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Senate and the drama over Southern Kaduna crisis

senate-bukola-saraki-nasir-el-rufai

The crisis rocking the Southern part of Kaduna State has become of unimaginable proportion. So has been the spate of violence in parts of Benue and other parts of the country. It caught the attention of the Senate in January when the Senator representing Southern Kaduna, Senator Danjuma La’ah, moved a motion to call the attention of the chamber. The chamber also did not waste time raising an eight-member committee to look into the series of violence across the land and proffer lasting solutions.

The Senator Kabiru Gaya-led adhoc committee set up by the Senate immediately went into action and embarked on tour of the affected states.  Nothing other than a comprehensive report of its findings and solutions were expected.

However, the Senate was treated to an unexpected drama when an interim report of the Committee came up for debate last week.  The Senate promptly rejected the interim report and asked the committee to get back to work and present a holistic report that would look at all issues concerned.

The chairman of the adhoc committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, who presented the report, had given a highlight indicating that the committee recommended that the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, should publish previous white paper reports on Southern Kaduna crisis.

He also reported that 70 per cent of police officers posted to Southern Kaduna are indigenes of the state. He condemned the development and called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to correct the imbalance.

The Senate, which promptly rejected the report for being scanty and failing to address all issues, asked the committee to submit a thorough report at a later date.

Senator La’ah, had while moving the motion which led to the setting up of the adhoc committee in January, noted that since 2011, various communities in Southern Kaduna Senatorial District of Kaduna State had been consistently attacked by herdsmen, resulting in deaths, injuries, loss of properties and displacement of the communities.

He said since December 23, 2016, communities including Ambam, Gaska, Dangoma, Tsonje, Pasankori, Gidan Waya and Farin Gada of Iama’a and Kaura Local Government Area had been under serious attack by the herdsmen, resulting in several deaths, injuries, as well as wanton destruction of properties worth billions of naira.

He had said: “The killing of citizens of Southern Kaduna amount, to serious violation of the right to life, right to security of human persons, right to the respect of the dignity inherent in human being and right to property not only guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as Amended, but also of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the international convention on Civil and Political Right, which Nigeria is a party.

“A total of 808 persons were killed in 53 villages across the four local government areas in the affected areas, while 57 people were injured, farm produces estimated at N5.5billion destroyed and a total of 1, 422 houses and 16 churches burnt during the attack.

“In the last one year, we have witnessed a harvest of killings by these marauding herdsmen with several cases of massacre in Agatu in Benue State, Uzo Uwani in Enugu State, with several attacks in Taraba, Delta and Edo states, to mention but a few.”

The motion was largely supported by all with the Senate resolving that the probe should encompass all cases of violent outbreaks across the country.

Though Senator Gaya was later to explain that his committee decided to submit an interim report in view of the urgent need to take some decisions concerning the crises, the Senate was unimpressed by the tardiness of his report.  Almost in unison, the senators spoke againstthe report, insisting that it was scanty.

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who topped the list of those who spoke against the report, said that the Senate needed to reject the report as, according to him, the committee needed to go and do a thorough job with clear recommendations.

He said that the committee failed to address the main issues as mandated by the Senate.

According to him, the committee failed to address the issue of arms proliferation in the country, which he said are sometimes tied to herdsmen.

He also stated that the whistle blowing policy should be extended to the security sector to enable Nigerians blow the lid on criminal elements harbouring dangerous arms.

Ekweremadu said: “I consider this issue to be very serious. We must accord it the seriousness it deserves. The committee has confirmed that the killings happened. The recommendations need to reflect more on the seriousness of this matter.

“I understand clearly that the chairman of the committee needs more time to do more work to show the whole world that this Senate is serious about this matter. Looking at the recommendations, they do not reflect the seriousness of the matter, like I said.

Suggesting that we use money from the Service Wide Vote to handle this matter shows that we do not understand the relevance of that fund.

“Today, we are talking about arms proliferation. We have a whistle blowing policy. We need to direct it more on those keeping those arms. We were told that the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted arms. Till this day, we have not been told who imported the arms.

“We cannot sit back and allow our women and children to be killed everyday. Our people are being killed in Enugu, Kaduna, Zamfara and in other parts of the country. This matter is serious enough for the committee to go back and do more work.”

Senator Barnabas Gemade, who also spoke against the report, faulted the recommendation that special grazing routes be created for herdsmen, adding that the report neglected the plight of farmers who are usually on the wrong end of the herdsmen’s attacks.

Gemade said: “Even though this is an interim report, it is obvious that we ought to have brought this report to a level where we will establish the seriousness of the issue. I believe we have to look at all the issues. The suggestion about setting up grazing routes must be looked at.

“We must come to a point where we have to agree on what is good for everyone. Today, we need to look at those affected by this thing. In Europe, you do not need a visa to move from one country to another, still, there is strict movement of people.

“But here, there is no restriction at all. When we talk about these things, people think that the nomads are targeted. That is not the issue. The issue is that we must track genuine nomads of this country who are doing business. We need to separate them from criminals. This committee has an enormous work to do. It should visit all the locations affected. The killings are still going on and they have not stopped.”

While ruling on the submissions, Senate President Bukola Saraki told the committee to take its report back and accommodate all recommendations and observations raised by the senators.

Saraki said: “I think there are many other parts of the country we were hoping the committee would find out the situation there. These areas have not been covered. If it is the view of lawmakers that the report should be sent back and allow the committee to accommodate all the issues, we must do that.

“We need a more detailed recommendation that will address everything. The committee should address all the issues raised and ensure that they are accommodated.”

For ranking Senator Gaya, the response from his colleagues was a huge jolt. Whereas he had expected a pat on the back for the promptness of his committee’s reaction, the Senate showed it could bite even one of its own if the expectations failed to meet general desire. Now that the committee has been given a second chance, it is expected that its chairman and members would sit back and produce an all-encompassing report that would ensure the red chamber gets to the roots of violent   outbreaks in the country.

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