The Senate on Wednesday called on the Minister of Defence, Masur Ali, to withdraw his statement calling for the suspension of the anti-grazing law in some states.
The lawmakers said the enactment of the law is not the reason for the killings going on in several parts of Nigeria.
On Tuesday, Mr Ali, in a statement, called for the suspension of the implementation of the anti-grazing law. He said the suspension will reduce the tension in troubled states.
His call came shortly after a security meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and security chiefs at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
At the meeting were the National Security Adviser, Mohammed Babagana Monguno; Mr Dan-Ali; Director General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar; and Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
According to the minister, “There is a need for the Nigeria Police and Department of State Services to prosecute all the suspects arrested in the affected states while negotiating safe routes for the herders.”
Coming under order 42 and 52, Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue North East) expressed disappointment at the minister’s statement as he asked that the minister to withdraw it.
Making reference to an attack in his senatorial district two days ago where about seven people were killed and many others wounded, Mr Gemade said the state is “under siege by an unknown satanic force which has gone under several names; herdsmen, gunmen, bandits.
“While we are looking up to government and security agencies for protection, we get so dismayed by the attitude of those who lead these security forces.
“Yesterday, the security chiefs met with the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. We don’t know what they discussed. But after the meeting, the Minister of Defence came out and made a statement and in that statement, he said the states of Benue and Taraba that have enacted the law on anti-grazing must remove that law.
“It was very strange to me that in the mind of the Minister of Defence, the only way he can solve the problem of hundreds and thousands of people being killed in the states of Benue and Taraba is that the law they made against open grazing of cattle where you cannot control the conflict between herdsmen and farmers should be removed so that anarchy can go on as it was the case before,” he said.
He stressed that farmers and herders need the land but there should be a way where a law will be enacted to ensure that one person is using the land according to law.
“This is not the first time we’ll hear this kind of absurd statement coming from no less a personality than the Minister of Defence.
“He (Dan-Ali) is from Zamfara State and I wonder if all the killings in the state are also as a result of the anti-grazing law. And if the killings in Zamfara has nothing to do with the anti-grazing law, why does he think that killings in other states are because they enacted the law?
“We must advise the Minister of Defence to promptly withdraw that statement that he has brought to the public domain,” Mr Gemade said.
Also expressing disappointment with the minister’s statement, John Eno (PDP, Cross River Central) described it as “unfortunate” and called on the security agencies as well as the federal government to look beyond the anti-grazing law.
“Going against the anti-grazing law is not the solution to the killings going on. It is just most unfortunate that after a high level security meeting yesterday, the only thing that will come out of such meeting is the minister’s statement. The fact remains that, there is no solution yet. There is still no appropriate response yet.
“Is the idea to protect the herdsmen or to protect citizens of the country? Security apparatus of the country should look beyond the anti-grazing law. As a parliament, we need to understand that the anti-grazing law is not the reason why there are killings in the country,” he said.
The Senate, thereafter, called on the Defence Minister to withdraw his statement on his call for the withdrawal of the anti-grazing laws in Benue and Taraba States “as the laws were properly enacted in accordance with the powers of the state Houses of Assembly.”
The federal government and other security agencies had been accused of neglecting and poorly handling the killings in the troubled states.
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