11 July 2018

Nigeria: For the Record - What Buhari's Aide, Femi Adesina, Said About Ancestral Land, Death

Last week, Femi Adesina, President Muhammadu Buhari's most senior spokesperson, subtly warned during a television interview that Nigerians should be eager to give up their ancestral settlements for livestock grazing as part of the administration's solutions to the ongoing killings.

"Ancestral attachment? You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive," Mr Adesina said on AIT last week. "If you are talking about ancestral attachment, if you are dead, how does the attachment matter?"

The comments, not initially reported by PREMIUM TIMES, drew sharp rebuke and continues to do so. This newspaper has decided to publish Mr Adesina's views for the record.

The video of the interview is found here.

The Buhari administration has identified establishment of cattle ranches as a key solution to the killings, which originally started with farmers and herders clashing during movement of cows southwards. In recent years, however, the confrontation has worsened.

The federal government says it has the support of governors to strategically situate ranches across the country, but four out of five governors in the south-east strongly rejected the proposal last weekend and declared that the region has no land to allocate for cattle grazing.

A few days before Mr Adesina's comments, British lawmakers at the House of Lord said the ongoing killings linked to herdsmen had more to do with land-grabbing than a fight for scarce resources or other excuses Mr Buhari and his aides have been giving.

The senior British parliamentarians demanded an immediate end to the killings and warned that Nigeria must not plunge into a full-blown conflict that could destabilise the West African sub-region.

Mr Adesina dismissed the lawmakers as ignorant, saying they knew little about Nigeria and were depending on inaccurate and jaundiced information they were fed to reach their conclusion.

Days before his appearance on AIT, Mr Adesina released a similarly controversial statement in which he listed past killings under previous administrations in the wake of the late June killings that left over 100 dead in Plateau State.

As Nigerians on the Internet are taking on Mr Adesina for his comments, others in the civil society are warning of serious consequences of his advice for Nigerians to abandon their ancestral homes if they wanted peace.

Emeka Umeagbalasi, board chairman of the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, said in a statement that Mr Adesina's utterances indicated that the government was protecting the killers and could draw the interest of the International Criminal Court.

Mr Adesina "in particular has inescapably made himself one of such culprits this time around", Mr Umeagbalasi said.

The organisation also warned Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to tread carefully in his public remarks on the killings, else he could find himself at The Hague also.

Mr Adesina did not return PREMIUM TIMES requests for comments on the criticisms that greeted his warning.

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