By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Wole Balogun, Ekiti, Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha and Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, declared during a programme on national television, yesterday, that killer herdsmen are not terrorists.
He described them as “criminal gangs.”
There have been clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers across the country. Clashes between herdsmen and local communities, in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Ondo, Delta, Edo, Kaduna states, among others.
Ekiti, Benue, Taraba states have enacted anti-grazing laws. In these states, herdsmen have rejected the law and vowed to challenge them in court.
Regardless, Shehu reiterated on Channels, yesterday, that the federal government did not declare herdsmen as terrorists because they are “only criminal gangs” and quickly added that security agencies are dealing with them, according to the law.
“There is a difference between a criminal gang, criminal activity and a terrorist activity; and, I think from the definition we are getting, yes, Fulani herdsmen are a criminal gang and they are being dealt with according to the law of the country.
“But, IPOB, like Boko Haram, has a territory they have carved out for themselves, as a sovereign state of their own. They have shown the willingness to invade neighbouring states. They have raised concerns in neighbouring Kogi and Benue states. They have said they are interested in taking over Bayelsa and Rivers…IPOB is a small group of people running
“That is exactly what Boko Haram has done; with a flag and taxation system. This is not acceptable to the law of this country.”
Last Friday, the Defence Headquarters declared IPOB a “militant terrorist” organisation.
South East governors followed suit and proscribed the group’s activities, after a marathon meeting.
On Wednesday, a Federal High Court, in Abuja, granted government’s prayer and granted an interlocutory injunction to outlaw the group as a terrorist organisation.
Asked whether the government knows the IPOB leader’s whereabouts, Shehu replied that the enquiries should be directed, instead, at those who signed his bail in April.
Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Kanu’s counsel, had alleged that his client is missing, after security agents allegedly stormed his home in Umuahia, on September 14, 2017.
“I am surprised someone would ask this question. Look, some people went to court and obtained his freedom, they signed his bail. I believe that a high profile group including a Senator of the Federal Republic signed in a court of law and obtained his freedom.
“So, if you are looking for him, why don’t you ask the people who bailed him? Nobody has informed me that Mr Kanu is in the hands of any institution of government. But, if I were looking for him, I would ask the guy who bailed him because that was the deal he had with the court of the land,” said Garba.
When Daily Sun contacted Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, to react to Shehu’s comments, he said the government was just being selective on who to label as terrorist.
“It is very clear that they are the one who determine who is corrupt and who is not corrupt. When Fulani herdsmen sack communities in broad daylight, like it happened in Benue and Plateau, they carry AK 47, maim and destroy people. What do we call them if not terrorists?
“If the government of the day says the herdsmen are not terrorists, we leave them to continue to be selective.
“The destruction that the herdsmen have wreaked on the soil of Nigeria is a far cry from the mere agitation and peaceful protests IPOB have carried out and yet, government proscribed IPOB.”
On his part, Chief Press Secretary to Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom, Terver Akase, insisted that what the herdsmen had done in the state amounted to acts of terrorism.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Sun in Makurdi, yesterday, Akase, who noted that unlawfully taking the lives of innocent people was not permitted anywhere in the world, maintained that such action is nothing but terrorism. “It is difficult to describe who is a terrorist and who is not but, what we do know is that whoever carries weapons to invade a community or a town and kill innocent people, if such person is not a terrorist, what he is doing amounts to an act of terrorism, because terrorism also seeks to destroy…That person may not be a terrorist but that act is an act of terrorism which herdsmen have been carrying out in Benue state,” the CPS said.
IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr. Emma Powerful, dismissed Shehu’s comments and insisted that the group has the right to agitate for an independent state of Biafra.
“IPOB is fighting for our right, which is permitted by the law of the United Nations and are terrorists for being peaceful and harmless
“Fulani herdsmen are recognised as the fourth, deadliest terrorist group in the whole world. We maintain our non-violent approach, towards the restoration of Biafra.”
To the leader of the Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Mr. Uchenna Madu, Shehu’s comments “has proved an earlier exposition that armed Fulani herdsmen, causing violent havoc in Christian-dominated regions are Hausa Fulani jihadist foot soldiers.
“We still insist that IPOB is not a terrorist organisation.”