Following last weekend’s killings in Jos, Plateau sates, in which over 100 lost their lives, the Presidency released a statement pointing fingers at politicians.
“We know that a number of geographical and economic factors are contributing to the longstanding herdsmen/farmers clashes. But we also know that politicians are taking advantage of the situation. This is incredibly unfortunate,” said the Presidency in a statement signed by Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.
It is generally believed that the tensions in the Middle Belt are driven by conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and native farmers. But the federal government has in recent weeks begun to argue that opposition politicians seeking to score political points are behind the attacks.
The president’s senior spokesman, Femi Adesina, said in an Arise TV interview less than two weeks ago that even though true herders and farmers are clashing, “hidden hostile hands have crept in under that umbrella to play what the president has described as irresponsible politics… the opposition in Nigeria has identified security as one of the strong points of the Buhari administration. So they decided to go to that area finding the soft under belly and stick a knife into it.”
Security Council position
This same month, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s Security Council meeting at the State House, the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, released a press statement calling for the suspension of the implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing Law in some states and negotiating safe routes for the herders. He said this would help ease tensions.
It should be pointed out that Plateau state which suffered the most recent killings does not have an anti-grazing law in place. In fact, in January following the repeated attacks in Benue, the Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong, said that he advised his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom, against signing the anti-grazing law.
“I told the Governor of Benue when he was doing the law; I said look, why don’t you tread softly, just be careful, take other steps before you start implementation. But you see, states are different. His own concepts are different and for us on the Plateau is different. I said I will not do the anti-grazing law,” he said.
Following condemnations that he was being insensitive, Lalong apologized. The fact that his state does not have the law in place did not however stop the attacks from taking place last weekend.
The Army position
On its part, the Nigerian Army has an even different theory. On Friday, at a press briefing to flag off the 2018 Army Day celebration in Maiduguri, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai said external forces could have been involved in last weekend’s kilings in a bid to destabilize Nigeria.
He did not elaborate on the point or the nature of the forces.
“We’re not ruling out the possibility of external forces destabilising the country,” Buratai said, while condemning the murders and expressing confidence in the abiiity of the Army to curb the violence.
Buratai also canvassed for development of long-term solution to some social problems that may have fueled the violence. “We must be thinking of solving some inherent problems that may have caused the crisis,” he said.