Defence Minister’s Indecorous Comments

Defence Minister’s Indecorous Comments
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Last week, the minister of defence, Brig- Gen Mansur Dan Ali (rtd) stirred the hornet’s nest once again when he asked the governments of Benue and Taraba states to suspend the anti -open grazing laws which the state assemblies had enacted.
He said the suspension of the law will help to stem the tide of the relentless orgy of herdsmen killings in the states.

The minister made this call after a Security Council Meeting held at the presidential villa.
It is not known whether the minister was speaking for himself or for the entire security system in Nigeria as there was no communiqué released after the meeting or any other official communication.
Not unexpectedly, this comment drew the ire of individuals, groups and institutions across the country, with all of them unanimous in calling the minister to order and asking him to withdraw such an unguarded statement, which they described as offensive.
In the Senate, the minister was reminded that the killings had been going on for about seven years, and so not as a result of the new law, pointing out that it was because of the long-running herders-farmers conflict that led to the enactment of the law in the first place.
It pointed that similar killings are ongoing in the minister’s home state of Zamfara and many other parts of Nigeria where there is no anti-open grazing law.
The House of Representatives, on its part, said telling the states to suspend the law will infringe on their constitutionally guaranteed right to make laws for the welfare and good governance of their people. It noted that there are certain laws enacted in some parts of the country against alcohol and prostitution, which are being obeyed in those states even though they are inconvenient to many of the residents, even limiting their livelihoods.
The governments of Benue and Taraba also upbraided the minister, telling him the comment was highly offensive in the light of the carnage the herdsmen are causing in the state. Even the different traditional institutions in the two states, legal luminaries and other patriotic individuals all spoke up to condemn Dan-Ali. The Benue State Assembly went a step further to ask the minister to resign his appointment at once.
This is not the first time the defence minister has made such a highly indecorous statement concerning the herdsmen killings which seems to suggest he is not disposed to any plans to reign in the murderous pastoralists.
In January this year, he had made another comment which apparently sought to justify the right of herders to slaughter the residents of the farming communities just because, according to him, their so-called grazing routes had be blocked. That statement and the current one can only serve to embolden the marauding killer-herdsmen in their bloody onslaught on Nigerians across the land.
At the last count, violent killings had occurred in 34 out 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In the first 70 days of this year, 1,400 Nigerians were killed across the country, an average of nearly 40 per day.
It seems the minister’s position is at variance with that of the federal government, which had proposed at one time cattle colonies, and at another, ranching, as means to end herdsmen killings in Nigeria.
In April this year, Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi had announced that the National Economic Council, presided over by the vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, had outlawed open grazing and movement of cattle in the country, and resolved that ranches should be set up immediately along with the necessary facilities.
AljazirahNigeria Newspaper agrees with this position and the positions expressed by both Houses of the National Assembly. Ranches are the best way forward. The anti-open grazing laws made by Benue, Taraba and Ekiti states are valid laws and must be obeyed. All security apparatuses have a duty to enforce them. The rule of law is sine qua non in any democracy and it stipulates that everyone is equal before the law, including herdsmen. If the defence minister thinks otherwise, he should take the honourable route as suggested by Benue State lawmakers.
We also advise all Nigerians, especially those holding sensitive public offices, to exercise the greatest level of circumspection in the kind of comments they make in order not to worsen an already bad situation.

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Brig- Gen Mansur Dan Ali (rtd)