The President has given firm instructions to the security agencies to arrest any fulani herdsman, caught attacking communities anywhere in the country or found in possession of firearms.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while revealing this in Houston, Texas in the United States on Friday at a Townhall event where he interacted with US-based Nigerians, added that no fewer than 800 suspected violent herdsmen have been arrested across the country by security agencies.
The Vice President fielded about 30 live and internet questions at the event moderated by Mr. Rudolf Okonkwo of Sahara Reporters and Prof. Nimi Wariboko of Boston University.
On the herdsmen attacks in certain states across the country he said the Federal Government was acting to curb the menace.
“The President has given firm instructions to the security agencies to arrest not only herdsmen who are attacking communities anywhere in the country but anyone of them or anyone at all in possession of firearms.
“There are about 800 of suspected violent herdsmen in the country that are currently in custody,” he said.
The Vice President, however, decried the slow pace of the criminal justice system which is affecting the prompt trial of such suspects.
Osinbajo reminded the audience that the issue of killings by such violent herdsmen had been a perennial issue especially as grazing lands continued to disappear over the years and the cattle fed on people’s crops on the farmlands.
He explained that the matter just did not crop up when President Buhari assumed office.
Osinbajo then cautioned against the tendency of interpreting the herdsmen issue as a religious issue, stressing that it was important for all Nigerians to refuse such divisive narratives and tendencies.
He reminded his audience that there had always been conflicts between herdsmen and communities across the country.
Furthermore, he disabuse the notion that the problem had just started because President Buhari, a Fulani, is currently at the helm of affairs in the country
Oil-producing communities to get 30% of sector’s opportunities
In another development, the Presidency has commenced moves to find lasting peace in the Niger Delta and has announced a seven point programme to guarantee peace in the region and end militancy-induced disruption of oil and gas production by the middle of 2017.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, disclosed this during the launch of the Short and Medium Term Priorities to Grow Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry (2015 To 2019), tagged the ‘7BigWins’, a new initiative of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
To kick-start the peace process, Kachikwu stated that the Presidency would be meeting, on Tuesday, with key stakeholders from the region, comprising traditional rulers and Niger Delta ministers, among others.
He said, “We trying to do a couple of things. First is that on Tuesday, November 1, 2016, we have been able to get the President, in his usual kind nature, to meet with the Niger Delta stakeholders. About 50 of them are going to be coming to that meeting and it comprises all the kings drawn from the seven or eight oil-producing states in the Niger Delta; the heads of security, who are here present today; some government officials — certainly all the ministers from the Niger Delta area.
“It will be our first attempt to actually get them face-to-face in the same room with the president, so as to understand what his vision is in terms of Niger Delta security issues.”
Kachikwu stated that the Presidency had approved a roadmap that would see security in the Niger Delta move, from the responsibility of the military and the country’s security apparatus, to that of the oil companies as it is done everywhere the world over .
According to him, this means the oil companies would need to institute processes that would engage indigenes of the oil-producing communities and also work with the local communities to guard and protect their production facilities.
While those collaboration may not be armed collaboration, he explained that it covered the trust deficit that existed in the region and provide a very unique earnings and income-making opportunities for people within that local communities, adding that as long as they are visibly engaged in things that are income-earning, the temptation to get into the sort of destruction that we see would be limited.
In addition, Kachikwu disclosed that he would be spearheading a quarterly engagement process that would involve involves all members of the oil-producing communities, their state governors, the leaders of the stakeholders group and oil producers.
He said, “We have always done engagement when there are problems; but once the problems disappear, the engagement stops. One of the things I have been working on is to begin a quarterly engagement process.
“This would be done quarterly and it would be rotated from state to state. The whole idea is to provide a first-hand platform to engage before these problems go out of hand and that will become a constant feature.”
The Minister disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari had authorized that about 30 per cent of all opportunities in the petroleum industry be localized in the oil-producing communities.
Economics, Kachikwu stated, is at the heart of militancy, adding that the reason the problems in the Niger Delta persist is because the people feel that they are shortchanged.
“Covering that shortchange is not necessarily a movement in derivation numbers, it is to ensure that some benefits in the oil industry are going to the oil communities. The President has authorized that about 30 per cent of those opportunities will need to begin to get into work opportunities and employment opportunities; and would need to begin to get localized in those environments. If we do that we will have a wholesome economic roll out within those platforms,” he argued.
He disclosed that the Presidency had also agreed to look at the possibility of setting up a specialized petroleum force, which would draw from the elite of the security services, who would be provided with resources that are amphibious and technology driven to enable them respond to the request of the oil companies if they get overwhelmed outside their first line security.
The Minister stressed that the Federal Government would be launching a $10 billion infrastructural rebirth investment programme in the Niger Delta, pointing out that the funds would not necessarily come from government.
He said, “It is money that is coming from oil companies, investors, individuals who are ready to do private sector infrastructural investment and obviously state and Federal Government as the case may be.”Kachikwu noted: “The biggest problem in the Niger Delta is that as you go from point to point, you really cannot see any infrastructural investment. The Presidency is also reviewing a proposal that we have given him to look at how the 13 per cent derivation is applied.
“Right now it is a budgeting tool for state governments. We are going to be appealing to them to begin to put quite a bit of that into the core areas of the oil-producing communities, and not just to see it as a budgeting number.