Killings by herdsmen: Reps want IG sacked, Senate rejects Benue panel report


 

Police IG Ibrahim Idris

John Ameh and Leke Baiyewu

The House of Representatives on Wednesday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, over his “lack of capacity” to address security challenges in the country, particularly the killings by herdsmen in Benue State and the insecurity in Kano State.

“We call on Mr. President to replace the IGP with a more professional officer,” the resolution of the House read.

The resolution was passed after lawmakers debated two motions: one on the killings by herdsmen in Benue State, and the second on the “need to curb thuggery development in political activities in Kano and Nigeria in general.”

The motion on the killings by herdsmen was moved by a member from Benue State, Mr. Mark Terseer-Gbillah, while the second motion was moved by a Kano State lawmaker, Mr. Abubakar Danburam-Nuhu.

The two motions were later amended to a motion for the sacking of the IG.

Ruling on the motion to sack the IGP, the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, said, “If we pass this amendment, it means that the entire House has passed a vote of no confidence in the IGP.

“I will go ahead and put the question since that is the decision of the House.”

The House also directed Idris to apologise to the Governor of Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom, over a statement made by the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Jimoh Moshood, calling the governor a “drowning man.”

Moshood had featured on a Channels Television programme, Morning Rise, on Tuesday, February 6, where the topic of discussion was the killings by herdsmen in Benue State.

The PPRO was on the programme with the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase.

Moshood had reaffirmed the stance of the IGP that the killings in Benue resulted from the enactment of the open grazing (prohibition) law by the state House of Assembly.

In the heat of the discussion, Moshood called Ortom a drowning man, who must also resign his position as a governor.

On Wednesday, the lawmakers did not only condemn Moshood for the statement, they described him as an officer who was not fit to remain in the police force.

Besides asking the IGP to apologise for Moshood’s statement, the House also elected to investigate the statement credited to Idris that the killings in Benue State were caused by the state’s anti-open grazing law.

“The statement alone has exposed Moshood as a man unfit to be the police spokesman.

“A police spokesman is expected to be a professional, he is not a politician. He should speak without bias, which is not the case here”, Terseer-Gbillah, a member of the All Progressives Congress, said.

Another APC member, Mr. Hassan Saleh, said he was alarmed when he heard both the IGP and the PPRO speaking in defence of the “killings by the Fulani herdsmen.”

Saleh noted that it was “disheartening” to hear the police pick what law to enforce and which one to ignore when the primary duty of the police was to enforce every law.

The Peoples Democratic Party member from Rivers State, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, however, blamed Buhari, saying he should have cautioned IGP.

He added, “Everything boils down to Mr. President. It is his body language that the police are interpreting.

“We all know that if a law has issues, the appropriate thing to do is to approach the court for interpretation, not to be killing people.”

Making his contribution, an APC lawmaker from Osun State, Prof. Mojeed Alabi, reminded the House that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the Benue State House of Assembly to make laws for the state.

“It is not in the place of the police to say a law is bad. The solution to all these problems is true federalism, as well as state police.”

More members, including the Deputy Majority Whip, Mr. Pally Iriase; the Minority Whip, Mr. Yakubu Barde; and the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, supported the motion on Benue killings.

The Kano motion pitted lawmakers from Kano State against one another, further exposing the political rivalry between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Musa Kwankwaso.

The Ganduje loyalists, who were led by the Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, opposed the motion, saying that it was planned to “misinform” the House.

“What you have heard are lies. The governor is a peace-loving person. He is not responsible for any crisis in Kano State,” Ado-Doguwa told the House.

But Danburam-Nuhu, Mr. Aliyu Madaki and other Kwankwaso loyalists, insisted that the police took sides instead of giving protection to all political groups in the state.

Senate says Benue panel report is one-sided

The Senate however stepped down a report by its joint Committee on Police Affairs; and National Security and Intelligence for not having the input of Governor Ortom on the security situation in Benue State.

The senators, who spoke on the report presented by the Chairman of the panel, Senator Abu Ibrahim, described it as one-sided.

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They said the report had only the submissions made by the Inspector-General of Police, who made allegations against Ortom and the Benue State Government.

The Senate had mandated the committee to summon the IG to explain efforts being made by the police to stop the killings by herdsmen in Benue State.

As part of its findings, the panel stated that there was “a wide gap and serious defect” in the intelligence gathering mechanism of the Nigeria Police Force and its counter-terrorism operations due to inadequate funding.

The panel also stated that “inflammatory statements, utterances and actions” of some politicians and opinion moulders had been found to be promoting hatred and inciting violence.

The report read in part, “There is massive proliferation of arms and ammunition in Benue State and across the country in general.”

In its recommendations, the joint committee said the police should be strengthened to utilise their intelligence gathering capabilities.

“The police are grossly underfunded. Therefore it is recommended that a percentage of excess crude oil fund of about $2 differential should be made available through appropriation to the police in order to beef up their operations.

“Politicians and opinion leaders should desist from making inflammatory statements capable of inciting violence.

“Deliberate steps should be taken to disarm all armed militias in Benue State and in the country in general.

“The Inspector-General of Police should speedily prosecute those arrested and intensify efforts to arrest those still at large,” the report added.

The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, expressed reservations on the report.

Ekweremadu said, “I noted that in the statements made by the IG, he conspicuously mentioned the governor of Benue State, but I didn’t see where the committee made any effort to speak with the governor.

“If they did not interview the governor and his name has been mentioned in respect of certain statements and actions, it will only be fair to him to be invited by the committee for his own side of the story so that we have a balanced view of what transpired.”

In his remarks, Senator Adamu Aliero, noted that it was the first time the police announced suspects that had been arrested and being tried for the killings in Benue.

“For the first time, we hear of suspects being arrested and charged to court. This is a very good beginning,” he said.

A senator from Benue State and former governor of the state, George Akume, also picked holes in the report.

He said, “This report would have been more balanced if the governor ,who has been accused by the IGP, was also invited to make input into this.”

Akume noted that the police boss did not visit Benue State at the peak of the crisis until public outcry and a resolution by the Senate forced President Muhammadu Buhari to order the IG to relocate to the state.

“He went to Benue State; he was there for one day. He spent two days in Nasarawa and he left. His comments have always been very jaundiced; they are not based on professional soundness and they do not show any detachment and impartiality,” Akume said.

The senator faulted the IG for dismissing Ortom’s allegation of a militia in Nasarawa as untrue.

He said, “The claims (by the IG) are untrue. Every security agency has made comments on this. Huge numbers (of gunmen) are there and many of them are from outside the country; they are armed.

“What the governor said is true and it is from there (Nasarawa) that they move and we have seen video clips of them moving into Benue; and very well armed.

“He said in Benue State there are livestock guards and this has repeatedly been made known in the media; but we have thousands of others who are freely moving with AK-47 (riffles) and they have not been arrested. As we speak, people are being killed in Benue, Nasarawa, Zamfara and Taraba states.”

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, ruled that the report be stepped down, while the panel should meet with Ortom and report back within one week.

He said, “On Senator Abu Ibrahim’s report; there is no doubt about it that it is incomplete because there are observations on the comments of the governor. The governor of Benue State was not given the opportunity to comment. The only reason why I allowed Senator Akume to speak was because I thought that would be the closest we could hear of the views of the governor of Benue State. Even his (Akume’s) explanation is not sufficient.

“I would have allowed contributions from Senator Wakili, Senator Manager and all others who want to speak but why don’t we keep our comments. Let Senator Abu Ibrahim go back and complete his assignment and present a complete report. That time, I will accept contributions by everybody.”

The remarks by the Senate President generated heated reactions in the chamber.

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Saraki, however, insisted on stepping down the report, saying, “I have ruled on this. This report cannot be taken. We have said it is incomplete; therefore there is no point for us to get all worked up about it. The proper report will be presented to us and we can contribute at that point.”

What IG told Senate committee

Attached to the report was a copy of the written submission made by the IG to the committee.

The police boss had appeared before the committee on February 2, 2018, to explain what the police were doing on the killings by herdsmen in Benue State and other parts of the country.

The Senate had summoned the police boss over his alleged non-compliance with a resolution by the chamber asking him to, within 14 days, arrest and prosecute the herdsmen suspected to have killed 73 persons in Benue in January.

In his submission, Idris blamed the crisis on Ortom, the anti-open grazing law being implemented by the Benue State Government, armed guards and a Tiv-dominated militia in the state.

He said, “There is indeed no doubt that the implementation of the anti-open grazing law by the Benue State Government – as expressed by stakeholders in Nasarawa State and Ayim in Benue State – is the cause of the crisis. This is exacerbated by the recruitment and arming of untrained civilian Joint Task Force/Livestock Guards with prohibited firearms, whose composition is lopsided and comprising mainly persons of Tiv ethnic nationality.

“Also worthy of mention is the public display of corpses coupled with unguarded and inciting speeches by Benue State governor before and during the mass burial of the victims of the crisis. These utterances renewed tension, leading to youths of Tiv ethnic group unleashing violent attacks on the residents of Wadata, Wurukum, Northbank and Angwan Jukun areas of Makurdi on Saturday, January 13, 2018. The police and other sister agencies brought the situation under control.”

The police boss said 106 suspects had been arrested and charged to court on offences bordering on criminal conspiracy, inciting disturbance of public peace, assault and mischief.

Idris further said, “It may also be noted that apart from three suspects arrested with three AK-47 rifles by the police in Benue, nine members of the illegal outfit were also arrested by the military in Arufa, a boundary town between Benue and Taraba states, with five AK-47 riffles, who confessed that they were employed as Livestock Guards by the Benue State Government on a N15,000 monthly salary with a camp in the Pegi area of Benue State.

“The establishment of a vigilante group of youths comprising only of Tiv ethnic tribe is a recipe for crisis. In addition, arming them with prohibited firearms (AK-47) has aggravated intra-tribal and inter-communal clashes, especially the Shittile militias of Katsina-Ala and Livestock Guards of Ukum local government areas of the state, which resulted in the loss of lives and destruction of hundreds of houses.”

The IG recommended that the state government and all stakeholders should be engaged in dialogues for peaceful coexistence in Benue.

He urged Benue State Government to “re-visit the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranches Law with the aim of providing ranches,” while embarking on a gradual implementation.”

The police boss also called for “re-establishment of known cattle routes that used to exist” and “disbandment and disarming of the Livestock Guards, Shittile Tiv Militias and any other militia groups.”

 Assembly’s security summit begins today

The two-day national security summit called by the Senate will hold on Thursday (today) and Monday.

A statement last week by the Majority Leader and Chairman, Senate Committee on the Review of the Security Infrastructure of Nigeria, Senator Ahmad Lawan, had said the summit would provide an all-inclusive platform for heads of security and defence agencies, governors, traditional rulers, socio-cultural groups, civil society organisations, among others.

It listed participants expected at the event to include senators, members of the House of Representatives, Ministers of Defence and Interior, Service Chiefs and other heads of security agencies.

Others are selected traditional rulers from across the six geo-political zones, representatives of regional sociopolitical organisations, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Also invited are the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, All Farmers Association of Nigeria and civil society organisations.

Source: PUNCH


 
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