The declaration of the the governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello recently that the state was ready to key into the federal government proposed colonies in all the states of the federation, has been generating controversy. While the Government said that the colonies will be of immence benefits to the people of the state, someone stakeholders however expressed serious reservation. Our correspondent Momoh Ibrahim writes that the recently held security summit presided over by the Governor may have further helped to douse tension in the state.
Governor Yahaya Bello had recently expressed the readiness of his administration to adopt theproposed cattle colony arangement, noting that the state and its people will greatly benefit from it
According to Governor Bello , the policy was never an indirect attempt by the federal government to take and handover ancestral lands to herdsmen.
The governor maintained that the benefits far out weighed the fears expressed by those who are opposed to the arrangement. Allaying the fears of the people, Governor Bello added that necessary measures will be put in place to check-mate the excesses of the herdsmen.
“To ensure that everyone is carried along in this process, Kogi State through the Ministry of Agriculture will soon be embarking on a series of stakeholders engagement to sensitise the people, farmers, cattle breeders and other stakeholders on the implementation of the new policy.
“The traditional rulers, leaders of various communities, opinion leaders, religious leaders and the entire citizens will all be carried along in the course of the stakeholders engagement, so that we can collectively study the merits and demerits of the policy.
“This will enable us to jointly find solutions to the demerit and at same time improve on the merits to make it work for our state and for our people without any form of grievances.
“The insinuations and speculations from various quarters across the nation that the federal government is conspiring to take over communal land and give it to herdsmen is far from the truth. The planned cattle colonies is for the interest of our people; to ensure their safety, develop and boost agricultural production, in turn boost the economy and a better life for all.
“It is a Federal Government initiative and the Federal Government will fund the project, but we will need to contribute our quota to this laudable initiative at the state level by making land available for the project in Kogi State and ensuring proper implementation to ensure the goal is achieved,” the governor said.
He noted that most of the envisaged problems will not arise if the herdsmen are made to stay in one location stressing that this will bring them under the control of the government and law enforcement agencies.
Governor Bello reiterates his commitment and determination to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizens and the entire residents of Kogi State through the implementation of viable policies and programmes that will improve their well being.
He reassure the farmers and the entire people of Kogi State that the proposed establishment of cattle colonies by the Federal Government in states across the federation and to which Kogi State wishes to key into will be of immense benefits to farmers and all the citizens and residents of Kogi State. Bello noted that the Federal Government took the decision as a measure to quickly curb the incessant bloody clashes between farmers and herdsmen. This move will also enhance the security of lives and property of the people of Kogi State.
However, this move of the governor seems not have gone well with the people of the state. Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi West senatorial district in his reaction said “it was not a surprised that Yahaya Bello, will quickly but strangely meet with the Minister of Agriculture in order to make our dear Confluence State as a Pilot State for the proposed Cattle Colonies in the country.
Similarly, the Yoruba speaking Okun people of Kogi statehas also rejected the proposed cattle colony in the state, saying there was no land for such venture in the area.The people, who spoke under the aegis of the Okun Development Association (ODA), the umbrella body of groups in the area, said none of the six local government areas occupied by the Okun people was available for cattle colony.The people in a communiqué signed their national president, Chief Femi Mokikan and the national secretary, Pastor Ayo Abereoran, said the proposal was “repulsive and repugnant to equity, fairness and natural justice.”
The Okun people of Kogi state can be found in Kabba-Bunu, Ijumu, Lokoja, Yagba West, Yagba East and Mopamuro and Oworo land of Lokoja local government area.
The people said the federal and the state government should bury the idea of using their land for Fulani cattle colony saying “any proposal to appropriate our land for the promotion of the private business interests of Fulani herdsmen would deny us our right to our ancestral land and would amount to an avoidable time bomb”.
But political appointees and government officials from okun speaking areas of kogi West in a swift reaction have unanimously denounced what they described as the unwarranted and unnecessary statement of Barr. Mokikan led okun Development Association,against the proposed Cattle Colony planned by the federal and kogi State Government. According to the group the Okun Development Association is known to be a non-partisan organisation,which binds every indigenes together without any ethnic and religious sentiments and also foster peace,unity and development amongst Okun people and their territory.
They therefore enjoined the new President of the Association to consult his predecessors and stakeholders widely on the activities of the association before arriving at a conclusion by personally making such unpopular utterances. “we are fully aware that many Fulani’s are born and bred in okunland and have never left the shores of okunland to any second home,these our brothers and sisters speaks our dialect even better than some indigenes,why then are we chasing away.
We say in strong terms there was no meeting of such as claimed by Mokikan led ODU to decide weather to accept cattle colony or not but been induced and arranged by his sponsor, Sent. Dino Melaye.
A group under the eagies of Save Kogi Project( SKP) has equally given 7-day ultimatum to Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello to reverse back his resolve on grazing colony policy or risk streets protest accross the state.
The SKP group whose membership cut accross the three senatorial districts of the state said in his statement that was made available to journalists in Lokoja at said that it has rejected the planned cattle colony on any land within kogi state, stating that the move is a new form of colonisation.
According to its Coordinators, Dr Umar Shaibu, Pastor Ugbede Sam and Hon. Shola Emmanuel, the proposed cattle colony for fulani Herdsmen by President Mohammadu Buhari is to bring the country back to the dark era of colonization for the second time.
“If they herdsmen who have been terrorizing various communities across the country endlessly with impunity are given back up by government in the name of cattle colony, it will become automatic license to kill the helpless and armless farmers at will”, the group argued.
The main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) has condemned the governor’s quick acceptance of the proposed cattle colonies in Kogi State. In a statement signed by the publicity secretary of the party, Bode Ogunmola, Kogi state is already under siege. According to him, the immediate plan of the governor is to mandate the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to register the Fulanis which which he described as mostly foregners. He said the intention of the governor was to use them to rig the fourth coming 2019 election in the state.
According to Bode, “the high security risks and long term implications are better imagine than experienced.
But Speaking with THE AUTHORITY recently in Lokoja, the Director General, Bureau of I information services and Grassroots Mobilization, Alhaji Abdulkarim Abdulmalik, said their ranches across the country before now. He noted that the noise was uncalled for as the establishment of the colonies will curtail the movements of herdsmen, thereby reducing the incessant clashes between the hersdmen farmers.
In addition, Abdulmalik maintained that there will be economic boom for the state and as well improve the economic wellbeing of the people.
According him, the move will serve as check and balance as government and security agents will be able to monitor the activities of the herdsmen.
“The position of the Government is very clear anything good and lasting does not come easy, people are also very skeptical of change no matter seeming good the change is, this is human nature.
“However, take sentiments away, the Fulani herdsmen have been part and parcel of our various communities. In most of our communities we have Fulanis domiciled there, we go to them to buy cattle, they bring their cattle meat to us. And we buy, so the problem we are having is that in recent times there have been alleged Fulani/ farmers clashes.
“Those living in our midst are very sociable, docile and cooperation. we don’t have problem with them. The major problem comes from those herdsmen who migrate from one place to the other in search of greener pasture for their cattle especially during the dry season. These migrant Fulanis, their cattle devour people’s farm produce and go away with impunity.
“I think this is where we have a critical situation not the Fulani cohabiting with us. Now the position of the State Government is this; if we are saying they should leave our midst are we putting an end to eating beef, I am sure everyone of us here eats beef in his home. Are we saying good bye to cattle milk and all the allied products? These are people we have interacted and even intermarried with, we worship in the same religious homes with them without hinderance.
“The issue at stake is, the Government says instead of throwing away the bath water and the baby let us look for make concerted effort to enhance their integration, their socialisation with us and harmonise with them. When we do that, through those that are already integrated with us if there is any problem, we can use their leaders in the community to trace the source of the problem and find a solution to it.
When the migrant cattle breaders destroys anybody’s farm, it becomes very easy to use their kits and kin who are living in our midst to trace his kinsman. We will trace them, the law enforcement agents would arrest them and hand them over to the law enforcement agencies.
“The State Government is saying that when such development crops up, the farm that is so destroyed by the cattle would be assessed and quantified in terms of money and the Fulani man who owns the cattle that devoured the farm would be made to pay. So it is a win-win situation.
According to him, the members of the public deliberately or ignorantly misunderstood the position of the Government, observed that the fulanis have been with us so, appealing that let for their integration even in the traditional structure.
” their leader Ardo should be part of it the community level, at local Government and the State levels. Hence if there is any problem there is a line of communication through which they could be resolved.
Speaking further he said “If we don’t integrate them, they are still passing by and they are destroying your products it becomes more difficult for us to do anything, hence the resultant clash between them and the people of the communities.
” They have been with us, encourage them to remain with us. However the criminals among them must be brought to book, we have to check them. We should also be mindful of the fact that criminality is not an exclusive reserve of the Fulanis except that in the recent times they become more involved and this is the more reason why the Government said let them have a designated place where they would be restricted with their animals whereby they would not be able to move beyond the designated place and if they do and anything happens they would be liable.
“The ranch system is as old as the first republic. Obudu ranch was established in the 50s with similar purpose as the colony. The late Ahmodu Bello established that. The premier of the western region also established one. It is just because we did not improve on them. If we buy into the State Government’s proposal we would have started the process of modernising the rearing of cattle.
“If we succeed we would now move to the next stage by doing it the way it is done in the advanced world. Having given them the colony and getting them restricted there, you will have stopped them from roaming about even as they used to do in the streets of Abuja the seat of power, crossing the highways and residential areas.
“With the colony all that would become the thing of the past. So we have to be broad minded and look at the issues rationally with opened mind. We need them, they need us, they are of some economic benefit to us just as we are to them. All that is needed is for us to look at the naggy problem areas.
He added that the State Government has planned to convey an expansive stakeholders meeting, saying that the meeting would involve the traditional rulers, the miyetti Allah group, the local Government leaders, top Government officials, youth leaders, religious leaders and organisations to ensure that all problems associated with the policy are addressed.
The Kogi security summit, presided over by the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello where the Farmers and Herdsmen agree to live in peace may have put to rest some of the envisaged problems .
Governor Bello during the meeting charged the people of the state to always embrace dialogue and high level of understanding in order to live peacefully and harmoniously with one another for the purpose of peace.
He maintained that through dialogue the government and its citizens can collectively achieve the desired goals , warning that the use of foul language should always be avoided as it can only cause more harm to the people than good.
The governor noted that Kogi state suppose to be an epitome of peace in the country ,pointing out that no body in Nigeria has the monopoly of sending away or preventing any one from doing business in any parts of the country.
“I am appealing to the people of the state irrespective of their tribes and religion to tolerate one another in order to live a peaceful life where business will continue to thrive. If the government get it right in all its agenda , the glory will go to the people”
In his address, the Special Adviser to the state Governor on security , Navy Commander Jerry Omadara (rtd) , described the security summit as another opportunity for the state to chart a way forward in sustaining the existing peace in Kogi state.
Omadara urged the Fulanis resident in the state to check themselves and fish out the bad eggs among them , adding that without peace there can never be a robust economic growth in the state.
The Chief of Staff to the governor , Mr Edward Onoja while presenting the Frame work for security resolution, opined that there must be a paradigm shift in the ways and manner people handle issues of security in the state.
Onoja stressed the need to always discuss and dialogue so as to safeguard human life, lamenting that the wanton loss of lives and property in some states as a result of herdsmen and farmers clashes is not healthy for the country.
He commended governor Bello who within 24 months in the saddle of leadership of the state was able to bring the rising insecurity in the state to the barest minimum.
Also speaking , the National Organising Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle rearers , Alhaji Aliu Saleh assured the governor that the leadership of the Fulanis in the state will ensure that they live and do their businesses in harmony with the communities where they live.
Saleh urged the state government to establish peace committees at the 21 local government areas of the state to tackle any issue before it escalates to crises.
In his remark, the Kogi state Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) , Bishop John Ibenu , opined that certain comments from the press are most unhelpful, calling on government to compensate land owners whose land may be taken for the proposed cattle ranches.
The Onu of Ibaji , Chief John Egwemi in his speech commended the governor for restoring peace during the boundary crises between Aguleri in Anambra state and the people of Ibaji,
Chief Egwemi who represented the Attah Igala , His Royal Majesty Dr Michael Ameh Oboni II, noted that the people are going to live and do their legitimate businesses in peace with the Fulanis and other settlers.
In his goodwill message the Chairman of Kogi State Security Trust Fund, Mr Isiaka Oyibo charged the state government to form joint cooperative society for herdsmen and farmers that would reflect Kogi character to foster unity among them.
Oyibo also urged the state governor to encourage youth through massive empowerment to discourage youth restiveness and idle mind.
At the end of the summit, the stakeholders resolved to live harmoniously with one another for the growth and development of the state .
It is expected that most of the violent clashes recorded in the past will become a thing of the past, if all parties adhere strictly to the peace deal.
Refusal to obey court order is corruption – Emir
The Emir of Gummi, Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi (retd.), says refusal to obey a court order is another form of corruption, noting that government must exemplify the change it promised before expecting citizens to follow suit.
He said disrespect for the rule of law, bad governance, disobedience to court orders, non-compliance with electoral regulations by political parties, godfathers hijacking the electoral process and dwindling confidence in the justice system posed threats to Nigeria’s democracy.
The monarch, who was the keynote speaker at the Barewa Old Boys Association annual lecture, held at the Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic, Sokoto, spoke on the topic, ‘The challenges of the judiciary to democracy: The Nigeria perspective.’
The 97-year old college, located in Kaduna State, is reputed for producing five out of Nigeria’s past leaders, including General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, late Umaru Yar’adua, late Gen. Murtala Mohammed and the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
It has also produced three Chief Justices of Nigeria, three Inspectors-General of Police and four Secretaries to the Government of the Federation.
But in his address, Gummi described the judiciary as the watchdog of democracy, without which “reckless marauders will attack the society,” adding that an insecure judiciary is one of the greatest threats to democracy.
He said, “Orders of court are disobeyed at will in the name of fighting corruption. No one institution, no matter how highly placed, should flout the laws of the land, not even under the guise of fighting corruption. Refusing to obey an order of court is another form of corruption in itself.
“The executive cannot play the role of both the accuser and that of the judge at the same time. It is an aberration in a democracy. National security cannot take precedence over the rule of law; rather, it should be guided by the rule of law.
“Any democracy where the executive tries to intimidate and harass the legislature and/or the judiciary into doing its bidding is a democracy under threat. In the same vein, it is not right in a democracy for the National Assembly to make governance difficult for the executive for pecuniary reasons. “We all agree that we need change as promised by the government, but that change must first begin with them, then, you and me.”
Marriott International’s Three Loyalty Programs Unify
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The recurring struggle against female circumcision in Nigeria
By Osaro Itua
The story of one Mrs. Gbe (not complete name) who has a hard time preventing her 11yr old daughter from under-going the outlawed, inhuman and barbaric age long tradition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) still been practiced by her In-Laws who hail from one of the remote areas of Edo State in South-South Nigeria is a sad tale that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
She hails from the Eastern part of Nigeria and met her husband Mere (not complete name) in 2004. After dating for about 2yrs, they decided to get married. However, their decision was met with stiff opposition from Meres immediate and extended family, who insisted that Mrs Gbe must undergo a traditional ritual which will be rounded up with her circumcision before her bride price will be paid. They explained that every female member of the family either by birth or marriage has undergone this ritual hence theyre fertile in their marriages. While the male family members also have to undergo their own rituals, the female circumcision ritual which will see the cutting off of certain parts of the vagina by the local herbalist using crude implements and local herbs is the climax of the exercise. Most young girls and women have contracted very serious vaginal infections during this procedure which ultimately lead to their death. This is because, when they fall sick from the infections, no orthodox medical treatment is allowed as it is expected that if the girl or her mother is pure, she will recover from the resultant illness by use of native herbs. When death occurs, it is termed as the will of the ancestors and as such should not be questioned. Mrs Gbe vehemently refused this proposal and had the backing of Mere. His family, nevertheless, insisted that he would only be allowed to marry her upon the completion of this ritual.
This stand-off continued till sometime in 2006 when she became pregnant for Mere. All pleas to have the traditional marriage fell on deaf ears as his family was determined to circumcise her. She eventually had their first child — a baby girl in November 2006 and this opened another chapter of woes for her and Mere.
Since a female child has been born and as is customary in the family, Mrs Gbe was requested to bring the child for circumcision before she clocked 1 year. She also resisted this request and of course, it opened a second round of trouble for her. This time around, Meres Kindred were emphatic and categorical in their demand for their granddaughter to be circumcised. They further emphasized that nothing in this world would stop that from happening except death.
Mere and his wife didnt take seriously to this threat until one faithful morning of the 12th of June 2007 when mother and daughter were returning from a routine immunization round and they were viciously attacked by unknown assailants. Mrs Gbe who was driving alone with the baby strapped on the baby car seat behind her were double crossed by a black Mercedes Benz car while on a lonely stretch of road leading to her house. She received a massive blow to the head and passed out instantly.
However, the assailants couldnt make away with the baby as their efforts were immediately ruined by the brave efforts of two young men who were driving past. They fought the assailants to a stand-still and rescued the baby from their hands. On realizing the failure of the operation, the assailants took to their heels. This afforded the good Samaritans the opportunity to immediately evacuate Mrs. Gbe to the hospital. She was in a coma for 2 days and thereafter spent another 2 weeks in the intensive care of a private hospital. She spent a total of 6 weeks in the hospital and made sufficient recovery before she was discharged home. A report of the incident was made to the Police who pledged to investigate and bring the perpetrators to book. Nothing was ever heard from them.
Surprisingly, Meres mother and key extended family members said that the attack occurred as a result of their refusal to proceed with the circumcision ritual. They blamed Mrs Gbe for the incident and repeatedly said “… this happened because of her stubbornness…” hence their demand for the ritual became heightened. To make matters worse, they started referring to Mere as an outcast and openly said they will ostracize him from the family if he doesnt heed to their demands.
He was given a deadline for December 2007 to bring his wife and daughter for the ritual else, he would be cast away from the family and every right to inheritance of family property be taken away from him. He was also requested to stop using the family name and a curse was placed upon any member of the kindred who will communicate and keep contact with him, his wife or daughter. They were accused of bringing ill-luck to the kindred and must die as a way of cleansing and appeasing the ancestral spirits. These will be done if he doesnt comply by the deadline.
As a result of the entire incident and the resulting threats to his life and that of his wife and daughter, Mere quickly relocated his young family to Abuja in November 2007. When the baby clocked 1 year in the same month, he took his wife to the marriage Registry where they formalized their union with a Court marriage.
However, the threats to his wife and baby re-surfaced from members of their Community Development Association (CDA) resident in Abuja. They insisted that Mere must take his wife and daughter back home for the circumcision rituals to avoid bringing calamities upon their community. They were actually physically attacked during one of their outings in Abuja. Some touts from one of the popular motor parks within the city metropolis were hired to carry out the act. Right in the presence of his wife and kid, Mere was beaten to a pulp and he lost some teeth in the process. While attempting to raise an alarm for the attention of passers-by, his wife was slapped severally. They touts thereafter dispossessed them of their jewelries, wristwatches, mobile phones and cash. Before leaving, they told Mere that he should go back home to his community and do what he has been asked to do else, himself and his wife may not survive to tell the story. This then prompted them to relocate further North of Nigeria and far away from Edo State.
They headed for Jos, the Plateau State Capital in 2010 and lived in a quiet community in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area amongst the Berom people who were predominantly farmers. They had more kids, established a farm business and built a home until the killer herdsmen struck their community on the night of June 23rd 2018. They had gotten a whim of the attack about 2 days before it actually occurred. They however paid no mind, noting that the Government security agencies were on ground to forestall any further breakdown of law and order. However, on that faithful night, they were jolted from sleep by gunshots sound from not too far away from their home and it continued ceaselessly. This prompted Mere and his wife to quickly grab the children up and upon getting outside through the back door, they saw several houses in the distance have been set ablaze and the attackers heading in their direction while shooting indiscriminating and killing every moving object in their sight.
They joined other neighbours in running towards the opposite direction and continued on foot for about 1 hour till they reached the Nghar Yelwa area and ran into a Mosque where the Imam shielded them from the attackers till security agents arrived in the morning of June 24th 2018.
By the next day, they returned under heavy security watch to their community and discovered that their entire house and personal belongings have been raised down by the attackers. This completely broke their spirit and they immediately moved back to Abuja to seek refuge with friends while planning on how to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on.
Upon arriving Abuja, they were once more greeted with the demand to go back home and carry out the circumcision ritual on Mrs Gbe and her daughters. Infact, the first daughter will clock 12yrs in November 2018 and they have been given that date as the final deadline to go back to their village and carry out the exercise. They were further assured that refusal to do so will result in the death of Mere, his wife or any of the children. Mrs Gbe has reached out to various Non-Governmental organizations for assistance, but none has yielded positive responses. Mere’s clan and kindred are vehemently bent on ensuring that she comes forward with her daughters for the initiation ritual.
One can only but imagine the agony this family is going through with their family kindred after them and their experience in the hands of the dreaded fulani herdsmen as a result of the incessant attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
Despite the existence of the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Law in Nigeria, it is heartbreaking to note that this issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still prevalent in the Country. The Law which seeks to prohibit female circumcision or genital mutilation, forceful ejection from home and harmful widowhood practices, prohibits forced isolation, depriving persons of their liberty, economic abuse, incest, separation from family and friends, substance attack and indecent exposure, among others.
However, the existence of this law has not deterred its practice in most local communities in Nigeria. The lack of enforcement has militated against the practicability of the law. The apathy of those that should enforce this ban has been stated as one of the main issues why the practice is still popular.
Also, the lack of awareness of the dangers posed by FGM is another problem. It is imperative at the juncture for the executive to charge those responsible with enforcement with the need to do the needful.
The Community leaders, traditional Institutions and practitioners of herbal medicine must be educated on the dangers associated with this barbaric, and nauseating cultural practice.
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