The country’s security challenges are generating great anxiety in the land and hardly a day passes without grisly reports of violence, burning of towns by Fulani herdsmen, or the killing of innocent farmers in farmsteads. One of the latest incidents occurred in Jandeikyaula, in Wukari Local Government Area of Taraba State where on Wednesday April 11, 25 persons were killed and the town burnt down by the herdsmen.
In Zamfara State more than 20 communities have fled their homes for fear of more attacks as 32 were buried in Bawan Daji Village of Anka Local Government Area. Last Thursday 10 persons were killed when the herdsmen attacked the Agasha community in Gama Local Government Area of Benue State. These incidents have become so regular that most Nigerians are now wondering whether these killings have become the new normal.
Thus it was no surprise that the Senate held a session on the matter last week and it was soon apparent that the legislature seems to have lost confidence in the ability of the executive arm of the government to provide a credible solution. Senator Suleiman Adokwe of Nasarawa State, therefore, tabled the motion that President Muhammadu Buhari should dismiss Nigeria’s security chiefs because they have proved to be incapable of meeting the security needs of the country. He lamented that herdsmen’s attacks were carried out on Tivs in Doma Local Government Area of his state. “The real tragedy,” he said, “is not just in the co-ordination of the attacks, but that they continued for four days running without being checked by any of the security agencies.” Senator Jeremiah Useni (Plateau State) noted that on the day President Buhari visited Plateau State, and the governor said the state was peaceful, 27 persons were killed. Senator Solomon Olamilekan (Lagos) said the President needs new ideas.
“The current (security) chiefs have exhausted their ideas. So they should go, to allow officers with fresh ideas address our alarming security issues.” Two of these senators are members of the President’s political party, so their views are not the typical ‘opposition’ views.
The deteriorating security situation of the country often demands that it be re-stated that the first duty of any government is the security and welfare of its people. Section 14 (2)(b) is so explicit that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The provision of security for the citizen is a social contract. When not provided, it is tantamount to abdication of responsibility. Nigerians watch with disbelief the security agencies, the Army, Navy, and Air Force, all of which can be enlisted to help the Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. Yet this carnage continues and Nigerians are shocked and helpless.
The Federal Government has not helped matters by failing to give the issue the attention it deserves. The Christian Council of Nigeria, an affiliate of the Christian Association of Nigeria last week drew attention to the government’s tendency to trivialise the issue by describing it as ‘conflicts between herdsmen and farmers.’ But the preponderance of evidence is that farmers did not clash with herdsmen, the farmers were mostly attacked at night in their homes.
Furthermore, the oversimplification of the issue by senior government officials who sometimes characterise the issue as a ‘contest for resources,’ and a spin-off of ‘climate change’ and its effect on Lake Chad, show that the government has underrated the dangers of the herdsmen’s depredations.
The body count of the herdsmen carnage can be disconcerting. But the new year opened with the mass burial of 72 Nigerians in Benue State.
More than 90 in Nasarawa, scores more in Taraba, Kaduna and Adamawa states. Every week, more numbers are added to the dead and thousands added to the displaced with no sign that there is any solution in sight. Every week if not every day, the President and his ministers and security chiefs offer assurances that the issue would be solved.
Unfortunately, those assurances are now sounding no more than empty promises. Worse, the current upsurge in the attacks depicts government’s failure. Under those circumstances, it is difficult not to think of a change of guard in the security agencies. In many parts of the world, some of the security chiefs would have willingly resigned seeing that they are not equal to the task at hand. The government should also review its overall strategy and address squarely the dangers posed by the herdsmen. This, it must begin, by calling them by their names. They are nothing short of terrorists and should be confronted as such.