By Stephen Ubaana
When Theophilus Danjuma, a retired Lt. General and a former Chief of Army Staff and minister of Defense , lampooned the Army on March 24, 2018, of colluding with armed herdsmen to kill innocent citizens in parts of the country he Amy did not find it funny.
in apparent response to the General’s accusation, the Army exonerated itself from blame over the herdsmen killings in parts of the country, stressing that ”it has sacrificed much life in dealing with the situation while absolutely remaining neutral”.
Many beieves that the former Chief of Army’s claim may have struck the right chord in security circles as the security Chiefs went back to work to bring the situation under control. The recent killings of scores of Worshippers and two priests at a Catholic Church at Ukpor village in Gwer East Local government Area of Benue state may have forced forced President Muhammadu Buhari to give a matching order to Abdulrahaman Dambazu, and Brig. Mansur Dan Ali Ministers of Internal Affairs and Defense respectively , Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of Police, IGPto crack down on the armed herdsmen causing the havoc in parts of the country.
The Presidential directive to the security Chiefs to stop the killings may have given ammunition to Mamman Lawal Daura and Mohammed Dauda, Director Generals, Department of State Security,DSS, and Defense Intelligence Agency, DIA, an to step up their intelligence gathering with the Coordination of Mohammed Babagana Munguno, the National Security Adviser, the NSA.
With barely one moth that Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff lambasted the Army over the herdsmen killings and Buhari’s intervention to save the situation from degenerating, on Saturday, April, 28, 2018, there were screaming headlines in all the major Newspapers in the country, ” Troops arrest Boko Haram suspects linked with the recent attacks and killings in Benue state”. The on-line media also feasted on the story .
Olabisi Ayeni, a Major and the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations officer said a combined team of the Army, police, and the DSS, had made the arrest of the Boko Haram fighters based on” credible intelligence after a fierce fighting in Guma Local government area of the state”.
He disclosed that the troops of the 707 Special Force who were on patrol of the Guma local government on getting to the suspected militia Camp were sighted by the armed herdsmen who fired at the troops , forcing the soldiers to tep up their counter attack. The armed herdsmen were said to have been over powered by the superior fire power of the soldiers in the gun battle on Thursday, April 26, 2018 as they took to their heals leaving some of their weapons and ammunitions including handsets. Ayeni confirmed the arrest of three of the militia herdsmen in their camp located near Tormatar village in Guma.
the soldiers may have been thrilled with the arrest of the notorious Aminu Yaminu , alias Tashaku, who was their Commander. The Army Assistant Director, Public Relations, said the captured armed herdsmen militia was instrumental to all the attacks and killings in Benue state.
The notorious Armed herdsmen may have fallen into the waiting hands of the Army when information filtered out that he has concluded plans with his men in Borno, Yobe and Nasarawa states to launch another major attack in Benue state. The information may have provided ammunition for troops of the Special Forces 707 Brigade and 72 Battalion based in Makurdi to prepare to invade the milita camp.
The Army spokesman also confirmed the arrest of three other members of the herdsmen militia. They are Abubakar Umaru, Adam Likita and Yusufu Alhaji Yaro. The arrest of the four principal armed herdsmen in the camp may have put them in disarray as they could no longer come together to plan to launch attacks on innocent citizens.
Prior to the raid on the militia camp in Benue state, Ayeni, a Major, disclosed that on Wednesday, April 25, 2018,one AK.47 rifles and five rounds of 7.6mm special ammunition were recovered in the bush by troops of the 707 Brigade who were patrolling the general area of Naku village in the volatile Gwer West Local government area of the state .
The arrest of the four armed militia herdsmen who were linked to Boko Haram fighters in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states confirms people’s fear that the suspected herdsmen killers in Benue, Plateau Adamawa, Niger, Nasarawa and Zanfara, were Boko Haram fighters masquerading as Herdsmen .
An elated Suleiman Mohammed, a Lt.Colonel and Commandant of 72 Battalion, Makurdi, was said to have t paraded the arrested armed herdsmen on Saturday, April 27, 2018, in Guma Local government Area of the state . The Commandant was also said to have showcased the AK47, ammunitions, charms and handsets ” recovered from the bush and the militia Camp.
Umaru and Yusuf, the two armed herdsmen who are still in the Army custody were said to have volunteered informations on interrogation that they usually hold their meetings near a river under a mango tree in Awe Local government Area of Nasarawa state to decide on where to launch their attacks.
A security analysts told the Magazine that the Security Chiefs may have taken the battle to the armed the herdsmen militia Camp in Benue state to pre-empt the mass protest planned by members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, slated on Sunday, April, 29, 2018. The planned protest by CAN could have been a big embarrassment to the All Progressive Congress , APC, led government of Buhari as the International were waiting to see how he would handle the crisis.
The analysts disclosed that the Army raid on the armed herdsmen militia Camp, clearly confirms what Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff said that the Army were colluding with the armed herdsmen to kill innocent citizens. This is because of the speed in which they raided the militia Camp within hours of a Presidential directive to the security Chiefs on Thursday, April26, 2018, to stop the killings in parts of the country, fueling speculation that the soldiers knew such a Camp exists in Benue state. there are fears in both official and unofficial circles that there may be other armed herdsmen militia Camps in Nasarawa and Taraba states.
Worried by the public outcry of people over the killings in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa and Zamfara by alleged armed herdsmen, Buhari had inaugurated a three-man Sub- Committee to unravel the causes of the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers and make recommendation on a way out of the crisis. on February 2018. The Sub-Committee was headed by Dave Umahi, an opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governor of Eboyi state.
The Umahi Committee was said to have submitted its report to the government which was received by Yemi Osibanjo, the Vice President on last Wednesday. Snippets of the report shows that there were three main categories of herdsmen criscrossing the country with their cattles , thus stepping the toe of farmers with the destruction of their crops.
According to the Committee, they are the nomadic herdsmen, foreign herdsmen and migrant herdsmen. The Committee members, who were said to have visited the flash point states confirmed that the continued activities of the armed herdsmen in the agrarian dominated Communities in these states was responsible for the for the frequent clashes with the farmers.
The Committee attributed the major causes of the conflict between the herdsmen and farmers a to perception and escalation of reports on the killings in these flash point states linked to the armed herdsmen in the media and competition for scarce resources. This is in addition” armed banditry through cattle rustlings and kidnapping”, the Committee remarked.
Osinbajo, however, believes that the frequent clashes between the armed herdsman and farmers in the flash point states was as a result of the proliferation of weapons in the country and the nation’s porous borders as criminal network took advantage of it to kill innocent citizens.
The Vice President was said to have told the gathering of the ministers of security and Agriculture/Natural Resources in Abuja recently that Nigeria intends to” follow the regional Cooperation model as applied to the threat posed by Boko Haram insurgents in the north in tackling the security threat posed by the escalating violence between herdsmen and farmers”.
Perhaps, to put an to the escalating tension, he was said to have called for a regional Cooperation, proper border management, Law Enforcement and identity management in the West African sub-region.
Jean Claude Kassi Brou, President, Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS, Commission, who was said to have shared the same views with Osibanjo, the Nigeria Vice President, regretted that ”deaths and displacement of persons and the needless conflicts remain a major headache in the region in recent years which had resulted in” stigmatization of ethno-linguistic and cultural groups”.
In spite of the fact that Buhari has risen up to the challenge to face the herdsmen issue squarely, he may have played into the hands of the opposition PDP and other critics for failing to show up at the last FEC meeting to receive the Umahi Sub- Committee report forcing people to doubt every of his genuine moves to tackle the crisis.
The Committee had recommended a ”ban on open grazing across the country” and the establishment of ”ranches in the states affected by herdsmen onslaught ‘, which was endorsed by the Council’. The question on the lips of most people is: Will Buhari go along with the decision of the Council to adopt the recommendation of the Umahi Sub -Committee report on herdsmen and farmers incessant clashes? There are fears in both official and unofficial quarters that the report may gather dust in the Presidency like other good reports that had been prepared and presented to the government which had not seen the light of the day as he may not muster the political muscle to act on it.