Interview, News

Iyorchia Ayu Explodes

Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, former Senate President has bared his mind on the Fulani herdsmen saga…

Dr. Iyorchia Ayu

“Nigeria is today facing a very serious national security challenge. It is not located in only one part of the country. Initially, it was as if it was only the North East and Niger Delta areas. Today, this challenge is touching on every part of the country. There are killings in Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, heavily in Zamfara which is an Hausa populated state. There are killings in Katsina, Abia, Imo. The killings are all over the country.”

“Killings in Benue have been going on in the last 10 years. But when they escalated, it became necessary to draw the attention of not just Benue indigenes but to everybody. I directed my address to all Nigerians to try and draw attention to this crisis, which is threatening the unity of the country. I will try to explain it in both its regional and national contexts.”

“First of all, you have to understand that this problem is beyond Nigeria. It is located in the whole of the Sahel region which cuts across most of West Africa particularly Bukina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, Dafur, Northern Nigeria. Most of these places are affected by the increasing problem of the drying up of the water resources, degradation of the forest. This has affected agriculture. This is an area with a population of over 100 million people.”

“If you look at the climate changes that have taken place in our northern neighbours between 1970 and 1993 you would see that we have had massive drying up of lands in these areas. There have been occasional droughts. These are dramatized all over the world. This invariably is affecting the rural population and its economy.”

“Most of the rivers in these areas have dried up. The cutting of forests, the drying up of major bodies of water like Lake Chad is a huge problem. In 1963, Lake Chad had a surface body of water of 25,000 square kilometers which served as the bedrock of the economy of the North East, Chad, Niger, Cameroun. The Lake Chad has been drying up over the years. No serious action was taken by the Lake Chad Basin Commission.”

“Today, Lake Chad has barely 1000 square meter of surface water. From 25,000 square meters in 1963 to less than 1000 today. The fishing economy there has gone, the grazing is gone, forestry gone. This affects over two million people.”

“Related to this is the fact that most of the countries in these areas have gone through tremendous political instability; Dafur, Mali, Chad are worse hit. As a result of the crises that engulfed these countries, they have trained, seasoned fighters.”

“Most of the migration is coming down South. It is not only decent people that are coming, a lot of cattle and bad people are coming too. Every year, you have a population of two to three million migrants moving down this area.

We are having a mixture of the good and the bad. And with ECOWAS protocol, what it means invariably is that you can’t stop these people from coming here. Since they are coming in large numbers with their cattle, you have some that are criminals, terrorists.”

“This instability has also elements of religion because of the rise of radical Islam in the world particularly in North Africa. We all saw what happened in Mali between 2010 and 2012 when the Islamic radical movement there tried to establish a republic. France had to move in troops in 2013 in most of Southern Mali. Nigeria had to be involved. Many of these people have migrated down South. As they come, they are recruiting people even within Nigeria.”

“So there is problem of migrants outside Nigeria mixing up with people in Northern Nigeria where the desert is ravaging most of our ecosystem.”

“With this, Nigeria is facing a long term problem of which if we don’t take time we will be overrun by the massive radical population that is coming from North Africa. Without correct policies we are going to face a serious problem.”

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“Unfortunately, we have a local population, a local group of people whose economy is tied to cattle breeding – Miyetti Allah, which has strong patrons like Sultan of Sokoto  Emir of Kano, Emir of Katsina, Emir of Zaria, Lamido of Adamawa. These are their patrons. These people are hiring some of these militant groups who are well armed and who are basically mercenaries to go round into areas where there is fertile land, where Nigerians are practicing sedentary agriculture and dislodge them so that they can move in their cattle away from the dry land of the Sahel.”

“This is to help them relocate their economic activities to these areas. That is why places like the River Basin of Benue, River Basin of Niger and most of the South where there is massive grass and water have become very attractive. Incidentally, they are not just moving there with economic intention, they have a total way of life. Their politics, religion, economy, etc are tied together.”

“People are genuinely concerned, people are worried. Unfortunately it is mixed with our own local Nigerian politics where there has always been this lack of trust based on its history from the jihad days of Othman Dan Fodio when the Caliphate was created in most part of the North.”

“People are concerned that this mass migration from the Sahel region down South and the rather myopic policies of the federal government over the years, together with the history of the jihad, the policies of the Northern regional government including the 1965 law on grazing reserve and cattle routes which were clearly in favour of the cattle breeders is creating a lot of political tension in Nigeria.”

“Unfortunately, the Nigerian government is not handling it well. The DSS is blaming the Islamic State in West Africa for the crisis. What the DSS said is true but not the whole truth. It is true in the sense that, yes the climate change situation and the rise of radical Islamic movements in West Africa are affecting this mass migration but they have found collaborators within Nigeria.”

“Miyetti Allah has consistently come out to claim some of these killings. Nobody has arrested them. In other words, the DSS seems to have absolved the failings of the Nigerian state in every aspect of policy – whether economic or security related policies – nobody has arrested anybody. Nobody has made any effort to do that.”

“Instead, there is tacit support for this terrorist organisation. In Nigeria, the official organs of security have refused to identify them as terrorists.”

“Miyetti Allah whose patrons are these five powerful emirs in the North I mentioned earlier, has consistently come out to say that they are responsible for these killings. They have done that consistently. In fact, the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emir of Kano particularly have come out to tacitly support these killings by saying that Fulani people are also being killed.”

“I think such position is largely irresponsible for people of their status. One would have expected them to try and diffuse tension instead of creating more tension. I believe that it is not just an external factor, there is also an internal dimension which is organized.”

“When I issued my recent statement on the killings I said an organisation within Nigeria, I didn’t just say it is only those coming from outside. If Nigerians do not support those coming from outside, they can’t come into the country and operate so freely and nobody would apprehend them. No single person has been apprehended in the killings in Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Zamfara.”

“The senator representing one of the districts in Zamfara, Marafa has come out to explain the massive killings going on in Zamfara which is not a Christian state by any means. So, it is not just a strict issue of Islam versus Christianity, it is a question of economics, politics, religion mixed together. Despite the threat posed by this, the Nigerian state is not doing what it is expected to do.”

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“It is rather curious that the whole security architecture of the Buhari administration is in the hands of people of one ethnic and religious disposition. President Buhari is the President and chief security officer of Nigeria. He is assisted by the National Security Adviser, Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior, Director General of SSS, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Immigration boss, Head of Customs, Director General of NIA etc.”

“Of all these people I mentioned, only the head of Navy which is peripheral to the issue under discussion that is different. Others belong to one religion and are drawn from only one part of the country. It has never happened in the history of this country. Therefore, it gives room for suspicion by all Nigerians. There are competent people all over Nigeria from every part of the country.”

“If there is nothing sinister, why do you make sure that the security architecture of the entire country is just in the hands of one group of people. It does not inspire confidence in other Nigerians. This suspicion is more, when these killings take place and nobody cares to apprehend those involved in the crime.”

“Instead, you hear statement from the head of police that it is just communal clashes. There is a lot to worry about. The only reaction that we saw the President make, was in Zamfara where he personally dressed in military uniform of four star General, accompanied by the head of Army and went to Zamfara and set up a military committee to tackle cattle rustling. That is the only reaction I saw the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria make.”

There is every reason to believe that President Buhari does not mean well for the rest of Nigeria. Any responsible President will visit the state where such massive killings have taken place. Killings have been going on in Benue for the last 10 years. When President Jonathan was in power, he not only personally visited Benue he took helicopter and went round to see everywhere.”

“Since the killings have been happening, outside Zamfara, I have not heard President Buhari even going there to condole with the people of Benue. Apart from saying he will apprehend anybody who is involved, he has not done anything to convince the people of Benue that he is serious about his pronouncements, I believe other Nigerians are also not convinced about what he says.”

“If the Nigerian government could resolve very serious protracted problem in Sierra Leone, Liberia and was very effective in Dafur, I don’t see how a serious internal aggression coming in the name of herdsmen which are clearly terrorists would not be handled. I do not see how the government would not have the capacity or capability to address the problem.”

“I believe it is a question that Nigerians have to put to President Buhari and his team through journalists why they have not addressed the killings. People are coming out to claim that they are behind the killings yet nothing is done. They call themselves Miyetti Allah. Nobody has arrested them. It means Miyetti Allah, whether it is a social, political or economic organisation has a military wing.”

“They know those who are responsible for the killings but nobody has arrested them. Nobody has arrested the head of Miyetti Allah who has said that there will be more killings in Benue. They said that there will be more bloodshed in Benue yet nobody has arrested members of the group. So I am inclined to believe that there is something deliberate about it.”

“Cattle breeding is a private business. Federal Government can support agriculture-whether you are breeding pigs, goats, chicken etc. Nigeria is not a major cattle breeder in the world. Genuine cattle producer countries have 20 to 30 million cattle. You have such states like U.S, Canada, Australia, Brazil, India, Argentina, Uruguay. These are major cattle producers in the world. None of them is doing what is called cattle colonies.”

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“They are doing ranching, modern scientific breeding including genetic engineering of breeding cattle. They breed healthy cattle, ones that are handled by Vet doctors. They breed cattle that do not have foot and mouth disease. In Brazil, the country earns about $5bn from cattle every year. The whole cattle in Brazil are concentrated in only six states – most of them in the North and mid-West.”

“Nobody is moving cattle from one part of the country to the other in Brazil. They are all in ranches. And these ranches are private businesses. I am surprised that in the 21st century even educated Nigerians, some of them who are of Fulani stock, are busy talking of sticking to the old way, a way of life that existed in the United States in the 19th century. That is why you see the cowboy films of people moving with cattle all over the place. Nobody in the modern cattle breeding business is moving cattle from one part of the country to the other.”

“I believe that the Federal Government and the state governments and private business owners have to come together and develop a more workable policy. The cattle industry is a very important industry. Australia exports beef and bye products of cattle to the tune of five to six billion dollars every year. Brazil exports beef and related products mostly to Russia and Korea and other parts of Europe. They make about five billion dollars from it yearly.”

“This is a billion dollar business. Nigeria exports nothing. The things you see here called cattle are unhealthy. By the time our cattle travel from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, the meat is so tough, it is useless, it is unhealthy, it is unhygienic. There is so much waste. You don’t use the blood, the horn, the hide. There should be a value chain integrated in the industry of cattle. It is not only beef, not only hide and skin but other related products.”

“I believe people are simply deceiving Nigerians. When you talk of cattle colonies in Nigeria, it has a history. In the 1950s, Nigeria started something like resettlement programme for Fulani. They became very expensive. What the Northern regional government did was to cancel the resettlement programme and turned into grazing reserves and grazing routes with the 1965 law.”

“They proposed for the creation of 30 grazing reserves in the Northern part of the country. Those are the reserves people are thinking should continue. The only one experimentation I can remember was in Southern Kaduna in a place called Kachia in Zango Kataf. They came there and said they wanted to do a small cattle colony, they were given a piece of land. Few Fulani moved in there on a 30,000 hectares of land.”

“They moved to this grazing reserve at a place called Ruguda in Zango Kataf. In a short time, they expanded that land space to about 100,000 hectares of land. The population increased. They appointed an Emir. It became the staging post of the crisis you are seeing today in Southern Kaduna. That is the cattle colony for you. I believe that we do not need that replicated or multiplied all over the 36 states. Replicating Ruguda in Zango Kataf all over Nigeria means the beginning of massive instability across Nigeria.

– Culled from The Sun