16 January 2018

African Press Review 16 January 2018

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Headaches and name calling in Nigeria over bloody conflict between nomadic herdsmen and farmers. President Buhari accused of "a tepid response."

In Nigeria more than a few of the papers focus on deadly clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the north of the country.

In an editorial, the Guardian calls it "A clear and present danger," and is unimpressed by President Muhammadu's Buhari's response.

"President Buhari's tepid response to the threat which rampaging Fulani herdsmen pose to Nigeria and its people is troubling," the papers says.

The paper details the cost in human lives. In Benue State alone 1,878 persons were killed between 2013 and 2016, 750 were seriously wounded, 200 were missing, and 99, 427 households were affected with billions of naira worth of property destroyed.

"In the last week, nearly a hundred have been killed in the state. Cumulatively many more have been killed or maimed by the herdsmen in other states - north, east, west and south of the country," the paper notes

"Alas, Buhari's response, or more correctly, non-response, to the criminality of these Fulani herdsmen has raised questions that are many and befuddling.

"How are citizens of this federal republic to regard a leader who, having been elected and entrusted with the power and the authority to protect and to serve them keeps smugly silent in the face of the current carnage?

"Why has there been no arrest and prosecution of any of these itinerant killers? Inaction, silence and selective prosecutions, especially where some communities resort to defensive action against the herdsmen, have caused many to believe that there are very powerful people behind the herdsmen.

The Guardian's final paragraph seems to give the game away. "the killers are emboldened by his (Buhari's) presence in power, the president himself having been the leader of the herdsmen's club before his ascent into office."

So now we know.

*******

Punch reports on a high level meeting of State governors and senior federal government ministers "meant to find ways of restoring peace to the state."

Earlier at the meeting at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, Buhari appealed to the government and people of Benue State to "in the name of God" accommodate their countrymen. "You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation," he is quoted as saying.

He assured them that all the perpetrators of violence in the state would be made to face the wrath of the law.

The President told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding a lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers.

This appears to include so-called "cattle colonies".

Though this idea was shot down fairly smartly by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom who's quoted as saying the state did not have land for the establishment of cattle colonies as being proposed by the Federal Government.

Under the sub-headline "Benue killings: You lied, Osinbajo replies Ortom," Punch reports that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday said he was shocked by media reports that quoted the Benue State Governor, Ortom, as saying he (Osinbajo) was warned ahead of the January 1 killings in the Logo and Guma local government areas of the state."

"The Vice-President described as "a terrible falsehood" the suggestion that he was informed by the governor or anyone else of the killings."

Vanguard's view on this is "If the revelations of Mr. Ortom are true, then the current leadership in Nigeria has become a short-hand for systematic cruelty and horror on an enormous scale.

The paper is complimentary saying "Ortom has stood firm at the descent of barbarism in our land and he should be commended for standing as a man in a season where killers have taken over the land. All lovers of freedom should stand with him."

Last but not least, the Lagos-based Daily Sun tells us that metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has expressed deep concern over the recent killing in Benue State.

He is quoted as saying "My brother, I will not be sincere and I will not be doing my duty if I don't express the fact that I am very worried. I am very worried at what is happening."

Lots of worry and no solution in sight. The herdsmen crisis and the political fallout begins to resemble a very ugly can of worms.

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