17 March 2018

Nigeria: Herdsmen - President Buhari Inaugurates Food Security Council As Kogi Death Toll Rises

Photo: The Guardian
Armed herdsmen (file photo).

Lokoja — President Muhammadu Buhari will on Monday, inaugurate National Food Security Council with the aim of evolving sustainable solutions to protracted violence being unleashed on farmers by herders.

This is as the death toll in the attacks by herdsmen on Oganenigwu in Dekina local government area of Kogi State has increased to 50 people while many people were still missing.

The council, which will be chaired by the president, will have as members, the governors of Kebbi, Taraba, Plateau, Lagos, Ebonyi and Delta States.

Other members of the council will include Secretary to the Government of the Federation; the Chief of Staff to the President; the National Security Adviser and seven ministers.

The seven cabinet members are Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development; Finance; Interior; Industry, Trade and Investment; Water Resources; Environment; and Budget and National Planning.

According to Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, in a statement, the council will also have as members, the Chief of Defence Staff; the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria; the directors-general of the Department of State Services and National Intelligence Agency as well as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service.

The statement said the broad objectives of the council would include: developing sustainable solutions to farmers-herdsmen clashes; climate change, desertification and their impact on farmland, grazing areas and lakes, rivers and other water bodies; oil spillage and its impact on Niger Delta fishing communities; piracy and banditry; agricultural research institutions and extension services and the problem of smuggling.

"The council will also take interest in regional and global policies and trends that bear implications for food security in Nigeria," the statement added.

THISDAY reliably gathered on Friday that the latest attack was toward Abejukolo and Agbenema communities as the people are presently relocating massively to the neighbouring areas such as Anyigba, Egume and other areas for safety.

Sources said the death toll in Oganenigwu from the invasion by the herdsmen on Wednesday was heavy on both sides that the number quoted earlier was a child play.

According Oganenigwu Community Development Association, over 2000 people have been displaced.

The association added that over 50 houses were burnt down by the suspected Fulani herdsmen while people living in villages surrounding Oganenigwu had deserted the community as they moved in droves to places like Anyigba, Ologba, Etulutekpe and Iyale among others.

"As at present, nobody can say the exact number of dead people on both sides, because many families are yet to locate their relatives," the source said.

The source also disclosed that the presence of the security agents drafted to the troubled areas was yet to checkmate the situation.

Another eye witnessed, Mr. Ojodale Philip who is the principal of Community secondary school Oganenigwu said "my school was under attack by Fulani terrorist at about 8:30 am but to God be the glory no life was lost in my School, but many people were massacred in the village.

"I personally was shot at several times but nothing happened to me. In my hands are some of the bullets that where meant to kill me."

However, the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello who was expected to visit the troubled communities on Friday could not make it due to circumstances beyond his control.

Meanwhile, Bello has expressed shock on the attack carried out on the people of Oganenigwu and nearby communities in the Eastern Senatorial Zone of the State.

This was contained in a press statement issued on Friday by the Director General Media and Publicity to the Governor, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo.

"The Kogi State Government ensured that the military, the police and other relevant security agencies, including members of the Kogi State Vigilante Services were immediately mobilised to the affected areas following the initial reports.

"The violence has since been contained and brought under control.

"The incident however remains under investigation while efforts are ongoing to apprehend the attackers and bring them to justice.

"His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State will conduct on the spot assessment of the distressed communities today. He will meet with Security Chiefs and community leaders after which more information will be forthcoming based on available facts.

"The Governor believes nothing compares to the sanctity of the human life and that must be protected by all who believe in humanity.

"We urge the people of Kogi State to ignore the conflicting casualty and other figures thrown about by different individuals, organisations and sections of the press as they are mostly baseless and speculative," he stated.

However, the Kogi State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, has blamed the killing of over 32 persons in Dekina and Omala local government councils on Governor Bello.

The PDP said the governor's open invitation to the rampaging herdsmen and the setting up of cattle colonies without adequate security measures put in place had necessitated the killings.

In a statement issued yesterday by Achadu Dickson, Director Research and Documentation, said the governor should explain his role in the killing following his invitation of the herdsmen and ceding of some section of the state land for the establishment of cattle colony, amidst discontent by the people.

PDP which condemned in strong terms the gruesome murder of Innocent citizens by the herders, said their action had vindicated the party's position from the onset that Gov Bello's action of establishing cattle colonies was an invitation to anarchy.

While the party commiserated with the families who lost their loved ones, the PDP called for further arrest of the crisis by the security agencies as it was one death too many in the country as it would do one any good.

The PDP called on the governor to renounce his action of setting up colonies in the state, make a public apology of his action, and adequately compensate those who lost lives and properties.

The party described the times under governor Bello, as hell on earth for Kogi people, despite his inability to pay salaries, adding, "after inflicting so much hardship on the people, his policy to set up cattle colonies has once again added more pains on the people."

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