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Nigerian governors disagree over cattle herders bearing arms

Governor Ortom disagrees with his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, over cattle herders arming themselves with AK-47 rifles.

By James Ogunnaike, Abuja

The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has disagreed with his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, over cattle herders arming themselves with AK-47 rifles.

Mr Mohammed, who spoke during the Press Week Celebration of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ) on Thursday, said herders carry firearms ”for self-defence”.

The governor said they (herders) carry arms to protect themselves against cattle rustlers.

“Because the Fulani man is practising the tradition of pastoralism, he has been exposed to the vagaries of the forest. Cattle rustlers who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth, which is the cows,” Mr Mohammed said.

Mr Mohammed decried attempts to expel the Fulani cattle herders from parts of Nigeria for their alleged involvement in kidnapping and clashes with farmers.

“We have so many Tiv people farming in Alkaleri, in Tafawa Balewa, farming in Bogoro LGAs; has anybody told them to go?

“We have not; because it is their own inalienable rights to be there. We have Yoruba people in Bauchi, for over 150 years, even before the birth of Nigeria; some of them have risen to become permanent secretaries in Bauchi, in Gombe and in Borno.

“You can see what our colleagues in the South-west and some from the South-east are doing.

“If cyber-crime is practised by one tribe, you don’t criminalise all (members of) the tribe that they are criminals.”

Ortom fires back

However, Mr Ortom has questioned the legality of Mr Mohammed’s position on the herders carrying firearms.

According to a statement on Friday by his spokesperson, Terver Akase, Mr Ortom wondered ”which section of the law the Bauchi State governor relied on to support his position that herders are free to move around the country with sophisticated weapons”.

“He recalls that it was the same Governor Mohammed who once said on national television that a Fulani man is a global citizen and, therefore, does not need a visa to come to Nigeria and that the forests belong to herdsmen.

“Governor Ortom wonders if his friend and colleague in Bauchi State knows a thing or two about the horrendous activities of herders in parts of the country to warrant the emotional defence and justification that he has repeatedly put forward in their favour.

“The governor finds it unfortunate that those who are trusted with the people’s mandate and should ordinarily uphold truth and justice have chosen to mislead the country.”

He said statements like Mr Mohammed’s are capable of leading the country to anarchy.

Nigerian Firearms Act of 1990 provides that no person shall “have in his possession or under his control any firearm or ammunition except such person has a licence from the President or from the Inspector-General of Police”.

The proliferation of light arms across Nigeria has also led to its worsening security crises and more crimes, experts have argued.

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