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17 Jan 2018

House in emotional debate over killings

After an emotional debate, the House of Representatives yesterday resolved to set up an ad hoc committee over the incessant killings by Fulani herdsmen.

The committee is to, among others, interface with the Minister of Interior, the Service Chiefs, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS).

The resolution followed a motion sponsored by Babatunde Kolawole (APC Ondo) under matters of urgent national importance with the title: “Need for FG to declare a state of emergency on security over spate of deadly attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the country.”

The lawmaker was concerned that incessant attacks on farmers and farming communities would  ultimately result in food shortage, artificial scarcity and hamper the drive of the Federal Government to diversify the nation’s economy through agriculture

He said there was the need “ for proactive steps to be taken to avoid attacks and the consequent loss of lives”.

A majority of members spoke against the nomadic practice of the herdsmen, but a few, such as Aisha Dukku (Gombe ) and Sadiq Ibrahim (APC Adamawa),  touched raw nerves when they said the herdsmen needed help and protection.

Ibrahim said: “If we speak for the dead, we must also speak for the living. The herdsmen need our pity. By his profession, he is exposed. The comfort that you and I have, he does not have it. The herdsmen need our protection.”

He said the herdsman values his cow like his life and hence governors must be willing to “make sacrifices”. Ibrahim said if the grazing bill had been passed by the National Assembly, such a calamity would not have befallen the nation. Banning Open Grazing when the herdsmen had no alternative, he said caused the tragedy.

Dukku Jibril said there is need to ask governors about the N100 billion they got from the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration and why they had not established grazing reserves.

“The herdsman values the cow more than his life,” she said, adding that owners of the cows should be found and prosecuted.

But the comments incensed members of the Benue Caucus. John Dyegh wanted to know if  ”it is correct for Fulani to enter our farms, violate our women, destroy our farms and rip open pregnant women?”

He said the anti- open grazing bill was a response to past atrocities of the herdsmen and was arrived at by popular request of the people.

Mark Gbillah said grazing routes were created in 1963 and that the world had moved on from there. He asked if in this age the caliphate would still be riding horses across the world? Ranching, according to him, is the solution and the governor of Benue State did the appropriate thing.

The chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Orker Jev, said: “The security and welfare of people is the primary responsibility of government. There is no political will on the part of the government..

“There is no determination on the part of the President to tackle herdsmen like he did for Boko Haram.”

He wondered how Fulani herdsmen could come and kill on such a scale “and the security agencies are not aware?”

House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila, Funke Adodoyin, Afe Olowokere (APC Ondo), Wale Raji ( APC Lagos), Babajimi Benson ( APC Lagos) spoke in unison against the penchant of herdsmen for violence and ways to mitigate it.

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