• Yoruba leaders convene emergency meeting over attacks, reject cattle colonies
• Falae vows to resist ‘recolonisation’ of Nigeria
• OPC warns against continuing attacks on ex-SGF’s farm
With the growing outcry over the attacks and gruesome killings carried out by suspected herders of cattle in several farmlands in several parts of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that the rising attacks on communities by herdsmen would soon be brought under control by the security forces deployed in vulnerable areas across the country.
Receiving the board of directors of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group in the State House, Abuja Monday, the president expressed concern that the unfortunate attacks had brought sorrow and hardship to many Nigerians, with the government also affected.
The president’s media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said the president promised that the federal government would soon end the incessant attacks on communities by herdsmen to pave the way for good environment for businesses to thrive.
The president also stated that he remained resolute and focused on his commitment to deliver his three-pronged campaign promises to secure lives and property of Nigerians, revamp the economy and fight corruption.
Buhari highlighted the recovering economy, dwindling inflation rate, growing foreign reserves, and improved ranking on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, as signs of progress so far.
The statement quoted the president as saying: “If you look critically into the 2018 budget, we have already taken into account key issues of more stable electricity supply, the construction of roads and rails, and airport concessions,” as pointers to the measures to be taken by the government to sustain the economic gains.
Adesina also said Buhari promised his visitors that the government would further accelerate and increase the momentum in agriculture, power and gas projects, manufacturing and processing, and commended the Chinese government for its support in improving infrastructure in Nigeria.
“We send our gratitude to the Chinese for all their support to Nigeria. Since independence, no country has helped our country in infrastructure development like the Chinese.
“In some projects, the Chinese have committed to funding the projects by as much as with 85 per cent through soft loans that span 20 years. No country has done that for us,” he said.
In his remarks, the chairman of the NESG Board of Directors, Kyari Abba Bukar, according to the statement, commended the government for its “pragmatic approach” in engaging citizens of the Niger Delta region, which has translated in the steady rise in oil production.
“Your Excellency, we salute your courage in providing support to the states that have had fiscal challenges. We recognise that without the intervention of the presidency, many state governments would have been unable to pay salaries last year,” Bukar was quoted as saying.
It also said Bukar observed that the economic outlook remained positive, projecting a 3.5 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate and urged the president to pay more attention to the menace of herdsmen attacks, which he cautioned could reverse the gains recorded in the agricultural sector.
Emergency Meeting Convened
Even as Buhari promised to end the attacks by herdsmen, Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Monday said leaders of the Yoruba nation would soon meet in Ibadan and review the state of the nation.
The group also rejected the proposal by the federal government on the proposed cattle colonies, saying that the proposal was in contravention of the 1999 Constitution.
The group’s national publicity secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, disclosed the plan of the Yoruba leaders to meet in Ibadan and take a position on the herdsmen attacks, which he described as a grave source of concern.
Apart from the New Year attacks that claimed 73 in Benue State, some herdsmen allegedly killed a pregnant woman in Ekiti State and a man in Ogun State, thereby creating tension in all the South-west states.
Likewise, suspected herdsmen on Sunday set ablaze the farm of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, in Abule Ilado, Ondo State, and equally destroyed about 45 hectares of a farm belonging to a former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Sunday Afolayan, in Ibbo-Ile, Kwara State last week.
Following the incessant attacks, Odumakin said that the Yoruba leaders would take advantage of the meeting to review the place of the Yoruba nation in Nigeria, lamenting that it would not sit and allow herdsmen to attack, kill and destroy the economy of its people.
He explained that the meeting had become imperative in the face of the herdsmen attacks on South-west farmers, pointing out that the leaders of Yoruba nation would never allow the herders turn the region to slaughter slabs and conflict zone.
At the meeting, Odumakin said the Yoruba leaders “will review the state of Nigeria at the meeting, look at the imminent partitioning of Nigeria, review the place of Yoruba in the federation, and discuss why we cannot rear our own cows in the South-west”.
He said: “Like other states in the federation, farmers have been killed in the South-west states. Women have been raped, several hectares of farm destroyed, and farm workers maimed and injured. Yet, the federal government has not made any arrest.
“The herdsmen are committing all these criminal activities with impunity. It is disappointing that no arrest has been made. No suspect has been prosecuted. This ugly trend is unacceptable. Something must be done to end the undue attacks on unarmed farmers.”
He noted that all these issues have vertical links with the restructuring of Nigeria.
“The state governments have not been able to respond effectively because they do not have law enforcement agencies of their own. They depend on the Nigeria police, which unfortunately cannot protect them. That is why we are calling for state police,” he said.
Specifically, Odumakin rejected the federal government’s proposal to establish cattle colonies in states, describing it as an attempt by the powers that be to partition Nigeria.
Odumakin said the idea of cattle colonies was strange to the 1999 Constitution, which gives powers over land to the state governments.
“Cattle colonies cannot resolve the challenge of the herdsmen-farmers’ conflict. Rather, cattle colonies will escalate the herdsmen-farmers’ conflict.
“We are in total support of the establishment of ranches. If any person is interested in breeding cattle, let him or her approach the state government.
“He or she will be allocated a parcel of land for the purpose of establishing ranches alone. We reject cattle colonies in their entirety,” he said.
Also in another reaction to the burning of his farmland at the weekend, Falae vowed Monday to join other Nigerians to resist the federal government’s proposal to create colonies in various parts of the country.
Falae stated this during an interview with journalists after inspecting his farm.
According to him, “In Nigeria, to mention the word colony, it has political connotations not economic.
“A colony is a political entity which someone says he wants to create in the territory of another. That is a provocation, that is terrible thing for anybody to contemplate. I am sure it was a mistake, I hope my friend Audu Ogbeh will withdraw that obnoxious policy.”
The elder statesman said he was sure that the entire Yoruba race would not support any move that contemplates any form of recolonisation.
“You know Nigeria was a colony, but through the efforts of our leaders, we were able to get the British to leave and we are free.
“A colony is a territory that is a dependent territory, more or less owned by another nation. Thank God since 1960 when we got independence we ceased to be a colony.
“In any case, I can tell you as a leader of our race, the Yoruba people will not concede one inch of their territory as a colony to another person.
“I did not find my father as a slave, he never told me he was farming for other people. I will join with other people and pay the price we have to pay, any price to maintain the freedom we have inherited.
“I am farming on my own land, I did not go elsewhere to farm. There shall be no colony, not in Yoruba land,” he said.
The former SGF said the burning of his farm was not a question of cattle eating grass but a matter of people destroying other people’s means of livelihood consciously, maliciously and deliberately.
From the evidence, he said, the arsonists deliberately gathered dry leaves at the base of each palm tree and set them on fire.
“They did it overnight and did it one after the other. They burnt them, why? That does not feed the cattle, they just want to destroy my assets.
“This is an attack on my livelihood, on what I possess. It is continuous, they do it every year. For farmers, this is an attack on our food production,” he lamented.
According to him, people are now afraid to plant crops because they have no guarantee that they would harvest them.
“They have destroyed my ten hectares of cassava. Whoever borrows money to plant now, their asset will be ruined.
“The intention is what worries me: that some Nigerians deliberately want to destroy the property of other Nigerians.
“The destruction does not enhance their well-being. If they drive the cows to eat my maize and destroy my assets, it enhances their assets using it to subsidise their cows. But when they burn my plantation, there is no rational except for malice and hatred,” he said.
Also expressing outrage over the burning of Falae’s farm, the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) Monday warned that the continued attacks on the former SGF’s farm by suspected herdsmen would no longer be tolerated.
Its publicity secretary, Yinka Oguntimehin, in a statement said the attacks were wicked, rude and shocking.
He stressed that it was “a deliberate attempt by the suspected herdsmen to undermine the security of the country”.
According to Oguntimehin, “With the recent attack, it is a strong signal that Nigerians, particularly farmers, are not safe at their farms. And this is not too good for the federal government’s drive and policy on diversification and promotion of agriculture as a major alternative for oil.”
While lamenting that the attack on Falae’s farm came at a time when Nigerians were still mourning the gruesome murder of 73 people in Benue State and several others in other states across the country, Oguntimehin said it had brought to question the failure of the federal government to curtail the security challenges in the country.
He called on the federal government to sit up and nip the unwholesome activities of the herdsmen in the bud, declaring that they were not ghosts, but Nigerians who must be stopped now before they cause more harm to the country.
“As a group that is poised to protect the interest of the Yoruba wherever they live in the country, we believe strongly that it is the duty of every responsible government to protect the lives and property of the citizenry.
“The herdsmen are not ghosts. They are Nigerians like us and they must be stopped now before it degenerates into further attacks and counter attacks.
“The federal government must find a lasting solution to the continuous attacks and wanton killings in the country. They are a strong signal that our security agencies have failed in the discharge of their responsibilities,” OPC said.
Nigerians in London Protest
Nigerians in London also stormed the Nigerian High Commission in the British capital to protest the herdsmen killings across the country.
The protesters were armed with banners, which read, “stop the blood thirsty Fulani herdsmen now,” “they can’t kill us all.”
They also chanted, “Buhari must go,” “Buhari enough is enough.”
One of the protesters identified as Chidikali said they do not want the establishment of cattle colonies.
He wondered why the federal government was establishing colonies for persons that it referred to as “foreigners”.
Chidikali said: “This is the London anti-herdsmen protest. The message is sound, precise and clear: We do not want the expansion of Fulani herdsmen into Nigeria.
“Buhari’s government say they are foreigners, how can Buhari and his government build colonies for foreigners. That is ludicrous.”
During the protest, the Nigerian High Commissioner to Britain, Ambassador George Adesola Oguntade, did not come out to speak with the protesters.