Security agencies in Nigeria have arrested about 800 suspected violent herdsmen across the country, according to Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Osinbajo made this disclosure in Houston, Texas in the US on Friday at a Townhall event where he interacted with US-based Nigerians who asked questions at the event and also via the Internet, according to a statement issued by his spokesperson Mr. Laolu Akande.
The Vice President fielded about thirty questions at the townhall event moderated by Mr. Rudolf Okonkwo of Sahara Reporters and Prof. Nimi Wariboko of Boston University.
Asked about the issue of Fulani Herdsmen attacks in certain states across the country and what the Federal Government was doing to curb the problem, the Vice President said “the President has given firm instructions to the security agencies to arrest not only herdsmen who are attacking communities anywhere in the country but anyone of them or anyone at all in possession of firearms.”
He added that “there are about 800 of suspected violent herdsmen in the country that are currently in custody.” The Vice President however decried the slow pace of the criminal justice system which is affecting the prompt trial of such suspects.
Osinbajo reminded the audience however that the issue of killings by such violent herdsmen has been a perennial issue especially as grazing lands continue to disappear over the years and the cattle feed on peoples crops on the farmlands. He clarified that the matter just did not crop up when President Buhari assumed office.
Vice President Osinbajo then urged against the tendency of interpreting the herdsmen issue as a religious issue, stressing that it is important for all Nigerians to refuse such divisive narratives and tendencies.
He reminded his audience that there has always been conflict between herdsmen and communities across the country and that people should disabuse the notion that the problem has just started because President Buhari, a Fulani is currently at the helm of affairs in the country.
Answering question on the need for community policing, the Vice President indicated that community policing via State Police is indeed a cardinal program of the ruling APC. However the party agenda cannot be introduced until there is an amendment to the nation’s constitution.
Giving a scenario where a policeman from Bayelsa State for instance is working in Borno State where he cannot even speak the language or understand the culture of the people he is policing, he said that such situation is counterproductive.
The current situation where police activities is controlled at the federal level sure has some limitations, he conceded adding that the “ the federal government is currently working to introduce community policing that would be in line with the constitution.”
Commenting on the recent arrest of judges in the country, Prof. Osinbajo told said that impunity could be very dangerous in any sector and that the federal government is only exercising its executive function in attempting to check excesses.
He pointed out that the important thing is that due process is being followed as the judges were released about 24 hours after their arrest and once they had given their statements.