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Defence Minister: Herdsmen are Nigerians… we must learn to live with them
Mansur Dan-Ali, Minister of Defence, says the immediate cause of the New Year’s Day massacre by suspected Fulani Herdsmen was the introduction of the anti-open grazing law, adding that Nigerians must learn how to live with one another and accommodate strangers.
Speaking after a security meeting with Service Chiefs at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday, Dan-Ali said there were also militias who called themselves “forest guards” but were caught with AK 47 guns.
“In the killings you are talking about, there are militias involved. Some people were caught with arms and they call themselves Forest Guards or whatever, with AK 47,” Dan-Ali said.
“There is nowhere in this country where arms are allowed to be carried apart of legitimate security forces. So anybody carrying any arm is doing so illegally.
“Militias were caught in the same land doing the same killings, so the killings are not done by any particular group; it is a communal issue.
“Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be a route followed by the cattle-rearers because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?
“These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis.
“But the immediate cause is the (anti-open) grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave.”
Speaking further on the outcome of the security meeting, Dan-Ali said that the discussion between the Nigerian and American government for the sale of fighter jets, has stalled.
According to the minister, Nigeria is not ready to meet the conditions given by the US, without which the sales cannot be concluded.
He explained that the US was unwilling to train Nigerian technicians to be part of the maintenance crew of the fighter jets. The country is also not willing to allow any Nigerian technician to be part of the production inspection of the planes.
“These conditions, we will not accept,” Dan-Ali said.
“This is what we normally do in all the defence contracts; we send our personnel to go and understudy, especially when it comes to specialized aircraft like in Russia, our personnel are permanently based where the production is being done for this MI35 helicopters. Payments will be made when the conditions are reduced.”