The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday frowned at state governors in the North-West negotiating with bandits, insisting that such negotiation is fuelling banditry in the country.
The lawmakers also called on the Federal Government to direct states on the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), which is aimed at establishing ranches and eliminating open grazing.
The senators made the submissions on Wednesday while debating a motion brought by the Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice, on the growing insecurity in all parts of the country.
While calling for the operation of ranches as provided for in the NLTP, the Senate said the plan would prevent farmer-herder conflicts and activate highly productive livestock sector in Nigeria.
The lawmakers further lamented the invasion of the country by armed herdsmen from foreign countries, urging the Federal Government to adequately equip the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigerian Customs Service to police and monitor the borders.
Contributing to the debate, the senators berated the governors negotiating with bandits, while also insisting that seeking amnesty for the repentant bandits would spell doom for the country.
The senators stated this while reacting to Senator Sahabi Yau from Zamfara State, who had said in his submission, that he supported his governor for negotiating with bandits.
He said: “ I support my governor for seeking amnesty for repentant bandits. The Zamfara governor is by so doing, protecting the lives of his people.”
However, the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Uba Sani, drew the attention of his colleagues to the constant attacks of the state by bandits expecting Governor Nasir el-Rufai to also negotiate with them.
According to him, the refusal of the governor to negotiate with the criminals when neighbouring states were already doing so, was the cause of constant killings in the state, in recent times.
Sani said: “The bandits have been attacking our communities on a daily basis.
“We have been able to liaise with Nigerian forces, they expressed a lot of frustration on the way neighbouring states have been managing the crisis.
“Our position is that some neighbouring states in recent times have been negotiating with the criminals, which on a daily basis kill our own people, destroy our communities, murder our children.
“Unfortunately, whenever the Air Force wants to attack them through bombardment, they move on to neighbouring states, some state governors will sit down with them, winning and dinning with them.
“I don’t know why we are compensating the bandits. We must work together as a team if we want to succeed on this issue of security because as far as I’m concerned, you cannot compensate criminals.
“As far as we are concerned these people are criminals, we have to be very careful because we cannot politicise the issue of insecurity.
“A lot people are grandstanding, the issue of insecurity is not politics and we must be careful.
In his own submission, Senator Chukwuka Utazi said: “Governors that are negotiating with criminals and bandits are setting a dangerous precedent. We have to look at it seriously and advise them against it.”
Supporting the call for total ban on open grazing, Senator Tolu Odebiyi noted that the ban would prevent incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
He said: “I completely support a total ban on open grazing and its replacement with ranching system which is a modern practice all over the World.
“We have a national crisis on our hands. It is a national crisis that has been devoid of leadership politically and morally.
“We must see it the way it is. Between May 2017 and May 2020, there have been 624 attacks, 2,239 killed, 393 wounded, 253 kidnapped, 16 raped and 752 homes destroyed.
“That is an analysis done by a research firm in Brussels on what is happening in this country.
“I have listened and for us to be saying that they (bandits/herders) are not Nigerians, that is an indictment on our leadership.
That people are coming into this country and they are maiming our people, killing our people, they are raping our people and these are the same security people that we are now going to promote to be ambassadors of this country.
“It is an indictment and it is not acceptable. I represent a community that borders some countries, I went there over the weekend and the whole place has been destroyed by all these herdsmen.
“People’s earnings, people’s lives have been ruined. It is upsetting and we must rise. This country is on a precipice of a civil war.”
While rounding off the debate, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said: “The Senate urges the Federal Government to direct the state governments, to implement the National Livestock Transformation Plan which is a modern scheme designed to eliminate trans-humans movement in order to prevent farmer-herder conflicts and activate highly productive livestock sector in Nigeria.”
He also called on politicians against ethnicising the spate of insecurity in the country, warning that doing so was capable of inciting widespread bloodshed among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Speaking further, Lawan emphasised the need for more funding to the military to enable it tackle the spate of widespread insecurity in several states across the geo-political zones, as a result of the growing activities of Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers.
He said: “There’s no better investment today in Nigerian by government, than making more resources available to our security agencies because security is the major thing that government can do to change the lives of the people for the better.
“So, we will continue to discuss and debate it here. This will not be the last, but the tone, the issue, the main theme should change. That maybe by the time we discuss this kind of thing here again, it should be that we have made a shift; that we have moved positively, that we are trying to only make it better.”