(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) -The recent slaughtering of 73 law abiding citizens of Benue state in Nigeria is one killing too many for the Fulani herdsmen who have been on rampage in some Christian dominated parts of northern Nigeria, for some time now. From Southern Kaduna to Plateau state; Taraba state, and dangerously to Enugu state in the south east, it has been reports of nomadic herdsmen raping women, slaughtering people with impunity and setting their homes on fire.
The contention has largely been over the use of land for grazing. Each time the natives protest the destruction of their farmlands by the itinerant herdsmen, they are attacked, with many losing their lives in the process.
The federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari at a time suggested that natives provide land for the herdsmen to use for grazing, but the natives are not inclined to doing so: Their argument is that herding is a private business and that those involved should employ the ranching method, which is acceptable globally. They also contended that any such portions of land provided would be claimed by the aggressive visitors, a development, according to them that could take the conflict between the herdsmen and the natives to another level.
Untill the new year mayhem in Benue State, leadership of the herdsmen have been kicking against the law recently passed to forbid open grazing in Benue State by the State House of Assembly and signed into law by Governor Samuel Orthom. Curiously, not even one of the gun men was arrested before, during or after the attack, just like all the others that have taken place in the past in Benue and other states in the country. Rather what we hear are arrests of the natives when ever they attempt to defend themselves in the absence of federal government’s protection.
Shortly after the herdsmen had slain 73 in Benue communities, security operatives who were drafted to the area reportedly arrested some people they claimed to be Benue citizens who were said to be armed and probably on a revenge mission. There was also an allegation that the armed youths who were arrested were being sponsored by the governor, a claim the State government has since refuted. Attention, as usual was shifted from the killer herdsmen.
And that has been the pattern, from Plateaus state to Southern Kaduna, fueling the suspicion that some persons in the security circles are providing support for the killers and shielding them from arrest. And this has been possible, according to observers because of the configuration of the federal security system where appointments are skewed in favour of northern Muslims, putting the lives of non Muslims in jeopardy whenever there is a conflict that has religio-politico colouration. And this conspiracy has been alleged to be responsible for the successful countless attacks on citizens of select states by armed nomadic herdsmen, and in all of the of the cases there have been no convincing investigation leading to the arrests the culprits.
What has been observed is that, after an attack, federal security officials come up with their opinions that are often not supported with credible evidence. For example, in the most recent killing of 73 in Benue State (and who were laid to rest on Friday, 12 January),  the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris had said that the unpleasant incident was caused by communal conflict, but his position was hotly refuted by the elders of the state, who described the position of the police chief as baseless, presumptuous and provocative.
Going forward, it is our considered opinion that state police will put the security architecture of every state in the hands of the citizens of that state. This development will make practically impossible for the Fulani herdsmen to invade a community in any state of the federation without being arrested.
Nigerian leaders who preach peace and unity must go beyond lip service to ensuring mutual respect for the rights and lawful aspirations of all citizens irrespective of their tribe and religion. And the way to go is state police, and afterwards restructuring of the country as a permanent solution.
As the nation looks forward to another election year in 2019, let all those who are pained by the injustice and increasing waves of insecurity in Nigeria resolve to vote for a candidate who will justify the use of power. A patriot who will fulfil the legitimate expectations of the people for state police and restructuring of Nigeria into a geo- political configuration where every one will have a sense of belonging and security of lives and properties are guaranteed.

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