Insinuations and allegations that the attacks and killings are happening because President Buhari is Fulani are both unkind and incorrect. These attacks long predated the Buhari Government. In 2013 no fewer than nine cases of herdsmen attacks were recorded in Benue State alone, with more than 190 people killed. In 2014 there were no fewer than 16 recorded attacks, in Benue, which claimed more than 230 victims. Between January and May 2015, six attacks left more than 300 people dead, again in Benue State alone.
This historical context is important for a proper understanding of the issue, and to avoid unnecessarily politicizing what should be regarded and dealt with as acts of criminality. These attacks have been a longstanding issue, and successive governments have struggled to contain the situation.
The Buhari Administration is more than fully committed to bringing the cycle of violence to an end, prosecuting the attackers, and preventing further killings and attacks. President Buhari has condemned the killings in Benue and other parts of the country and stands by his earlier directives to security agencies that all those behind wanton killings in any part of the country must be brought to book. The security agencies also have standing instructions to arrest and prosecute any and all persons found with illegal arms.
The recent killings in Benue and Taraba States have elicited the following Federal responses:
1. President Buhari has met with the Governor of Benue State on the matter, to assure him of the Federal Government’s commitment to protecting farmers and communities.
2. President Buhari has directed the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue State.
3. On Monday January 8, 2018, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, convened a security meeting on the issue, bringing together Federal and State government officials: Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Heads of security agencies, and the Governors of the most affected States: Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, and Taraba.
4. On Wednesday January 10, 2018, the IG held a Stakeholders engagement with the Benue State Government, elders, community, religious and traditional leaders etc
5. Since the first week of January, immediately following the January 1 attacks, the Inspector General of Police has deployed the following to the affected areas:
· Ten (10) Units of the Police Mobile Force
· Ten (10) Units of Police Special Forces (‘Tactical Operation Units’)
· Counter Terrorism Units
· Conventional Policemen.
· Police Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD)
· Special Police Joint Intelligence and Investigation Teams
· Police Aerial Surveillance Teams (Police Helicopters)
6. Five (5) Mobile Police Units deployed to protect IDPs in neighbouring Nasarawa State.
7. The Nigerian Army has deployed Special Forces to Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa States.
8. In Benue State, eight (8) suspected herdsmen are in Police custody over the recent killings, and are currently being prosecuted.
9. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is working to establish cattle colonies across the country, in 2018. These colonies will provide grass and water for the cattle, and education and healthcare facilities for herders. They will also have Agro-Rangers deployed to secure the facilities.
10. On January 15, 2018, various past and present Benue state government officials, traditional elders and members of the House of Assembly gathered for a security meeting with the President on measures to curb violence in the state.
11. The Vice President has refuted claims that he had prior knowledge on attacks of alleged herdsmen in Logo and Guma LGAs of Benue state on Januray 1, 2018 without acting on it. Full press statement HERE.
12. On January 18, 2018, the National Economic Council, which is chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, set up a committee to address the issues of conflict and violence between herdsmen and farmers in the country.
13. It was announced on February 7, 2018 that the Nigerian Army will begin an operation exercise called Exercise Ayem Akpatuma. The exercise is to run from February 15 – March 31, 2018 and cover Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states to tackle the cases of kidnappings, and herdsmen/farmers’ clashes.