The federal government has blamed the proliferation of arms into the country, through the trans-Saharan routes, on the crisis in Libya.
The Defence Minister, Dan-Ali, said this on Thursday at a town hall meeting in Abuja on the farmers and herders’ clashes.
He explained that President Muhammadu Buhari’s reference to the herdsmen being trained in Libya was in relation to the “infiltration of weapons into the country, which has led to loss of many lives.”
He further disclosed that the government has set up a committee to look into the infiltration and also mandated the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) to rebuild villages in Benue State and ensure “they are not far from one another.”
Mr Dan-Ali, however, complained that the country’s military manpower is not enough to secure every village in the Middle Belt region in order to stop incessant killings occasioned by the clashes.
The meeting, which was convened by the Ministry of Information and Culture, had in attendance, the ministers of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, and Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau.
Mr Dambazau also blamed the the proliferation of arms into the country on the crisis in Libya as he said it is not just in Nigeria, but the whole of the sub-region of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
He stated that a conference on the movement of people and services have been organised in conjunction with ECOWAS.
“The whole idea is to control the movement of weapons. There is also the concept of biometrics to screen those people who enter Nigeria,” he said.
In his remark, Mr Ogbeh said as was the case in Argentina, Pakistan and Namibia, there were ongoing plans to generate electricity from cow dung when the government finally puts the reserves in operation.
While commenting on the N10 billion rebuilding funds to be given to troubled states, the agriculture minister said the money would be used “to rebuild the devastated villages as all the Internally Displaced Persons in Benue State wanted to return home as quickly as possible.”
He explained that the cash is not only for Benue State alone but other affected states.
Mr Ogbeh said NEMA is redesigning the settlements in the villages to bring more communities together so that “people don’t live too far apart.”
“Otherwise, we don’t have enough security to guard every settlement. Unless you have units of 10 or 11 soldiers to guard each village, there is no way that the current security network can cover the needs of villagers who may be attacked in the afternoon or night. That was one of the things we studied on Tuesday.
“We have to do everything we can to end these pastoral movements, slowly and in the large scale later. We have 415 reserves. Some have been encroached upon while others are still there. We have to provide water and grass, and protect the herdsmen from cattle rustlers, who are also Fulani.
“The Minister of Interior and I are working on agro-rangers being trained by the military to guard these places so that there can be peace within those communities.
“We can also then do what has been done in Pakistan, Argentina, and even Namibia here, by using the cow dung to generate electricity. These things we have designed and we are raising funds to start them,” he said.
The convener of the meeting and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the clashes between farmers and herdsmen were connected with “demographic, environmental, social and economic dynamics and it will be a distortion to attribute the clashes to ethnic and religious reasons.”
He expressed worry that the contest for land and other natural resources is bound to be “keener, and the friction, more.”
Mr Mohammed, however, said there are various measures that have been taken by the federal government to stop the killings.
“The Nigerian Air Force has deployed its Special Forces to the newly-established 23 Quick Response Wing in Nguroje, Taraba State. The NAF also has a 1,000-man Special Intervention Force deployed in Makurdi to degrade bandits and criminals in Benue and Nasarawa states.
“In the last two weeks, the Police Intelligence Response Team and the Police Special Forces, whose work cut across Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, arrested 11 suspects and recovered 10 AK-47 rifles and other firearms from them. These are just some of the arrests made by the security forces in recent days,” he said.
Some of the delegates at the meeting, which included the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Miyetti Allah Breeders Association, advised the government to work on establishing ranches, noting that that was the 21st century practice which would guarantee lasting peace and security.