Vice President advocates state policing of herdsmen, farmers conflicts

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has advocated the establishment of state and community policing as a way to check clashes between pastoralists and farmers in parts of Nigeria.

Osinbajo stated this on Thursday while declaring open a two-day Summit on National Security organised by the National Assembly Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of Current Security Architecture in Nigeria at the Nigerian Airforce Conference Centre, Abuja.

“We cannot police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja.  State policing and other community policing methods are the way to go,” the Vice President said at the summit, which had the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, Senators, Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, royal fathers, among others in attendance.

Professor Osinbajo said:“The nature of our security challenges is complex and nuanced. Securing Nigeria’s over 900,000 Square Kilometers and its 180million people require far more men and material than we have at the moment, and a continual re-engineering of our security architecture and strategies.”

He said that Nigeria requires triple the number of officers to meet the ‘one policeman to 400 people’ ration prescribed by the United Nations.

This, according to him, requires more funding of the police and the security agencies.

Collaboration with Nigeria neighbours

Vice President Osinbajo also called for the intensification of collaboration between Nigeria and her neighbours in the Chad Basin, “especially border communities to prevent the movement of small arms and disarming armed pastoralists and bandits who go through our borders day after day.”

He stated that the ECOWAS Trans-Human Protocol, which Nigeria signed in 1998, guarantees free movement of pastoralist and herders from other ECOWAS countries, but said robust documentation of entries and exits could help check the influx of bandits and militias who carry arms and cause violence.

Government’s failure not deliberate

Professor Osinbajo said government’s seeming failure in its responsibility to protect Nigerians and their property has never been deliberate.

In his words: Every killing demeans us as a people.  Every killing undermines the authority of the state.  This is why the suggestion sometimes that because the president is Fulani he has ignored the killings by herdsmen is both untrue and unfair.  In any event, herdsmen and farmers clashes resulting in deaths have been with us for at least two decades.  I have worked with him for three years now and I do not know of any issue that has given him more concern or on which he has spent more time with security chiefs as this particular issue.”

The Vice President said government has done a lot to contain the violence witnessed in parts of the country, including deploying the Mobile Police Force and the military to the areas.

“The approach of government has been to deploy mobile police forces to troubled areas and also both the army and the airforce.  The Nigerian Army Formations and Units in Benue State, especially the 72 Special Forces Battalion, has consistently maintained forward operating bases at its flag areas covering Guma, Logo, Katsina Allah and Agatu Local Government Areas.   The operation has the generic name Operation Nessa, but is also nicknamed Operation Zenda in Benue State.

“The Army has in the last few days scaled up the size and equipment in Agatu, in Guma, in Katsina Ala and Logo LGAs of Benue State. The Army has also recently deployed troops to Awe and Tunga LGAs of Nassarawa to block the gaps that there were presumed to be used by herdsmen to attack communities in Benue State.  Additionally, troops of the 93 Battalion in Takum Taraba State also occupy blocking position and maintiain constant laison with Benue State.”

He said although the security agencies have performed creditably, given their resource constraints, they have often failed to respond early enough to prevent some of the worst killings perpetrated by criminal elements.

“Whenever that happens, as was the case in Logo and Guma and in Mambillia last year, the failure to protect the lives of innocents is inexcusable and we cannot rationalize or diminish that failure of our security apparatus of government in anyway,” he stated.

Osinbajo further called on political and religious leaders to work towards ensuring that the present clashes do not harden into religious and ethnic conflict.

Omolayo.A