Please permit to formally welcome you all to this Special Town Hall Meeting, holding right here in this beautiful city of Gusau. Before I go into the details of today’s Town Hall Meeting, May I sincerely thank my colleagues, Honourable Ministers, for taking time off their busy schedule to be here. Thank you, Honourable Ministers, for always honouring our invitation to these Town Hall Meetings. I want to also thank all our guests, as well as the gentlemen of the media, for honouring our invitation.
2 Let me also crave your indulgence to most sincerely thank His Excellency, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, and his entire cabinet, for their hospitality and wonderful organization that made this town hall possible. I am informed that the government has left no stone unturned in order to ensure the success of this event. Your Excellency, thank you most immensely.
3. The format of today’s Town Hall Meeting will be exactly like the last one we held in Abuja on May 17, 2018. An expert, in this case Dr. Abubakar Siddique of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, will make a presentation, after which we will go straight into the question and answer session. This will give us more time to hear directly from stakeholders. Panelists, comprising of the Honourable Ministers seated here, will answer questions and clarify issues from their various perspectives. Please note that there is NO no-go areas at this meeting. We urge everyone to have an open mind and to be free to make their contributions.
4. The last edition of our Town Hall Meeting was dedicated to the Farmers-Herders clashes, but this edition will go beyond that. It will touch on all those conflicts that have led to killings in recent times, and the measures being taken by the Federal Government to end the violence and curb the killings.
5. Let me say straight away that the killings, resulting from farmers-herders clashes, cattle rustling, trans-border crimes and banditry, among others, have fallen drastically. Unfortunately, this has not received the kind of media coverage that was given to the killings. I appeal to the media to correct this.
6 The drastic fall in the killings resulted from concerted and committed actions by the Federal Government. Measures taken to curtail the farmers-herders clashes, cattle rustling and other acts of banditry include:
- Deployment of a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), comprising Regular and Special Forces personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy, and working in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
- Establishment of the Army’s 2 Battalion Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Kanfanin Doka Village, Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State.
- Establishment of a new Area Command and two additional Divisional Police Headquarters in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
- Establishment by Nigerian Air Force of Quick Response Wings (QRW) in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States, and deployment of Special Forces to these Quick Response Wings.
- The inauguration, by the Nigeria Police Force, of a new Mobile Squadron in Takum, Taraba State.
- And Operation ‘Whirl Stroke’, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits.
7. I have no doubt that the good people of Zamfara can testify to the drastic reduction in the activities of cattle rustlers and other bandits in the state since the Federal Government assembled a 1000-strong military force, comprising the army, air force, police and the civil defence, to launch fierce attacks on the bandits terrorising the villages and towns of Zamfara State. The situation will continue to improve until the violence has stopped.
8 Your Excellency, Honourable Ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by repeating what I have always said: The killings that we have witnessed in the country have nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. As I have always cited, those rustling cattle in Zamfara are largely Hausa/Fulani and Muslim. Those whose cattle are rustled are largely Hausa/Fulani and Muslim. Where is ethnicity? Where is religion in this? And in Kebbi, more than 70 per cent of inmates in
the state prison are there because of farmers-herders clash. Yet, the farmers are mostly Hausa/Fulani and Muslim, and the herders are mostly Hausa/Fulani and Muslim. Ethnicity and religion play no role!
9. Those who are bent on exploiting our national fault lines have distorted the narrative to give the killings ethnic and religious coloration, and this has aggravated the killings. We must repudiate them, even as the Federal Government continues to consolidate on the successful efforts to end the killings.
10. Your Excellency, Honourable Ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your kind attention. I will now call on the Honourable Minister of Defence to make his presentation.