A cross-section of Nigerians have criticised the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo panel for its decision to raise a committee to hold talks with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in its probe of the herdsmen killings.
The committee, which was set up by the National Economic Council to “find lasting solutions to the increasing cases of killings by herdsmen across the country,” is headed by the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had said this on Thursday at the end of a meeting of the Osinbajo committee at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Federal Government’s plan to meet with Miyetti Allah, however, has drawn the ire of different socio-political groups in the country.
Among those who faulted the move by the Federal Government are the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere; the umbrella body for the Igbo, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and Middle Belt groups.
Others are a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman, and a Niger Delta activist, Annkio Briggs.
The ACF does not, however, see anything wrong with the talks the Umahi committee is to hold with the cattle breeders.
Afenifere said that though the government’s plan to meet the cattle breeders association in order to end their killings was good, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari could not be trusted.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, warned that the Federal Government was leading the nation down the path of anarchy and lawlessness by planning to negotiate with the herdsmen, who it said had stained the nation with the blood of innocent citizens.
Odumakin slammed the Osinbajo-led panel for proposing to meet with the Miyetti Allah, saying it was unfortunate that “a professor of law would be meeting to negotiate with criminals.”
He added, “If the panel is meeting herdsmen, who are staining the country with blood, it means the Federal Government is complicit in the murder of Nigerians. They have not brought one person to book, but they are negotiating with the murderers; this is an invitation to anarchy.”
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo also questioned the objective of the dialogue with Miyetti Allah.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Uche Achi-Okpaga, told one of our correspondents that there was nothing to negotiate.
He stated, “What is the panel going to negotiate with the herdsmen about? Will they ask them (herdsmen) what the government should do to placate them before they will stop killing defenceless Nigerians? The setting up of the panel is simply unnecessary. It cannot achieve any result. It is the height of deceit. The panel has failed before it started.”
The President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Emma Zopmal, said, “The government has never made an attempt to compensate the victims, yet it goes further to empower the Fulani herdsmen for killing innocent people. This is an irresponsible act on the part of the Nigerian government.”
Similarly, the President of the Berom Youth Moulders Association, Dalyop Chuwang, said that the government should desist from handling security issues with kid gloves.
Chuwang added, “The sole responsibility of the government is to provide security to all citizens, regardless of tribe, religion and geopolitical region.
“The killer herdsmen should be declared as terrorists just like the Indigenous People of Biafra, which has not even launched an attack anywhere but has been tagged a terrorist group by the government.”
In the same vein, a Niger Delta activist, Ms. Annkio Briggs, expressed disapproval with the negotiation plans by the Federal Government.
Also, a member of the National Executive Council of Arewa Consultative Forum, Mohammed Abdulrahman, said, “If Buhari wants to do something, he should order the military to tackle the matter. He should ask them (herdsmen) not to come into Nigeria because they are not Nigerians.”
The Secretary General of the ACF, Anthony Sani, however, cautioned Nigerians against criminalising the Fulani.
He said, “Miyetti Allah is an umbrella body of herdsmen, but that does not suggest that the majority of its members are criminals who perpetuate the crimes of killing innocent people, including children who are not party to the feud.”
The ACF secretary noted that the plan of the Federal Government to negotiate with the warring parties, especially the herdsmen, did not amount to endorsing the killings.