Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
In order to reduce tensions caused by the passage of the controversial anti-grazing law in three states, the federal government is considering suspending the implementation of the law, while negotiating safe routes for cattle herders.
This was part of discussions held at the security council meeting on Tuesday, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari with service chiefs in attendance.
The anti-grazing law is already operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba States, states that have experienced the most violence and a spate of mass murders since the law went into effect last year.
In Ekiti State, the law, signed by Governor Ayo Fayose in 2016, prohibits open grazing between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
Governor Samuel Ortom followed suit in 2017 with a law that places an absolute ban on open grazing across Benue State.
The law, which went into effect in November 2017, has been blamed for the escalating violence which has left hundreds of residents dead in attacks linked to Fulani herdsmen across Benue since January 1.
Taraba State passed the anti-grazing law on July 2017, but law came into effect in January 24th this year, with a caveat that it will be implemented gradually after aggressive awareness campaigns across the state.
Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali, in a statement signed by his Public Relations Officer (PRO), Colonel Tukur Gusau, suggested the “need to employ other channels with the affected states to reduce tension by suspending the implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing Law while also negotiating safe routes for the herders.
“The urgent need for the Nigeria Police and Department of State Services to prosecute all the suspects arrested in states. The need to hasten the establishment of a National Commission on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria.”
Although the suspension of the law is in line with the demands of Miyetti Allah association of cattle herders, Dan-Ali’s positions is against past recommendations by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Economic Council (NEC) that the option of cattle ranching be adopted to end the frequent clashes that have left thousands of people dead and several farmlands raided and destroyed.
Dan-Alli also suggested the launch of a joint task force operation, similar to Operation SAFE HAVEN in Jos, with headquarters in Gusau, to cover Zamfara and Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State, where kidnappings and killings have also been on the rise.
According to the minister, the Council considered the killings and kidnapping in the North-West, particularly along Abuja-Kaduna expressway, even as the service chiefs reviewed the activities of armed bandits and other criminal elements in Anka, Maru, Kaura Namoda and Atalanta Mafara in Zamfara State.
While noting that incidents of herdsmen-farmers clashes in Benue and Taraba had subsided, the minister disclosed that several arrests had been made in connection with killings and destruction of property.
He added that he informed the Council that the US government conveyed to the federal government matters pertaining to the implementation of Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act Section 231.
“It is pertinent to state that the award of contract for the procurement of the Mi-35M helicopters was completed before the act was signed into law in August 2017,” he said.
The Nigerian Army, he noted, has launched Operations LAST HOLD to flush out insurgents from their hideouts in the Lake Chad Basin area and to liberate communities to enable IDPs return to their homes.
The operation, he said, is to last till the end of August.
Those at the meeting included Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser; Mansur Dan-Ali, Minister of Defence; Ahmed Abubakar, Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of Police are attending the meeting.
Others in attendance are, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Representative of Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique.