye decried what he called the level of injustice in the country.
Melaye asked President Buhari to be bold enough and take a decisive step to deal with the menace of herdsmen.
Former Kebbi State Governor Adamu Aliero, disagreed vehemently with Melaye and other contributors.
Aliero prayed the Senate to consider the proposal of the Federal Government for the establishment of cattle colonies in every part of the country.
The Kebbi central lawmaker defended herdsmen saying they are also Nigerians.
He insisted that herdsmen must be accorded their rights.
Aliero noted that herdsmen have the right to move their cows round and ply their trade without any hindrance in any part of the country.
He further prayed the Senate to reconsider a bill sponsored by Senator Rabiu Kwankawso on grazing.
The passage of the bill, he said, will solve the frequent clashes between herders and farmers.
Aliero said: “We all know that the fall of Libya made it possible for arms to come here freely. We must control the proliferation of arms. Is one way the issue can be minimised. Cattle routes must be looked into. Fulani herdsmen have been living in peace. Cattle colonies suggested by the Federal Government must be looked into.
“Fulani herdsmen are Nigerians and they have the right to live and move from one place to another. We must look into this. Kwankwaso brought a grazing bill here. I think this is the time to bring the issue up. We have to be nationalistic and we have to be patriotic.
“Cattle colonies are the same with grazing reserves. It is unfortunate that governors are saying that they have no lands for cattle colonies. We have to find a solution. This is very important. Community policing can solve this problem we are having now.”
Senator Samuel Anyanwu said: “These herdsmen must be proscribed as terrorists. Let us not play politics with this. What we are doing is just talk show. If we cannot solve this problem, this blame game will continue. You must say the truth. People play politics with restructuring and this is the problem of this country.
“If IPOB was tagged a terrorist group, why have they not tagged herdsmen as terrorists? I heard the government talking of cattle colonies. If I want to run a business in Kano, I will meet the people and get the land. Cattle rearing is a business and you cannot take my land by force. Why must you forcefully take somebody’s land? This is economic sabotage. The issue of cattle rearing should not be considered,” he said
Senator Shehu Sani who seemed to have been frustrated that contributors to the debate failed to heat the nail on the head by putting the blame on President Buhari, asked his colleagues to stop playing to the gallery.
He said,”When you use a religious and ethno-ethnic lenses to view an issue, you will see a religious, ethnic or sectional image. This is not the time for diplomacy and courtesy. This is the time to provide leadership for a nation that is in a national emergency and national distrust.
“There is something that I like with the presidency. When it comes to the issue of directing attacks to the National Assembly, they don’t in anyway curtail, reduce or suppress any of the missiles. But when it comes to our turn to point the finger where the problem is, you will see some form of crowdies, escapism and people who try to water-down issues.
“In the report that was presented to us, “Federal Government” was mentioned about seven times. The security of this country is under the direct control of the President. Why are you shying away from calling on the President to wake up and stand up to the challenge of protecting this country?
“A few days ago, I saw leaders and elders from Benue state in the villa. What were you doing in the Villa? You are bereaved. Your people were killed. The villa should go to Benue and not Benue coming to Villa, for goodness sake.
“We’re in a country where there is no complicit reward for violence. The villages and victims are blamed. We must tell ourselves the truth.
“Governors that supposed to be chief executives of their states leave their duty posts on daily and weekly basis to the Villa to endorse and re-endorse the President. Too much and over endorsement. We should tell ourselves the truth.
“Things are not going right in this country and we are failing. People are dying in their thousands, kidnappings, bloodshed in their thousands from Zamfara to Kaduna to Taraba to Benue to Plateau to Nasarawa state.
“About this report, it is: ‘The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should rise up to the occasion…’
“We’re all here shifting blames and trying to evade the truth. We can’t solve this problem. Nigerian political class and politicians are more interested in the 2019 general election than the lives of our people.
“From the executive, legislature and state governors, people are more interested about the INEC timetable. We can’t solve this problem if we see everything through ethno-religious lens.
“There must be a clear distinction between armed herdsmen who must be confronted frontally and Fulani cattle rearers but we’re not doing that.
“We have reached a point that people have lost hope in the government. We’re here trying to massage egos; we don’t want to confront the president because people want to come back to the 9th Senate. They do not want to lose their tickets while people are being killed in this country. I’m very sorry, Thank you.”
The Senator Ahmad Lawan-led committee on Review of National Security Infrastructure, which visited Benue State, made eleven recommendations.
Parts of the recommendations prescribed that security agencies must not leave any stone unturned in apprehending the perpetrators and sponsors of the heinous crimes.
The committee also recommended that the Federal Government convenes a national security summit to examine the recurring violence and mayhem visited on communities in the country.
It said security forces should be deployed in rural communities to tame any breakdown of laws and order.
Before the business of the day, the Senate had a closed door session, where lawmakers resolved to observe decorum during the debate. It was learnt that lawmakers, during the session, exchanged hot words.
After analysing the interactions, responses and physical observation in the IDP camp, the Committee observes as follows:
- That the violence and mayhem in Benue is a manifestation of a larger national security crisis that if not attended to could result in detracting the unity and cohesion of the nation by destroying its rural economy and the means of the people’s livelihood.
- The crisis which has its origin in competition for access to natural resources such as land, water and pasture has been aggravated and fuelled by proliferation and massive acquisition of tire arms and infiltration of trained armed bandits across international and national borders in the West African Sub-region.
- It is very clear from our interaction that some faceless people are sponsoring and harbouring the well trained foreign mercenary elements and using them to unleash violence and criminality in Nigeria’s rural space. These elements and their domestic acolytes of various ethnic nationalities could also be largely responsible for kidnappings, abductions, armed robberies and unresolved murders.
- That what happened in Benue State could happen in any part of the Country. This is borne out of the fact that similar incidences of violence have already engulfed neighbouring States such as Taraba, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Niger, Adamawa, etc.
- Failure to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these gruesome acts could play into the hands of those ethnic entrepreneurs whose aim is to break the nation intoethnic principalities. It is deepening the country’s ethno-religious faultlines by entrenching the perception of the conflict in ethno-religious dimensions.
- The crisis has also created a regime of impunity thereby enticing innocent rural youth into criminality because of its perception as a safe and lucrative undertaking.
- The Committee observed that there have been various reports of panels and committees over the years whose recommendations were never implemented. These contributed to the failure of Government to nip the problem in the bud until it attained the present disastrous dimension.
- The Committee also observed a very serious decline in trust and cmperation between citizens and security forces for fear of incrimination and exploitation. Hence people do not volunteer any intelligence to security forces. More so, the organic linkage in intelligence gathering between security forces, traditional leaders and institutions seems to have broken down.
- In most of the rural communities in Benue State and elsewhere, the presence of security forces is very thin on the ground or completely absent. In the few places where they are deployed, they are undermanned and underequipped and easily over run by better trained and equipped militia and foreign marauding herdsmen.
Recommendation of the committee
- The Senate condemns in the strongest possible terms the wanton criminal attacks that claimed the lives of more than 73 innocent citizen in Guma and Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
- The Senate urges the security and intelligence agencies to leave no stone unturned in apprehending the perpetrators and the sponsors of these heinous crimes and similar crimes in Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Edo, Enugu and elsewhere, so that they are brought before the law to answer for their crimes. The days of indifference complacency, negligence and impunity must come to an end.
- The Federal Government should re-examine, revamp and reinvent the nation’s security architecture and infrastructure in order to ensure that no community or entity is left unsecured and unsafe.
4, The Senate should convene as a matter of utmost urgency a national security summit to examine the recurring violence and mayhem visited on our rural communities before they become an existential threat to the our national cohesion and national survival.
- The Federal Government should examine the deployment of security personnel in our rural communities and borders to ensure that no one gets in or out of the country without proper documentation and regular surveillance.
- The Federal Government should ensure full compliance with the letter and spirit of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of persons, cattle and goods with a view to ensuring that it is administered strictly to preserve the interests, safety and security of Nigeria and its people.
- In view of the emergence of several failed States and conflict zone around our borders and in the West African sub region, the Federal Government should sponsor and convene an international conference on the proliferation of weapons in Nigeria. The ways and means of stopping the proliferation, and ridding our communities of existing arms should also be proffered.
- The Federal Government should immediately re-examine the current deployment of security forces, particularly the Police, DSS and Civil Defence Corp, etc. in order to strengthen their presence in the rural areas, starting from the most conflict prone areas around Niger,Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa axis, Zamfara, Kaduna and in the entire North central zone.
- The Federal Government should beef up and re-strategise its deployment of security intelligence capabilities with a View to obtaining actionable intelligence about impending attacks and plots in order to forestall and prevent the recurrence of rural violence and inter-ethnic conflagrations.
10.The Federal and Benue State Government should ensure that all those living in IDP camps are properly catered for and the burnt infrastructure in their communities are properly rebuilt to enable the people return and resume their normal lives .
- The Government through the Ministry of Agriculture should as a matter of urgency convene a special National Council on Agriculture meeting to deliberate on the development and modernisation of livestock and dairy industry.
The recommendations were adopted.