Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki, Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
South East governors have rejected the proposal by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to set up Fulani Youth Vigilance Groups in the geopolitical zone.
President of MACBAN, Alhaji Muhammadu Kirowa, had at a security summit in Enugu recently said the Fulani youth outfit, when established, would work alongside with security agencies and local vigilance groups to ensure security of lives and property in all communities in Igboland.
But the governors described the proposal as strange, huge joke and totally unacceptable.
The governors’ rejection was contained in a statement issued by the Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF) and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi.
Umahi, in the statement released by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, said it was extremely strange for anybody to think that non-locals in any part of the country including South East could be allowed to form vigilante outfit.
“Whichever is the meaning, no governor will allow that. South East Governors have their local vigilantes working with security agencies. Any such demand by Miyetti group is a joke and not acceptable. Governors of South East are doing their best and we have no problems receiving insults from our people. It’s the price for leadership,” he said.
Governor Umahi added: “…no Miyetti vigilante in South East, no cattle ranch or colony but we must live peacefully with herdsmen that do not destroy our farmland, especially those that were born here and have lived peacefully with us. All South East governors are together in this position.”
Apart from the governors, human rights and professional groups have continued to kick against the MACBAN proposal.
The groups wondered why MACBAN has not deemed it fit to establish their Fulani Vigilante in areas that are manifestly prone to cattle rustling such as Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina among other states but chose the South-East where there is little or no more problem.
Igbo Ekunie Initiative, a coalition of professionals in Nigeria and the Diaspora affirmed its commitment to vigorously oppose the establishment of the Fulani Vigilante in any form whatsoever anywhere in the South-East.
In a statement issued in Onitsha, Anambra State, jointly signed by its president and secretary, Maazi Tochukwu Ezeoke and Lawrence Nwobu respectively, Igbo Ekunie Initiative maintained that the Miyetti Allah’s call for the establishment of Fulani Vigilante in the South-East was absolutely uncalled for and worrisome, especially when taken into perspective that states like Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia and Imo were among the most peaceful in the country.
“There is absolutely no threat in any form to the Fulani people living in the South-East or to their business interests that should warrant the establishment of a Fulani defence corp.
“One would have expected that the Miyetti Allah should devote its energy and resources to assisting in addressing the reckless and cruel bloodletting all over northern Nigeria by the Fulani herdsmen whose genocidal crimes of huge proportions have so far baffled and overwhelmed the Inspector General of Police in particular and indeed the entire security apparatchiks in Nigeria.
“So far, thousands of innocent and defenceless Nigerians have been massacred and hacked to death by the duo of terrorist Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents all over the North-East and North-Central, particularly in the president Buhari’s home state of Katsina where the so-called bandits have rendered the state ungovernable.
“The situation is the same in Kaduna and indeed in Borno states where both the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Yusuf Buratai and the National Security Adviser Monguno hail from. Why has the Miyetti Allah not deemed it fit to establish their Fulani Vigilante in these areas that are manifestly prone to cattle rustling?
The group admonished governors, National Assembly members, state Assembly members and indeed all the other politicians and security personnel from the South East to be alive to their responsibilities in accordance with their respective oath of office by taking proactive and strategic actions to nip the “infamous call” by Miyetti Allah in the bud.
“Where they fail in their duties, we shall not and when the time of reckoning comes, every defaulter will be brought to book,” Igbo Ekunie warned.
To the Civil Liberties Organization, (CLO), Anambra State chapter, the proposal is not only unacceptable, but an insult on Igbo.
The state chairman of CLO, Vincent Ezekwueme, argued that the Miyetti Allah may have had an ulterior motive in proposing the establishment of the security system in Igboland, even when they knew that there is no security challenges in the entire South-East as at the moment.
Meanwhile, MACBAN has exonerated its members from the unending conflict between farmers and herders that has claimed hundreds of lives and property worth billions of Naira.
MACBAN said its members do not go on grazing with guns and other dangerous weapon other than sticks and cutlasses, insisting that any herdsman seen with gun or other dangerous weapon other than stick and cutlass is foreigner and should be treated as criminal.
National Secretary, Baba Othman Ngadzarna, spoke yesterday in Abuja, when he led other officials of the association on a congratulatory visit to the re-elected President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Samson Ayokunle.
He insisted that those carrying AK-47 and other dangerous weapons were cattle rustlers who capitalise on the porosity of borders to enter Nigeria to perpetrate evil.
He also disclosed that there is another group of herdsmen that share same nomenclature with them and thave also been recognised and registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Ngadzarna, however, attributed the unending feud between the pastoralists and farmers to climate change, increase in population, illiteracy, cattle rustling and failure of government to address their needs.
CAN president, in his remarks, said the reputation of Miyetti Allah has been damaged by the activities of criminal elements among the herdsmen and that could only be remedied through self-cleansing that would expose the criminal herdsmen.
“President Buhari is Fulani like you people and the best thing you can do for him is to expose those criminals. This will make Nigerians not to reject another Fulani man who may want to rule. CAN never attacked President Buhari on religious ground. Rather, we asked for more responsiveness to the yearning of Nigerians not minding the faith, ethnic background and political leaning,” he said.