President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday assured Nigerians that with the measures being put in place by his government, the “brutal and wanton killings” being witnessed in parts of the country would end soon.
He also urged people of Benue State where increasing cases of killings were being recorded daily not to play into the hands of those he described as agents of disunity.
Buhari said this in a statement made available to journalists by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
He said repeated acts of mass killings and destruction in parts of the country and Benue State in particular pointed to the evil design of enemies of peace and unity who were desperately trying to bring the country down.
He said cases of a brother killing brother, a neighbour killing a neighbour and a community attacking and killing members of another community were bad for the country.
The statement read, “The President strongly warns citizens against playing into the hands of the agents of disunity.
“President Buhari says those behind the Church attack that left 18 people dead, including two priests, did not mean well for Nigeria and peaceful coexistence.
“The revenge attacks that followed in which 11 members of the Hausa communities were killed were part of the agenda of the bandits and their sponsors to turn Nigerians against one another. We must resist all temptation to fall into this laid out plan.
“The President is greatly pained by this persistent violence and the total disregard for the sanctity of life by those he called ‘these hideously evil people who have no iota of respect for humanity, decency and civilisation.’
“The President reiterates that the government will not rest on its oars in its determination to fish out these barbarous mass murderers and their clandestine sponsors.
“President Buhari equally assures Nigerians that measures being put in place by the government will, sooner than later, bring to an end, these extremely brutal and wanton killings.”
Meanwhile, the National Economic Council on Thursday recommended a ban on the movement of herdsmen across the country as a way of stopping the killings being witnessed in parts of Nigeria.
This is expected to start in the five states where the killings are most pronounced -Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna and Plateau.
The NEC chaired by the Vice-President has all state governors, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and relevant ministers as members.
The Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, disclosed the outcome of the meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Umahi said ranching would be adopted in the five states, while the state governments would provide lands for that purpose.
He said the decision was taken after he submitted the report of a technical committee on farmers and herdsmen conflicts which he chaired to the council.
The governor said the committee identified causes of the conflicts to include media perception, competition for scarce resources and banditry through cattle rustling and kidnapping.
He identified three categories of herdsmen to include foreign herdsmen, nomadic herdsmen and migrant herdsmen.
Umahi said the treaty under which foreign herdsmen enter Nigeria was not being properly implemented.
He noted that there ought to be certification before any herdsman could enter the country while animals coming in are also required to be quarantined.
The governor said, “In all, we agreed that movement is not profitable to the herdsmen because they value the milk from the cow even more than the cow itself.
“So, movement is not healthy for the cows as it dries up the meat and give less than two litres of milk per cow per day.
“So, we condemn the issues of foreign invasion by foreign herdsmen and l am happy that the Federal Government is doing something about it.
“We also agreed that these movements have to stop and occasionally by those who have settled and integrated from other parts of the country like the middle belt, they sometimes go into conflicts with farmers.
“So, in all we agreed that there is a more profitable and modern way of raising these cows which is by ranching. So, we have agreed that the states involved are going to give lands. Niger and Kaduna have given lands and Plateau is also giving land.
“Ranching is being practised in Mambila in Taraba State and they have success stories with regards to that.”
He added, “We also agreed that livestock production in Nigeria has not been taken care of. As we are taking care of the farmers by way of the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, of course the farmers cry of the high interest rate on the Anchor Borrowers Scheme. The rate of interest should be between 2 to 5 per cent, so, we should extend those gestures to the herdsmen.
“And it was discovered that most of these cows are not being herded by their owners. Big men buy these cattle and give them out to the herders. So, the children of the herders have nothing to inherit. They therefore, go into cattle rustling and other forms of criminalities.
“Through this policy and intervention in the livestock production, it will be possible for the herdsmen to own their own livestock and have something for the future.
“We also agreed that there is a need for good life for the herdsmen. Through these policies their children will be able to go to schools. There will be nomadic education and medical facilities through these ranches for the herdsmen and their animals.
“Grasses will be planted; irrigation and dams will be created for source of water. Lastly, we ask the public to begin to see livestock as another means of investment.”
The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, gave an indication that Nigeria might no longer be able to keep to the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of persons due to the killings.