The call on the Federal Government by the House of Representatives to check the influx of herdsmen from other African countries to Nigeria is in order. Earlier, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, had urged government to review the West African Protocols that allow free movement of citizens of member states, in order to check migration of herdsmen into the country. The governor observed that such movements always caused conflicts and destruction of human lives.
Ganduje expressed the need for government to use the international restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic to stop the inflow of armed herdsmen to Nigeria.
It is good that the lower legislative House has mandated its Committees on Police Affairs, Army and Interior to “in- terface with the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff and the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, respectively, on the best ways of policing and securing the Nigeria borders.” This is not the first time concerned citizens and groups are calling on the government to check the influx of the foreign herders. The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), comprising elders and statesmen from the Southern and North Central geopolitical zones of the country, had made similar call on President Muhammadu Buhari, warning that the peace of Nigeria was under threat because of the activities of the herdsmen.
These concerns should not be taken lightly. We recall that many Nigerian herders had been living peacefully with their host communities. The occasional problems had been with a few clashes between farmers and herders over grazing lands. The foreign herders have aggravated the situation maiming and killing of people in their host communities. They are also involved in wanton kidnapping rape and other crimes, including destruction of property. Some of them bear AK 47 assault rifles. The government must rise up to this challenge.
Cattle business is better done through ranching, not by roaming with the herd. We welcome the idea to check the influx of the foreign pastoralists. Therefore, government should walk the talk in this direction. It should put in place necessary measures to halt the infiltration of foreign herdsmen into the country.
We enjoin the government to secure our porous borders, which are reportedly poorly policed, leaving people to come in unchecked. Data from the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in 2018 showed that our land borders were vulnerable and the personnel to man them grossly inadequate. There were about 1,500 identified land border crossings into Nigeria, with only 114, covering 4,000 square kilometres, approved control posts manned by merely 23,000 immigration officials and other security agencies. Nigeria has international land borders of about 4,470 km (2,513 miles) with Chad Republic, Cameroon, Benin and Niger and a coastline of 774km, which are largely unmanned. These are the loopholes the foreign herders exploit to invade the country.
This has serious security implications for the country. For instance, the May 15 and 16 clashes in Lamurde Local Government Area, Adamawa State, that left 73 killed, 81,110 displaced, houses and businesses destroyed, were attributed to activities of the foreign herdsmen. Similar ugly incidents had taken place in other parts of the country at various times. Many lives had been lost and property destroyed on such occasions, especially as responses to the crisis at both the federal and state levels had been very poor andineffective.
We believe that tightening the land borders will drastically reduce the influx of the foreign herders. It is worth reminding the government that its primary duty is to protect life and property of the citizens. The Police should rise up to their responsibilities in this respect. The situation also requires the collaboration of sister security agencies at the border posts and the cooperation of our neighboring countries.
Failure on the part of the government to check the menace of foreign herdsmen will force the citizens to resort to self-help. The consequences could be dire. This is the time to give effect to President Buhari’s order on security agencies to arrest and prosecute suspected killer herdsmen and other criminals found with illegal arms and ammunition.
We lend our voice to the call on government to halt the influx of foreign herdsmen to Nigeria so as to curb the conflicts associated with such movements. Government should enter into pacts with neighbouring countries to stem the menace.