Chief Ochi Ode Emmanuel, the Oji Kpururu 1 of Ibilla Kingdom in Igedeland is the Chairman, Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC), in the South West. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he spoke on the recent massacre of over 200 people in Plateau State
How do you see the recent killing of over 200 people in Plateau State by the herdsmen?
It is sad, not only sad, but degrading to the highest order of the sanctity of human life that is now being compared with the cows. In fact, the shock is yet to get out of me over the killings.
Do you think the reason given by the leader of the Miyetti Allah that they lost 100 cattle was enough for the magnitude of killing that took place?
In fact, it is unimaginable that after killing over 200 people, a human being with blood and water flowing inside him will address a press conference to say that the killing of human beings was in retaliation of the killing of cows. That fellow is walking freely in the streets of any city of Nigeria without any molestation by security agents. I wonder what excuse the President or security agencies under him will give without arresting the leadership of the Miyetti Allah for the heinous act perpetrated by him and his members.
If a cow was killed, there are appropriate ways of dealing with such criminality than taking laws into their hands. Nigeria is not a banana republic, but a lawful country inhibited by lawful citizens. For the leader of the Miyetti Allah to address the press, admitting the massacre is mind bugging. By now, I expect that he should be under arrest and investigation to identify the mercenaries hired to perpetrate this clear case of man’s inhumanity to man.
I think the President should be advised to stop comparing the killings from state to state, or that this number is lighter than the number in another state. So, the killing is a matter of comparison now, that human lives should be wasted according to the number of cows killed? He should know that he swore an oath to protect Nigerians. For him to be saying this is unacceptable.
The Inspector General of Police reportedly redeployed the Plateau State Commissioner of Police over the killings. Would you blame the Police for the killings?
From the reports in the public domain, this killing lasted over seen hours and there was no response from security agencies. When the response came, they saw men in military uniform. They ran to them only to discover that the uniformed men were indeed the real killers. How would you explain that there was no response from security agencies for over seven hours?
It would not be wrong for the Middle Belt people to believe that the attacks are backed by state security, thereby giving credence to statement of the Defence Minister, Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali, and the Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Idris, and the body language of the President.
What do you think the IGP should have done to check the killings?
The IGP is helpless in this case. His utterances had been on the side of the herdsmen. He once said that the killing in Benue was a communal clash. If it was his claims, it is really laughable, except he is able to tell the world that the Fulani owns any heritage in the land in Benue State.
Would you canvass for the resignation or removal of the IGP and the security chief?
We have always cried aloud that the security apparatus of the Federal Government as presently constituted is incapable of handling this problem because there is conflict of interests in handling herdsmen killings. What we need is total overhaul of the security of this nation. That is the key to douse the tension caused by the killings.
What is your take on the Federal Government’s plan to build ranches in 10 states with the initial cost of N70 billion?
If the Federal Government wants to build ranches for the business of the herders, what business stake does the government have in the herders’ husbandry and what is the return of investment for the government to use taxpayers’ money to provide ranches? My take is that the Federal Government should send the proposal to the National Assembly for the lawmakers to vet the investment and the expected returns to the national coffers before going ahead with such huge investment. Otherwise, it will not make any sense to use taxpayers’ money to feather the business of the herders to the detriment of Nigerian public. If they do it, it means the government is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
How do you see the Minister of Defence, Dan Alli’s, recent statement that states which had enacted anti-open grazing laws should not operate them?
It is unheard of. A law that was duly passed and signed cannot be repelled with military fiat. We are not in a democracy and not military era.
What should be the permanent solution to this orgy of killings in the Middle Belt?
The permanent solution is for the herders to take charge of their cows in such a manner that the cows should not destroy the farm produce of the farmers. Whoever may want to go into that should not be the business of the government. If they want to go into ranching, they should approach the land owners to secure as much acres as they want to use for their grazing. If their grazing does not offend anyone, there will not be trouble. If you go to the market and match someone, the person you match will definitely raise eyebrow.
Do you think there would ever be peace in the Middle Belt?
I foresee a Middle Belt where peace will reign when rampaging herders are brought to book. Now, they are having a field day because the Federal Government is in their support. Middle Belters are known for peace and are embodiment of hospitality.