The Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) says it is formulating a regional policy that will address the activities of cattle rearers in member countries.
Its Programme Officer in charge of regional security, Isaac Armstrong, made this known in Abuja on Tuesday.
Mr. Armstrong was speaking at the workshop organised by the body with the theme: “ECOWAS Counter Terrorism.”
While it does not consider herdsmen as terrorists, the regional body maintained that it would not fold its arms and watch cattle rearers hide under the guise of their economic activity to perpetrate acts of terrorism.
“They are not terrorists. But we would like to say that they cannot hide under the guise of herdsmen to become terrorists”, Mr. Armstrong said.
The ECOWAS security chief acknowledged cattle rustling as a burning issue in parts of Western Africa.
He listed Nigeria and Gambia as countries with high prevalence of cattle rustling adding that the situation constitute a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.
Mr. Armstrong noted that the new policy under works would address all issues relating to cattle rearing and the related crimes.
He also stated that research conducted by the body showed that terror groups were about to be formed in the region but noted that ECOWAS will collaborate with member countries to prevent their emergence.
Mr. Armstrong listed factors contributing to terror threats in the region to include the presence of local radical Islamic cells; vast Sahel Region, black market for natural resources, conflicts as well as week law enforcement and criminal justice institutions.
He, however, said the recent efforts by the government of Nigeria have resulted in commendable improvements countering terrorism in the region.
Also speaking, a representative of the Danawa Institute of Nigeria Islamic Education Trust, Nasir Mohammed, said terrorism was mostly a product of ideological disposition.
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