The reported deployment of operatives if the Niger Army by the presidency to Niger State to battle the scourge of cattle rustling whilst sending only police to checkmate the dastardly animal acts of herdsmen’s terror campaign in Benue State has been criticized as insensitive and unfortunate.
A prominent civil rights body – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which made the observation in a statement also faulted and dismissed as mischievously uninformed the reported claim by presidential spokesman Mr. Femi Adesina that soldiers are not to chase after armed herdsmen because it is outside the remit of their constitutional duties.
In a media release endorsed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that the constitution of Nigeria obliges him as a primary duty of care to the citizens, to deploy all resources and manpower towards the protection of lives and property of the citizenry.
Citing section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution HURIWA criticized the undue attention that the current President pays to the issues of stopping the criminal acts of cattle rustling but lamented that when the incessant violent attacks and killings of farmers by suspected armed Fulani threatens national security, the government is too slow or totally inactive.
Besides, HURIWA said the obligation to end internal insurrection which the frequent terror attacks launched by armed Fulani herdsmen constitute, remains a fundamental constitutional duties of the military as enshrined in section 218 (1) of the constitution even as the Rights group said since the President is an office holder elected not by cows by human beings, it is therefore unconstitutional to use the soldiers to defend the private commercial interests of Fulani herdsmen instead of deployment of armed security forces to protect lives and property of Nigerians.
Specifically, section 218 (1) (2) and (3) specifies as follows: “(1) The powers of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation; (2) the Powers conferred on the President by subsection (1) of this section shall include power to appoint the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff and heads of any other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly; (3) the President may, by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as he may think fit, delegate to any member of the armed forces of the Federation his powers relating to the operational use of the Armed Forces of the Federation”.
HURIWA also carpeted the presidential spokesmen for defending the non-deployment of soldiers to crush armed Fulani herdsmen just as the Rights group referred the presidential media Adviser to section 217 (2) (a) to (d) of the 1999 constitution to understand that the duty of care to ensure right to life of Nigerians rather than right to life of cows rests squarely on the armed security forces.
Section 217 (2) (a); (b); (c); and (d) provides thus: “(2) the federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of; defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and security its borders from violation on land, sea or air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the president, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly”.
HURIWA has therefore tasked President Buhari and the National Assembly to quickly activate mechanism for the creation of a regular department of all the armed security forces whose sole duty would be to chase after armed Fulani herdsmen. The group has further called for the classification by Nigeria of armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
As a result of incessant kidnapping and cattle rustling in some parts of Niger State, the military authorities have deployed a special squad to the state to dislodge the criminals.
Indication to this effect came to light when the General Officer commanding 1 Mechanized Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Major Gen Mohammed Mohammed, led other top military officers to intimate the acting Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ketso, at Government House on the development.
Other on the GOC’s team were Garrison Commander, Major Gen Odiakor, Col. Yau, who represented Commander Signals and Staff Officer of the GOC, Col. Obayo.
The team had separate meetings with the Acting Governor, Alhaji Ketso and Secretary to the state Government, Alhaji Isah Ladan, before leaving the Government House.
They were accompanied by five loads of heavily armed Soldiers.
Journalists were shut out of the meetings, but Vanguard gathered that the mission of the military top brass to the state is tagged “Operation Yaki” aimed at dislodging the criminals from the state.
It was also gathered that the operation would be led by the GOC Commander, General Mohammed Mohammed, though the date for the commencement of the operation is still hazy.
There have been incessant cases of kidnapping and cattle rustling in the state in the past few months heightening insecurity in the state.
Three Local Government Areas mostly affected are Shiroro, Munyan and Rafi.