Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Middle Belt and Niger delta groups all oppose talks with Macban

SEVERAL national pan-cultural organisations have voiced their objections to plans by the federal government to enter into talks with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) calling it tantamount to negotiating with murderers and terrorists.


Over recent years, Nigeria has been torn apart by murderous clashes between heavily-armed Fulani cattle herdsmen and farming communities, resulting in hundreds of deaths. To address the problem, the federal government established a 10-man committee headed by vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo to talk to the numerous affected parties.


Established by the National Economic Council, the committee comprises of the governors of Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Edo, Plateau, Ebonyi and Oyo States. However, cultural associations like the Yoruba group Afenifere , Middle Belt groups and the pan-Igbo organisation Ohaneze Ndigbo, have criticised the decision to talk to Macban, who is believed to be responsible for the murder of innocent people.


Others who have criticised the committee include a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum (AFC), Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman and a Niger Delta activist, Annkio Briggs. However the pan-northern ACF, said it does not see anything wrong with the talks the committee, chaired by Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, holding talks with the cattle breeders.


Afenifere publicity secretary Yinka Odumakin, warned that the federal government was leading the nation down the path of anarchy and lawlessness by planning to negotiate with the herdsmen, who had stained the nation with the blood of innocent citizens. He slammed the Osinbajo-led panel for proposing to meet with Macban, saying it was unfortunate that a professor of law would be meeting to negotiate with criminals.


Mr Odumakin said: “If the panel is meeting herdsmen who are staining the country with blood, it means the federal government is complicit in the murder of Nigerians. They have not brought one person to book but they are negotiating with the murderers, which is an invitation to anarchy.”


Ohanaeze Ndigbo also questioned the objective of the dialogue with Macban, with its publicity secretary, Uche Achi-Okpaga, saying there was nothing to negotiate. Mr Achi-Okpaga said: “What is the panel going to negotiate with the herdsmen about?


"Will they ask them what the government should do to placate them before they will stop killing defenceless Nigerians?  The setting up of the panel is simply unnecessary. It cannot achieve any result, it is the height of deceit and the panel has failed before it started.”


Emma Zopmal, the president of the Middle Belt Youth Council, added:“The government has never made an attempt to compensate the victims, yet it goes further to empower the Fulani herdsmen for killing innocent people. This is an irresponsible act on the part of the Nigerian government.”


Dalyop Chuwang, the president of the Berom Youth Moulders Association, said: “The sole responsibility of the government is to provide security to all citizens, regardless of tribe, religion and geopolitical region. The killer herdsmen should be declared as terrorists just like the Indigenous People of Biafra, which has not even launched an attack anywhere but has been tagged a terrorist group by the government.”


Niger Delta activist, Annkio Briggs, expressed disapproval with the negotiation plans of the federal government. Also, a member of the National Executive Council of Arewa Consultative Forum, Mohammed Abdulrahman, said talking to Macban was not the solution to the problem.


He added: “If Buhari wants to do something, he should order the military to tackle the matter. He should also ask them not to come into Nigeria because they are not Nigerians.”


However, Anthony Sani, the AFC secretary general cautioned Nigerians against criminalising the Fulani. He noted that the plan of the federal government to negotiate with the warring parties, especially the herdsmen, did not amount to endorsing the killings.


“Miyetti Allah is an umbrella body of herdsmen but that does not suggest that the majority of its members are criminals who perpetuate the crimes of killing innocent people, including children who are not party to the feud,” Mr Sani added.