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Benue Anti Open Grazing Law and Presidency’s silence is worrisome

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By DENNIS MERNYI

President Mohammadu Buhari has maintained a long silence over the laws prohibiting open grazing of livestock enacted by some states of the federation. First to call the shot was Ekiti state. Benue state has followed suite. Taraba state will soon sign a similar law. In Benue, the full implementation of the law had commenced on November 1,2017. Like in Ekiti and Taraba states, the leadership of Fulani herdsmen have continued with their threat to lives of the people of Benue once again. They do not only threatened to invade the state but to unleash all forms of attack on the people and kill them even more for daring to come up with a law to “chase them away from the state”. But as expected that attempts to end the incessant and excessive killings across the country by the killer herdsmen would be met with stiff resistance either by the Fulani herdsmen themselves as it is the case at the moment. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state undoubtedly, was aware of those hurdles. He has consistently briefed President Buhari himself who is a Fulani man and sure have herdsmen of cattle. He was at separate occasions reported to have held closed door security briefing with the President over the continuous killings in the state by the Fulani herdsmen since his assumption of office as the Governor on May 29,2015. In what was termed as a pogrom, the massacre In Agatu, Buruku, Guma, Tarkaa, Logo and Katsina Ala threw both the people of the state and the Governor off balance. The massacres in a coordinated manner even though attracted concerns from the international communities like the ECOWAS, AU, UN, the United States as well as many international and local humanitarian organisations including the Red Cross, etc did not merit the visit by the President of Nigeria to those affected areas neither a strong worded statement of warning to the killer herdsmen and to assure the people of their safety and protection from further attacks. Any statement by the Presidency was not more than the usual promises to fish out the perpetrators who are still free doing their worst. Over 5,000 innocent citizens of Benue were murdered more than 10,000 wounded by the Fulani herdsmen in the wake of the crises. Hundreds of billions worth of properties including farm produce were destroyed according reports. The President was however criticised by both Nigerians and foreigners for failing to at least visit the victims or a state visit to the state that has been devastated since the multiple attacks and wanton killings. However, intensely disturbed by those act of terrorism, Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom after wider consultation with the people of the state, the decision to device a more civilised approach to find a near lasting solution to the prolonged crises was formulated. Government’s decision to enact a law prohibiting open grazing of livestock in the state was arrived at after identifying it as the paramount cause of the clashes between farmers and herdsmen. Farmers who in most cases watched helplessly as their crops are destroyed by the cattle under the supervision of the armed Fulanis can not attempt to chase the away as any such attempts are usually met with brutality. They are attacked, maimed and killed. Their women and children are not spared either. In late 2016 when the state government sent the bill to its State House of Assembly. The Bill that sought to prohibit open grazing of livestock, the governor had been reported to have briefed the President on the steps taken by his state government to end farmers /herdsmen crises as a deliberate plan to stabilise security for a meaningful development in the state. Many times as the President was briefed, no public pronouncement in strong terms to commend or condemn the state government decision has been made by the President. He has remained mute all along. The Presidency refused to comment on the matter until the Bill was passed and signed into law after exhaustive public hearings were conducted across the state which major stakeholders participated. The stakeholders included farmers, herdsmen, traditional rulers, local government executives, leadership of associations and groups like Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Farmers associations were invited. Still after the passage of the bill, government gave another grace period of about five months to enable both farmers and herdsmen prepare themselves for take off of its implementation on November 1,2017. The period was also to enable government put all necessary machineries in motion for effective enforcement of the law. But instead of participating in the processes availed by the state government to ensure a sustained peaceful coexistence in the state through the available avenues, the Fulani herdsmen have taken to the press with various vicious statements dishing out unsubstantiated claims of ownership of Benue, a development totally at variance to the issues on hand yet the federal government under President Buhari has never find its voice. Gov. Ortom had in May signed into law the Anti Open Grazing Law which seeks to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provides for the establishment of ranches and livestock administration in the state. The law was signed in May, but its implementation was extended to Nov. 1, 2017 to give cattle breeders and other livestock owners time to build ranches. The law seeks to end the perennial land skirmishes between farmers and herdsmen in the state. Dozens of people had died in clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the state with farmlands and crops amounting to millions of Naira being destroyed. The Fulani herdsmen under the groups of Miyeti Allah Houre and the rest have rather taken to threat of invasion of Benue state with a Fulani fledge was. But the governor had urged those in the cattle business to drop the confrontational approach and conduct their businesses peacefully and according to the laws of any state they find themselves in. If they have any issues against any law, they should pursue them peacefully through dialogue, working together with their host communities and state governments. Where necessary, they should approach the courts for redress. According to him, making territorial claims at this stage of our history is a recipe for conflict, which is already ravaging many parts of the country. The Federal Government must step in and tackle this issue without bias, fear or favour. “War does not yield good dividends, there is no substitute for peaceful and lawful approach to socio-economic problems. “The war drums in Benue must be silenced before they develop into a chorus across the country”. They have threatened even more killings and destructions the state can ever imagine. In fact, their threats amounts to treason, yet both the security agencies in the country are not bordered even when the state executive council and the state Assembly had written the Presidency Inspector General of Police, the Department of State Security, the Armed forces demanding for the immediate arrest of Abdullahi Bello Badejo and Saleh Hassan Alhassan, the notorious president and secretary respectively of the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders who have been issuing those threats are suspected to be the master minders of herdsmen attacks on innocent Nigerians. The duo have vowed at separate floral to make life unbearable for the people of Benue with their planned series of attacks and to oppose government of Samuel Ortom in the state for insisting on implementing the law that stop them from further killings in Benue. Since the petition to arrest them for instigation and threats to attack Benue communities this time in a more deadly manner, they still work the streets unperturbed. It is rather dangerous and worrisome that our President, a retired army general and former head of state has lost not only his voice but the might to take action against a group that has the audacity to confront and challenge the constituted authorities. Before and after the commencement of the implementation of the law by the state government, there has been enough media reports, documentaries, news analysis and commentaries detailing both government good intentions, the atrocities committed by the Fulani herdsmen on the people, different opinions and views of the citizens of the state and even non citizens in support of the law. The civil societies have equally engaged the public. Can his long silence on this matter be taken as a sign that he is incapacitated with his hands tight that he c an not decide against his kinsmen for the sake of peace, unity and development of the country he presides. The earlier President Buhari address the nation and caution the Fulani herdsmen against threatening the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria, the better. Nigerians awaits also on the President to take steps to address permanently all issues associated with all forms of unrest in the country now.

DENNIS MERNYI is a journalist and a media consultant in Abuja. He Can be reached on mernyidennis@yahoo.com

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Opinion

Baban Salkida Got It Wrong Again

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Ahmad Salkida

Ahmad Salkida

By Richards Murphy

Boko Haram expert (more of Boko Haram Chief Propagandist) Ahmad Salkida is doing a yeoman’s job in perpetrating belief in the invincibility of the terror group. His most recent delivery for the terrorists is the tepid argument meant to discredit reports that the Nigerian Army’s Operation Lafiya Dole has killed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) media chief, Sale Ahmad Sale, also known as Baban Hassan.

Salkida wrote on his @A_Salkida Twitter handle that “Dear Nigerian military, you killed Baban Hassan on a Friday night, 3rd November 2017. His death and that of several other leaders of the group was known next day. Announcing this as breaking news and linking him with the abduction of Leah Sharibu in November 2018 is preposterous.”

What is preposterous, however, is that a discredited fellow hides behind the comfort of his keypad in a luxury apartment financed by terrorists somewhere in the Middle East and attempt to brainwash an entire population of enlightened people. It is the height of delusion for Salkida to think that his bogus claim of being the expert on Boko Haram/ISWAP licenses him to openly lie to Nigerians and the world. He certainly believes he is dealing with an audience that does not possess the ability to read between the lines and arrive at useful deductions. Perhaps a terrorists loving fraction of his online followers take his words as the equivalent of a religious testament but there is the wider audience that have not only seen through him but has also become tired of his lies.

His claim that a Baban Hassan killed in 2017 is the one killed in 2018 is an admission of not being grounded in the trends among the terrorists contrary to the pretentions of being a Boko Haram expert. If Salkida were truly grounded and familiar with the group, he would have known the very basic thing that there is the high probability and tendencies for the group to duplicate names – more than one terrorist would go by a particular appellation especially when the name holds significance for them; and by the way, even among the wider population in the north there is the tendency to have several persons answer the same appellation or sequence of names.

Secondly, it is known that names among the terrorists tend to evolve into titles or designations over time, particularly when a previous holder of that name is adjudged to have performed exploits in the blood thirsty pastime of sowing sorrow, tears and blood. When the original owner of the name is killed the one that succeeds him in the evil role would possibly discard his given or existing name to adopt that of his predecessor. Of course this has served to confound the civilian population that often wonder how it was possible that the same person is being killed over and over again without realising that it is the occupants of a post that are being decimated by the Nigerian troops. The quick succession with which troops killed whoever answered the name “Abu Qaqa” eventually led Boko Haram to retire that designation that was once used for its propaganda chief, a position later informally assumed by Salkida.

There is also the practice among the terrorists to use ‘nom de guerre’, aliases for battle, which often sticks and become better known than the original name. Given the frequency with which the Nigerian Army dispatches these heretics to keep appointments with their makers, ‘nom de guerre’ get recycled in quick succession. The name Sale Ahmad Sale (Baban Hassan) could then have been recycled up to four times in the interval between November 2017 and November 2018; except of course Salkida wants to tell us that he has continual communication with a particular Baban Hassan since he is tied in with the terrorists on a level that exceeds the journalist-source relationship.

He equally ignored the familial connection among these terrorists. Siblings, half-siblings, cousins, uncles and other blood connection that makes telling them apart. In addition to recycling names it could also be difficult to tell some of them apart. When people that are related decide to inherit names of their slain members, it could be difficult to tell them apart and they are more likely to retain the aliases used by their deceased relation because the attachment that is inherent.

A picture was shared of Baban Hassan of course. But in an era where digital recycling and mislabelling is more of the norm than exception this is highly understandable. When Salkida’s clients decided to murder an innocent aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Hauwa Liman, one of the depressing things that happened was that the picture of another Hauwa Liman, who remains alive, was widely used to illustrate reports of the murder – not even the outrage expressed by the living Hauwa Liman has corrected that error. An online search for that story still returns the wrongly used illustration. It will therefore be disingenuous to blame authorities if the photographs of Baban Liman 2017 are being used to illustrate the killing of Baban Liman 2018 just at the Nigerian Army cannot be blamed for Salkida’s friends deciding to recycle names.

Salkida must pay heed to the sheer arrogance that makes him insult hardworking journalists in Nigeria in his bid to ridicule the Army. The killing of Baban Hassan a few days ago was well reported by respectable media organizations, whose reporters and editors do not just copy and paste statements and press releases the way Salkida regurgitates terrorist materials shared to him; these hardworking Nigerians verify stories before publishing – they would have known better than to kill the same Baban Hassan twice. Salkida can only ridicule journalists this way because he is no longer one – he stopped being one long ago since he decided to switch sides and began managing propaganda for killers. This is why the neutrality expected from a media person is consistently absent in all the updates he provides, they are always from the perspective of a member of a terror cell as opposed to an objective portrayal of events.

The word in the underworld is that this fellow has recently become depressed and suicidal owing to the waning accuracy of his analyses and predictions of Boko Haram related issues and the failure of the current administration to patronize and pay him as a broker as it was done in the past. This, it is understood, was further exacerbated by the thinning of his network as more and more of his associates get killed in clearance operations. He must perhaps be thinking of committing suicide by provocation in the hope that he can get the Nigerian security community to behave like his Saudi clients and treat him as they did Jamal Khashoggi.

The reality however is that in spite of the endless propaganda that has created a contrary impression, the security agencies in Nigeria are way more refined than to help Salkida become a hero or putting him out of the misery he created for himself. If he has truly become suicidal as being insinuated he should seek professional help because Nigeria needs him alive to one day confess to the roles he is playing to keep Boko Haram active. Lying to Nigerians that his client that has been liquidated in a military operation was the same person killed one year ago will do nothing to create the kind of uproar he was once known to cause over Boko Haram issue so he will only deepen his own misery as opposed to causing panic and terror among the population.

In the interim, Salkida can continue to deny the killing of another strategic terrorist leader, he can continue to deny that the terror infrastructure is being gradually pulled apart one highly placed commander after the other, but what he cannot wish away is the fact that another Baban Hassan has met his waterloo and whoever replaces him will meet the same fate, whether they decide to retain the name Baban Hassan or decide on a new ‘nom de guerre’.

Murphy, a security consultant wrote this piece from Lagos.

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Opinion

Shehu Sani’s Cracked Mirror

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Sen. Shehu Sani

Sen. Shehu Sani

By Philip Agbese

One of the greatest and terrible fallouts from the rise of Trumpism is the penchant for the cloning and replication of copycats across the globe, individuals that are deluded enough to believe they can replicate the wonder of rising from relative obscurity to winning elections. The tragedy is that some of them are succeeding. Trumpism, at the level of those seeking political office, consists chiefly of causing the wildest outrage to garner populist votes. It has worked for a handful of right-wing extremist leaders, some of who gained office only for the electorates to discover that the only substance about their persona and cult is the raucous rhetoric they use to deceive the people.
Nigeria is not short of this class of politicians, who, having nothing to offer, resort to the brashest of behaviours and unguarded utterances to win followers. They are succeeding. They have the corresponding gullible section of the population that believe they have found messiahs that will give them their dream Utopia. Even when that Utopia is a sure path to doom and ruination.
Nigeria’s Trumpists has its current symbolic head in the lawmaker representing Kaduna Central district, Senator Shehu Sani, who has recently, since the conclusion of party primaries taken his penchant for causing outrage to a theatrical level. He is now in the business of marinating his dubious credential in populist juice served up to the unsuspecting and the elixir of reason. It is poison to those that consume it even in its diluted form.

Shehu Sani, possibly buoyed by a false sense of an activist past that now stands largely discredited, has attacked just about anyone that he believes to be against his ambition to re-impose himself on Kaduna Central – has largely abandoned their assignment at the Senate to focus on packaging himself as Nigeria’s reply to Trump. He has condemned President Muhammadu Buhari, he has attacked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; he has issues with some military top brass for attending the launch of #NextLevel.
Of course, Shehu Sani had running issues with Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, which ultimately led him to renounce the All Progressives Congress (APC), jumped into the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), and intensified his drive to cause the widest outrage possible. Had he but engaged in the least form of introspection, the kind he demands of other people, he would have known that the problem is not with the mirror but with his sullied self. In the whole time he has been fencing with el-Rufai, not once has he been able to show that he had at any point offered a hand of fellowship to the governor. He has instead tried his best to rubbish whatever positive the state scored.

In the short time of joining PRP, the Kaduna Central Senator has succeeded in achieving what four decades has not done to the party, taint its ideals. He has hijacked the PRP for use as a rant platform that will rebrand the legacy party as vehicle for clowns and electoral jesters. He has premised his activities in the fold of the party not on its welfarist ideology but as avenue for hitting back at persons that had rocked his boat. If this so called activist is today dissing the APC that gave him the ticket to the Senate one can only wonder what he will do to the PRP in the vent that he wins re-election on its ticket.

This misguided stance, like the one adopted by the real Donald Trump, is a danger to the country. The danger is not that he will use his bad grammar to corrupt the already perverted syntax of his social media followers, the danger is far more insidious. The many instances that he has reacted to national issues do not come with the warning that his opinions and utterances are conditioned by a desperation to use outrage for garnering followers and sympathizers. They therefore follow him blindly with the consequence that he leaves in his trail a network of the children of anger that wrongly believe they have been wronged. These set may be in the minority but they remain a danger.

The country is fortunate that more of its citizens are tired of the theatrics of Nigeria’s edition of right-wing fanatics frothing at the mouth as they peddle all kinds of lies, notably against those they want to edge out of power. Shehu Sani’s tantrums fits the pattern. Would he have been critical of the other government officials if they had granted increased access to the loot? Like the people he attacks, Shehu Sani knows the answer – one does not talk while eating is a cultural code that has endured in the political sphere, so a handful more crumbs from the commonwealth to chew on would have quieten this pseudo activist faster than a pacifier will calm down a bawling infant.

Another thing that has rendered Shehu Sani’s rants uninteresting is the glaring double standard he has adopted. Here is the latter day crusader of transparency, accountability and good governance that has not deemed it fit to let Nigerians in on what the actual pay of Senator in Nigeria is. If he is truly uncorrupted as he tries to make people believe he would have at least shine a flicker of light on what he gets as a Senator – we will not worry about how he managed to raise the N10 million he tried to buy the APC senatorial ticket with. But like in the case of the Apostle of Common Sense, Omerta is the code.
That he was the only aspirant to attempt bribing the APC election panel speaks volumes about the show of piety he has put on for the benefit of his electorates. It is not surprising since distribution of cattle and camels is among the leading achievements he has to flog in asking the people of Kaduna Central to again come queue in the sun to give him another four years of earning undeclared jumbo allowances.

It is this questionable character that Shehu Sani is projecting unto others because he can only relate with the kind of behaviour he knows himself to have. That is why he sees everything from the perspective of a commercial transaction in which the actors have benefitted money; it is the reason he cannot divorce ethnic jingoism from decisions that are taken on the strength of facts and indices. He only see in others the reflections produced by himself, a cracked mirror that at best distort even perfection to cast eerie shadows.

His thoughts will grow darker as the realization set in that he is in the final months of deriving benefits from the mandate entrusted to him by the electorates while his utterances will become even more inciting. He will punch imaginary enemies and box shadows. This should not surprise the discerning because Shehu Sani can only become more desperate.

Agbese writes from the United Kingdom

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Opinion

IMN’s Audacity of Lawlessness

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Shiite members

Shiite members

By Femi Giwa

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) has succeeded where others failed. It has successfully branded itself as the victim, effectively casting the Nigerian state as the aggressor comparable to an occupation force. Those familiar with IMN ascendancy are possibly asking how a problematic group that unleashed hell on commuters and other road users in Zaria has today become an outlawed group that people are blindly canvassing for to protest, kill and destroy property without being held to account.

The answer can be found in several seemingly unrelated development that are yet connected – the one connection being that they all helped IMN evolve the persona of the victim, which now allows it to commit more crimes without its members fearing repercussions.

First is the ability of IMN members to continue hiding their penchant for lawlessness behind the façade of peaceful protests, which are anything but peaceful anyway. It is not unusual to see the group swell its rank with women and children while the hardened elements with catapults, swords and other cudgels stay embedded within the protests, these are the fighters that are able to launch projectiles at security agents without being identified as the source. The arson brigade of the group is similarly concealed, they spray paint graffiti on public buildings and private businesses while their other members are milling around to create a human screen that shield the destructive acts from public glare.

The other factor is ubiquity of social media. Reports of successive encounters with law enforcement are recorded and reported according to IMN’s version of events. They have slick photography and video productions that are published and promoted to tell the IMN story – footages of militants hurling stones and petrol bombs at security personnel are carefully excluded such that the audience goes away with the impression that IMN could not have struck the first blow. The social media feeds are further promoted by embittered commercial activists, who have other axes to grind with managers of the state so it is logical to have the “an enemy’s enemy is a friend” approach to things. Such emergency activists are thus hooked on defending IMN even when their crimes are glaring.

Thirdly, many may not know or believe it but IMN has a deep pocket, which some analysts had attributed to Iranian sponsorship. Anyone that has ever catered to the material and monetary needs of, say, four people at a time will understand what it takes to finance such; but here is IMN bankrolling the logistics of keeping thousands of mostly unemployed people on the streets for protests. The deep pocket supports not just the transportation and feeding the protesters on the streets but also pays for the propaganda and media manipulation that created for IMN the image of a “harmless group” when in reality it is a dangerous group, outlawed in Kaduna state and teetering on the verge of becoming Boko Haram’s replacement. The Iranian support extends to sustained coverage on the owned Press TV, which creates short video clips that allege persecution against IMN.

Furthermore, IMN is a beneficiary of the tendency of decision and policy makers to be stuck on political correctness. What this implies is that those that should keep IMN in check in Nigeria continually commit and enslave themselves to concepts that are unrelated to the Nigerian situation.

It is not unusual to hear people demanding that IMN should be treated like groups that are non-violent because some people want Nigeria to be seen as being compliant with human rights conventions. This error is being reinforced by groups like Amnesty International that practically suggests that security agencies should leave IMN alone to torment other citizens. None of those pushing these kind of ideas have ever come out to condemn IMN for its excesses and crimes. The dictum seems to be “the state is always wrong where IMN is concerned.”

In addition, IMN has been emboldened by the Federal Government’s decision to not designate IMN as a terrorist group even when it has become glaring that this is an unavoidable step to contain the group’s growing resort to terror to make its points.

The outcome of the foregoing is that IMN has been able to embrace more lawlessness with each successive protest. If its members kill a policeman the next thing they will claim is that “we were demanding for the release of our leader”. They echo the same refrain when they set a police patrol car on fire. It has been the standard response they have for their numerous atrocities. One is then compelled to ask if Mr Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, the IMN leader is different from other awaiting trial murder suspects in custody awaiting judicial decisions or trial.

The fact remains that El-Zakzaky is being held for cases of multiple murder, which is no longer news. Rev King is on death row for murder so maybe his followers should take to the streets to demand that he be released while attacking security operatives and crying persecution. Those supporting IMN would definitely support them since their goals are at variance with the Nigeria vision.

Common sense demands that the madness stops now. IMN must be made aware that it cannot continue to act lawlessly even when it does not recognise the rights of the Nigerian state over its own existence. Those indulging El Zakzaky and his men must stop now because the farce has gone on for too long. The cat and mouse chase around IMN’s lawlessness is no longer about El Zakzaky and the state but has spilled over to concern all Nigeria. It is a matter of time before citizens begin to resort to self-help for dealing the IMN menace and that will be really ugly.

Giwa wrote from Lagos street, Abuja.

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