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Ekpe-Juda: Grazing routes for herds no longer feasible

Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda is a security expert and a social commentator. In this interview with ANAYO EZUGWU, he speaks on why the Federal Government should declare state of emergency on insecurity and pronounce armed herdsmen as a terrorist group in the country, among other issues

 

There is an increasing call for the federal government to declare state of emergency to address insecurity in the country. What do you make of such calls?

 

I think it is long overdue because the conventional method has failed us in tackling insecurity and therefore, we should declare a state of emergency in the country. Some years ago, it was only in the northeast, then it went into north central, northwest and now it is in the whole country. I just saw a news item that some people were kidnapped somewhere in the south-south, this shows that it is spreading all over the place. It is no longer the conventional robbery that we used to have, this is a thing that requires that all hands to be on deck to tackle it. So if the federal government declares state of emergency on insecurity, it will help.

 

You said that the conventional method has failed us. Is it the failure of the security agencies or the failure of government?

 

It is said that the buck stops on the president’s table. I think it is the president that has failed to do what he promised us. So, because he has failed, other people like the service chiefs took a cue from him.

 

He has treated Boko Haram and the so called herdsmen with kids’ gloves. He has an interest in them and that is obvious with his body language. And that is why he did not want the security agencies to do what they ought to do.

How do you think government can deal with this matter decisively?

 

 

The way forward is, one, let everybody carry arms and protect his or her self. Secondly, let the president have a change of mind knowing that he sworn to the constitution to uphold and defend the life of every individual.

 

Now that he has failed to do that, it is either he sit up or he resigns so that this country can move forward. It was not this bad during the Jonathan administration, when he advocated that Jonathan should resign and that the National Assembly should impeach him.

 

You were among those that clamoured for the removal of the former service chiefs and now that they have been removed, are you satisfied with what has transpired since their removal?

 

 

If the President, in his word, told this nation that the service chiefs have failed, what on earth motivated him to recommend them for another appointment?

 

People whom you said have failed and you retire them and now you want to give them another appointment, are you promoting failure? It is the president that said they have failed unless he wants to tell us that he didn’t remember saying it.

 

But I still remembered that he once said that their performance is not good enough, meaning they have failed. Consequently, those who have failed should not be given another appointment. There are over 200 million people in this country that can be appointed as non-career ambassadors, so he shouldn’t single out those who have failed woefully for appointment. That takes me to another issue.

 

These recently retired service chiefs owe this country some money because by the extent law of the civil service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you either serve this country for 35 years under 60 years or you serve at the age of 60 years and you leave, whichever comes first.

 

But those service chiefs, stayed beyond the stipulated time and all what they have earned over the years, they owe this country that because it is not right. It is illegal for them to have stayed beyond the stipulated time.

 

The civil service rule allows you to extend someone’s service for not more than six months but they stayed for years. So they have to repay that money and I know that one government will come and make them to repay all the money and all the things they earned during that period. Let them be put on notice that this is what is going to happen in this country.

 

Some Nigerians have written petitions against the former service chiefs at International Criminal Court on alleged abuse of human rights in the country. Do you see their ambassadorial appointment as a cover from such likely prosecution?

 

It is only an unserious country that will accept a person who has a case of human right abuse into their country as an ambassador because they have case pending at the International Criminal Court. If any country accept them, it means that the country does not recognize the court. So, no sane country will accept those people as ambassador, so let the president know it.

 

What is your perception of rising general insecurity in the country?

 

What is going on is that the government is not serious in tackling insecurity, pure and simple. Because if the government is serious, these things will not happen the way they are happening.

 

The government is passively encouraging this people to do what they are doing. Is there any justifiable reason for government not to declare armed herdsmen, who have been killing and maiming people, a terrorist organization? There is not. What they have done is terror, they stop vehicles on the way, take everybody into the bush, that is terror.

 

Any group that causes panic and fear in the society is a terrorist organization. But the government has refused to declare them as one. IPOB did not do one percent of what these criminals are doing and they were declared a terrorist organization because they are from the east.

 

Whereas these people have been going about killing and maiming people, burning villages, what do you call terror? Does it mean that those in governments do not understand the meaning of terror?

 

In the face of this situation, there are people who believed that allowing the herdsmen to maintain the grazing route will end all these killings and insecurity. How feasible is grazing route in 21st century?

 

What is grazing route? Who created the grazing route? If you had a route, now go to your village and find out if the roads that were used by your forefathers are still being used now. You are talking about grazing route when this country was 65 million people and now this country is over 200 million people. Is that what is done outside this country.

 

The other day I saw cows moving around federal secretariat in Abuja, is that not a shame to this nation. You are talking about grazing route, who gave you the grazing route?

 

What option can you proffer to this situation?

 

The way forward is what people are doing all over the world. The other day, the northern governors said they would not continue to encourage open grazing. Let them go and buikd ranch for their cattle, that is the solution. People are doing it outside this country, besides, how many cattle do we have in Nigeria? How many cattle do they have in Brazil? How many cattle do they have in Germany?

 

How many cattle do they have in Holland that is producing Peak Milk? If you had a route that you were using when the country had 65 million people, today we have over 200 million people and you think that you will keep that route, where will people live? Development has taken over those routes so they should not be talking about it because we cannot be going back to 19th century. That is not possible.

 

We are in a new era. Other people are doing it in the world so let’s copy what other people are doing right and not to take us back to Stone Age because of grazing route. We cannot be retrogressing. Anybody talking about grazing route is not a forward looking person. The truth is that we cannot be talking about grazing route in today’s Nigeria.

 

There is a growing concern that people are using the activities of few to criminalize the entire Fulani tribe in the country, is that not what is going on?

 

I’m a sociologist by training and when you talk about generalization, you are allowed to generalize when the population is many.

 

Yes, if a few Fulani people have taken it upon themselves to become an outlaw and the country is not doing anything, then we can generalize. I think that is what the people are doing because the government seems to be encouraging them. I have responsible and respectable Fulani friends. I won’t call them terrorists or herdsmen because they are struggling to make a living.

 

So I can’t classify them. When attack here and there is by the same group of people, you have to generalize. It is allowed in science to generalize. The herdsmen are Fulani people that are logic and if Fulani people are the herdsmen and herdsmen are killing people, you can say Fulani people are killing Nigerians.

 

But in this case we are not even saying Fulani people but herdsmen. We don’t have any problem with Fulani people because we have been living with them for years but it is when this armed herdsmen from neighbouring countries starting moving in freely that we started to have this problem with them.

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