I wholeheartedly endorse the inauguration of a Special Military Task force by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 in Zamfara State to tackle the menace of cattle rustling which has made life and business hellish for herdsmen in the state.
The decision by the Federal Government to deploy hundreds of troops to combat armed bandits that have been terrorising members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association and stealing their cattles became expedient following repeated calls by cattle breeders and residents of the affected communities on President Buhari to come to their aid. There is no doubt about fact that the mass stealing of cattles has a negative effect on the economy of Nigeria with the attendant increase in the cost of meats.
The President acted decisively and responsibly. However, I find it rather curious and upsetting that a democratically- elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can take such drastic action just to safeguard the lives of cows (a non human creature) while we are still experiencing the continued annihilation of innocent farmers, community members and citizens by herdsmen, religious extremists, criminals and terrorists, for whatever reason, across the country. This is sickening to say the least.
Since the birth of this dispensation, innocent citizens have been gruesomely murdered by non-state actors and extra-judicially exterminated by security agencies with impunity. Save for its appreciable successes in the fight against Boko Haram in the North Eastern part of the country, the Federal Government has failed to live to up its primary purpose and most sacred responsibility of protecting and securing the lives and properties of Nigerians as stipulated in Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
How else can one explain the incessant killings that are going on in the country? From Benue, Enugu, Kano and other parts of the country, the story has been killing upon killing; sorrow upon sorrow and destruction upon destruction.
Currently, the land is literarily littered with the blood, tears and agonies of innocent citizens whose existence have been terminated or degraded by murderous and rampaging groups of people and individuals who have suddenly found unprecedented but debase courage and tenacity to kill at will; unchallenged and without consequences or proportionate reaction from government and and its agencies.
In order to properly situate my views, few worrisome examples will suffice. Barely one month after the murder of Mrs Bridget in Kano by a senseless mob for alleged “blasphemy”, a 42-year-old mother of seven and an assistant pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Mrs Eunice Elisha, was in the early hours of Saturday, July 9, 2016 murdered by assailants, while preaching around Gbazango-West area of Kubwa in the Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The killing of Mrs Elisha has continued to provoke outrage across the country.
Till date, the avoidable killings of about 347 Shi’ites in Zaria, Kaduna State on December 12- 14, 2015 following the clash between soldiers and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), headed by Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky, has not received appropriate response from government. The Federal Government has refused to properly investigate the killings. No disciplinary actions has been taken against the soldiers who took laws into their hands by murdering hundreds of Nigerians in unjustifiable circumstances.
I was one of those who condemned the Islamic Movement for blocking public highway and stalling the movement of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen.Tukur Buratai. I have consistently expressed my disapproval for religious extremism and bigotry of any form. However, we cannot sacrifice the sanctity of human life in the guise of exterminating religious extremists. Nobody should be deprived of his or her life except in legally permissible circumstances.
Again, herdsmen in Nigeria are presently operating like a state within a state. They kill, maim and destroy at will without provocation, or at the slightest provocation. The recent massacre of innocent citizens in Benue State as reported by international news channel, Al Jazeera, in its report on Sunday July 17, 2016 deserves attention.
I agree that the lunacy and atrocities of the nomadic herdsmen did not start on May 29, 2015 when this government came to power. What is apparent is the fact that the herdsmen now kill and destroy not only with atavistic impunity, but with an unquestioned aura of legitimacy. The general perception today is that the herdsmen are emboldened because one of their kinsmen, who is reportedly a Patron of the Miyetti Cattle Breeders Association, is now in power. This perception may be wrong, but government should do more to tame the killer herdsmen.
Also, with the killing of pro-Biafra protesters, there have been numerous allegations and established cases of extra-judicial murders of these people in the South Eastern part of the country by the Nigerian government.
The Ikorodu killings is another sad chapter in the history of Nigeria. On Thursday, June 23, 2016 no fewer than 50 persons were allegedly feared killed when militants invaded border town communities between Ogun and Lagos states. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the areas affected are Elepete and Igbo-Olomu, a border community in Ikorodu North Local Government Area.
Unfortunately, security agencies have failed to stop the militants from killing residents of the area. The President of the country did not make a public statement about all these killings. However, some people have argued that the President cannot publicly respond to every killing in the country, but my reply is that those who canvass this view are making a mockery of democracy and the sanctity of human life. What is really the worth of a Nigerian life in the eyes of government?
How do leaders in saner climes respond when their citizens are murdered in circumstances that provokes national mourning?
- Effiong, a legal practitioner, is the convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD).