The peace of the Federal Capital Territory was shattered in the last week of last year, following the sack by suspected Gbagyi youths of no fewer than 27 communities in Gako town in the Gwagwalada area council inhabited by Fulani herdsmen. In the aftermath of the raid, three persons were reported killed, scores of huts set ablaze and over 1,500 people displaced. The displaced people are now taking refuge at the permanent site of the University of Abuja.
Reports in the media said that the cause of the fracas was connected to boundary disputes and the straying of the Fulani's herds of cattle into farms and the consequent destruction of crops and farm produce. The authorities of the FCT led by the minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, have waded into the crisis. The minister has set up a fact-finding committee that was given seven days to turn in its report.
It is worrying that a security breach of this magnitude could take place in the FCT under the nose of an amalgam of security apparatuses. Whatever happened to intelligence gathering? This is in spite of the fact that the security sub-sector receives the lion's share of the annual budget. It is wrong for the security personnel to assume that providing security to Aso Rock Villa and other strategic locations at the city centre translates to securing the FCT. Satellite towns should not be left at the mercy of hoodlums many of whom reside there.
We challenge the FCT minister to ensure speedy implementation of the recommendations of the panel he has set up. This will underscore the seriousness his administration attaches to security of life and property in the territory. It will also serve as a deterrent to would-be trouble makers. Meanwhile, those already arrested in connection with the fracas should be prosecuted without delay.
The FCT cannot afford inter-ethnic clashes now, given the security challenges in many parts of the country. The residents of the territory had, before now, co-habited peacefully. This trend should be maintained for the socio-economic development of the territory.
Beyond the FCT fracas, it is time the federal government found a lasting solution to similar clashes. Too many lives and property have been lost to these face-offs. There should be a way to accommodate the approximately 12 million herdsmen in the country. We had suggested that the National Assembly could pass a law mandating the respective states to carve out grazing areas for herdsmen. States should consider what a former governor of Abia State did: carve out a territory for the herdsmen and provide them with the necessary amenities.
While this option is being considered, the various authorities in the country should hold regular meetings between their immediate communities and the herdsmen for peaceful co-existence. The FCT should not be left behind.