The Secretary-General of the group, Saleh Al-Hassan, said this during an interview on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, on Monday.
A large section of Nigerians, including the National Assembly and governors, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the service chiefs for failing to protect the lives of Nigerians.
However, Al-Hassan said those calling for the sacking of the service chiefs “are corrupt politicians.”
He said, “We have documented 411 innocent pastoralists killed just in southern Kaduna for nothing. We have documented all the crises but because we want peace and want to promote the culture of peace and forgiveness hoping that our neighbours will continue to allow us to do our business.
“But the issue of arms and light weapons is a security one. I believe they (security agencies) are on top of it. With the arrests they are making, we must acknowledge the efforts security agencies have put in trying to contain criminality in this country.
“That is why people calling for the removal of service chiefs are either the corrupt politicians or the ones working for them. We should not fall for that gambit.”
Al-Hassan also rejected suggestions that herdsmen from other countries should be prevented from grazing their cattle in Nigeria.
He said the ECOWAS “free trade protocol guarantees free movement,” adding that herdsmen do not recognise international boundaries which he described as “colonial creations.”
Al-Hassan added, “You cannot just opt out of a protocol that is integrating the African continent. The pastoralist movement is not for picnics. They go there to access land resources. Also, these boundaries that you have are colonial boundaries.
“Some of them (boundaries) don’t mean anything to the herders. So, what we need to do is to domesticate the ECOWAS protocol, begin to enforce it and then we create grazing reserves for trans-human pastoralists.”
He said the solution remains ranching which must be partly funded by the government and supported by all Nigerians.
Al-Hassan lamented that every attempt by the Buhari government to establish ranches had been rejected by selfish politicians.
He said, “Policies aimed at solving these problems are strongly resisted. Attempts were made to put up a commission for grazing reserves to see how it can be done but it was shut down at the National Assembly. The minister of agriculture has been trying all his efforts to see that solutions are brought to the table but people read political motive to it and killed the policies.
“Today, we have a national livestock development plan that is well articulated but the same people saying we should ranch our cows are now saying they will not accept ranches so what are we talking about? So, we must understand the socio-political undercurrents.”
He lambasted Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State for initiating the anti-grazing law, adding that most of the arrests by security agencies showed it was Ortom’s men that were carrying out the killings.
Corrupt politicians behind calls for service chiefs sacking – Miyetti Allah
Speaking at another event in Abuja, Alhassan said the security agencies must identify the perpetrators and sponsors of the killings in Plateau State, noting that corrupt politicians were behind the massacre.
At a colloquium organised by the Citizens Communication and Advocacy Centre, the Secretary-General of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore said that the National Assembly was laden with corruption and the legislators had not taken sufficient steps to address the farmers-herders’ crises.
The topic of the colloquium was, “Understanding democracy as instrument of development, integration and national cohesion.”
Alhassan said the association did not believe in the call for the sacking of the service chiefs, noting that the association usually shared “critical intelligence” with the agencies.
He said, “The spate of insecurity in this country is worrisome to anybody that loves this country and I think our security agencies should be up and doing. They should be able to identify the perpetrators and their sponsors and then ensure that justice is meted out to them. We must watch closely our politicians, their utterances and their body language because some of them are the ones promoting violence we are having in this country.
“We are not responsible for the killings in Plateau State. There are crises between farmers and herders all over the country, particularly in the North-Central geopolitical zone. We must recognise that it is a crisis that borders on land resources and we are calling on the government to put mechanisms in place for sustainable management of the land resources.
“But first, our security agencies must be supported to identify the perpetrators and the promoters of this violence. We must closely monitor some of these evangelicals that preach hatred in churches and mosques and desperate politicians that are facing corruption charges. We must be able to get all of them and watch them closely so that they don’t set this country ablaze. They are the drivers of the conflict.
Alhassan, while faulting calls for the sacking of the nation’s security chiefs, argued that corrupt politicians were behind the campaign.
He said, “Most of these politicians own armed thugs and militias across the state. The government should also find those behind the importation of large arms into the country. Who are the people importing these arms?
“We need to overhaul the security architecture of the country but the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police are doing their best. We should not listen to what desperate politicians are saying. It is the corrupt political elite who are creating crises in this country.
There are attempts by our group to assist the security agencies. We have been partnering the security agencies in terms of giving them critical intelligence where we suspect there are cattle rustlers and criminals.
“The calls for the removal of the service chiefs are empty calls. Desperate politicians and politicians facing criminal charges are the ones making that call.”
‘N’Assembly laden with corruption’
“Which legislation has this eighth National Assembly made to ensure that there is peace? Particularly, I refer to this eighth assembly. This Eight Senate is a washout. They are rippled with corruption. Look at the way they mutilated the budget. Nigerians should be marching to the Senate to demand accountability from these legislators.”
Miyetti Allah a terrorist group, says Middle Belt Forum
In his reaction, however, the National Publicity Secretary of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Isuwa Dogo, described Miyetti Allah as a terrorist organisation.
He said the Miyetti Allah members should not be walking free but be jailed.
Dogo said, “If security agencies were alive to their responsibilities, these guys talking here should not be walking free on the streets of Nigeria because they are terrorists.”
He said the media should stop tagging the conflict as farmer/herder crisis but terrorism.
The Middle Belt spokesman said there was a deliberate attempt to exterminate his people.
Dogo added that the herdsmen like pretending to be victims but never revealed photos of their slain kinsmen.
“How many of our people have gone to kill Fulani people in their (Fulani) villages? How many Fulani have been burnt?,” he asked.
Dogo said 268 people were killed in the Plateau attack as opposed to the 86 being reported in the media.
Arrest masterminds of Plateau killings, AANI tells FG
Meanwhile, the Alumni Association of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, has called on the Federal Government to apprehend the masterminds of the killings in Plateau State.
This, the association said, was the only way to forestall reprisals and end the ongoing bloodshed in the Middle-Belt region.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday, the AANI President, Khaleel Bolaji, stated that his association was shocked and saddened by the magnitude of the killings which he described as reprehensible.
He noted that the needless killings had demeaned the essence of humanity and rubbished the succour guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.
The AANI President said, “We call on the federal and state governments to immediately redouble whatever efforts that could be deployed to forestall any reprisal while perpetrators must be found and brought to book to serve as a deterrent.
“These needless losses have demeaned the essence of our humanity and rubbished our succour as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Bolaji commiserated with the government and people of Plateau State, noting that the attacks came at a time the security agencies were “doing their best towards stemming the endless violence in the hands of disgruntled elements.”
Without justice, there won’t be peace, Onoja warns FG
An AANI member and former military governor of Kaduna and Katsina states, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.), insisted that there must be justice, without which he said there could be no peace.
“Some people who threatened to carry out the attacks are still walking on the streets and nothing happened to them. What the communities are asking for is, there should be justice because without justice, there would be no peace. I hope the President would put this into consideration and make sure there are changes,” he stated.
The Secretary-General, National Union of Garment and Textile Workers, and AANI member, Issa Aremu, noted that the killings could lead to food scarcity in the country, stressing that the attack on farmers was affecting food production.
Presidency blames power contest, anti-graft war for killings
However, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, has said the fierce competition for power and President Muhammadu Buhari’s unrelenting war on corruption are responsible for an upsurge of violent conflicts across Nigeria.
Shehu said this while speaking to reporters at the National Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress, in Abuja, on Monday.
He explained that competition for power had become fiercer and the stakes had become very high hence the upsurge in cases of violent attacks.
The presidential aide noted that many people, especially the rich and the powerful, had thought the war against graft was a joke until the President with the support of a reformed judiciary, showed no sign of backing down.
Shehu said, “The problem is that the competition for power in the country has become fiercer and fiercer because the stake is very high. I will give you one example. The President has unleashed on the country the war against corruption, the type that had never been seen before. Assets are being recovered from powerful people.
“The President is lucky. He has a judiciary which is transforming itself, which is on the same page with the President in fighting corruption. As I speak to you now, you know that two former state governors are in jail.
“A lot of people thought this war against corruption is a joke, and that the back and forth that has characterized this over time will continue. One of the two cases we are talking about is determined after eleven years of back and forth with lawyers and judges, kicking the ball from this hut to that hut.
“Now, they have descended on the country. A new era and a new aura that is ensuring the conclusion of these cases – a lot of these hash attacks against the President, are coming from people who had become used to lifestyle they can no longer sustain.”