The nation was thrown into mourning, as the leading Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, said it received information that Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Afenifere chairman, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, had been killed by persons suspected to be herdsmen in Ore, Ondo state. Addressing journalists at Fasoranti’s residence in Akure, the the Ondo state capital, the state police commissioner Undie Adie said that those who killed Mrs. Olakunrin at the Ore expressway on her way back to Lagos were bandits and not herdsmen. He said that the bandits came to the road and shot sporadically at motorists.
Contrary to this narration was the account of Mr. Kehinde Fasoranti, younger brother to the deceased, that accused the police of deception in regards to the identity of the attackers. Kehinde stated that he had visited the police station in Ore town shortly after the incident and was told by officers on duty that those who operated and shot Mrs. Olakunrin were herdsmen. While what actually transpired cannot be correctly known for now, it is important for the government to muster the political will to do the needful by putting the herders under control.
President Muhammadu Buhari has condoled with the leader of Afenifere over the death of his daughter while directing security agencies to fish out the killers that are faceless. These days, it is difficult to keep up with the mindless killings going on around the country under any justification. What is prevalent are the isolated attacks by herdsmen in many states. The Buhari administration appears to be compounding the problem by being too slow in ending the malaise.
There is the need to stop playing politics with the lives of the people by shielding a particular segment of the populace over the other multitude. The federal government had approved over N90 billion for establishing ranches but the insistence of the federal authorities on recreating grazing routes despite a range of laws banning open grazing by some state governments in the country is a recipe for chaos and would not help the cause of peace in the country.
ECOWAS had indicated its interest in finding lasting solution to the herders-farmers conflict, which had claimed many lives and impacted negatively on the economy in ways that are overly negative. A solution hinged on the outdated idea of re-establishing the grazing route is disingenuous and would obviously be met with resistance by communities and state governments that have been on the receiving end of the prevalent killings in the country.
It is sad that despite several wise counsels to the effect that cattle rearing is strictly a private business and should basically be left to the initiative of the owners, the federal authorities have carried on in a manner that suggest that a particular group’s interest is more important than others. For instance, the task of creating grazing reserves falls within the ambit of the states and not the central government, as is currently being canvassed. The Land Use Act of 1978 domiciles control over land in the state governors, which do so in trust for the people.
Over the years, the Act has been manipulated to the disadvantage of the states. The content not only weakens the people who own the land, it is lopsided in terms of access by the state. This is like a daylight robbery. It is unacceptable to rob Paul to repay Peter. It is trite to state that the resurgence of the mindless killings by herdsmen would lead the country into a state of complete lawlessness. This cannot be allowed to continue as Nigerians are getting tired of excuses that are not cogent.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, while commiserating with the Afenifere leader on the death of his daughter, called on the police to ensure that the killers were brought to book. The commissioner of police in Ondo state however assured that all efforts were ongoing to apprehend the bandits that shot and killed the daughter of the leader of Afenifere.
The truth is that it is wrong for herdsmen to continue to bear arms illegally and kill without much resistance and checks from authorities of state. Are we suggesting that they are above the laws of the land? The nation may not experience much peace as long as the present configuration is allowed to continue. Injustice can never breed peace and security. There is an urgent need to discuss the federal structure of the nation that appears to be warped.
The federal government needs to muster the courage and political will to tackle the insecurity in the land. It was someone else that got killed today, who knows the next victim? While the police continue with their investigation on the matter, the importance of a secure environment cannot be sacrificed based on mundane and parochial considerations. The perceived protection of herders in the country by the government should be revisited without further delay.