Former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav (retired), in this interview by BABAJIDE JOHNSON, speaks on the unending attacks on Benue State and suggested that a commission of inquiry be set up to ascertain the cause and permanently solve the issue of killings across the country.
What do you think is the major reason for the pervading killings in Benue State?
I think the major cause is an attempt to destabilise this country, I do not know whether you have read this document being circulated which is alleging that there are foreign interests that are influencing Boko Haram and that the same interests are influencing herdsmen that the thing has transformed from Boko Haram to herdsmen. The document further revealed that the operation of the killer herdsmen now is to go into the church and unleash terror, knowing fully that Benue is predominant a Christian state and they know that once there is outbreak of crisis here it will spread and this will have multiplier effects. For instance, after the killings of the priest and parishioners, hoodlums nearly took over the state breaking into shops. If this thing extends to the mosque, I mean if our people start reprisal attacks, the country may go in flames.
But what do you think can be done to stop these killings in the country, particularly, in Benue?
Let me take it this way: The people who are fighting us now are herdsmen. I have said it before and let me repeat it again that the only thing we can do to stop the crisis is to set up a commission of inquiry to find out the causes of these attacks and who are the people responsible. Through this, one can take action and apprehend these people. But as long as we fail to do it, it will continue and it will cause reprisal and if not nip in the bud now, then we will be asking ourselves for how long will it continue and it may turn to a marathon.
Who do you think should set up the commission of inquiry?
The Federal Government, of course, because the crisis is not confined to Benue State alone; it is all over the country. Like the Oputa panel of inquiry, the panel of inquiry should be chaired by a retired judge. It should call for memoranda and allow people to come and give evidence. Government should also make the security men to be on alert so that whoever is involved should be arrested because the situation we are in now nobody is saved. Some are saying it is politics and it can be so because everybody seems to be against President Muhammadu Buhari. Some people said he is very old and some said he is not performing and that he is vindictive and that if he comes in for second term he may be ruthless. But some of us think that he is very honest; he is the only president that had been tried in several areas and not been found wanting. Because of his second term ambition, some people may be creating the problem.
But are you satisfied with the way the president has been handling the security problem in the country, particularly, Benue State?
As far as am concerned, you don’t expect the president to go out personally. He can only send security people to handle the situation. But if they come and do not handle the situation very well, it is his prerogative to fire them. That is what we expect, the other time the Inspector
General of Police was directed to come and stay for sometime here in Benue State, but he did not come and the killings are still happening.
Are you satisfied with the activities of the police in the state, considering the incessant attacks?
To be fair to the police, they are under-staffed. Some of those who ought to be on duty were posted to guide politicians; about one-third of the police workforce is attached to politicians. There are situations where you see one politician having three policemen. Then who is going to protect the public. What the government should do is to set aside huge amount of money to recruit more people. There are many school leavers without job; they should be recruited, at least, we have many police training schools in this country. By so doing, we may have an improvement in their activities. But if we rely on what is on ground now, we are deceiving ourselves because the number of policemen is depleting every now and then due to retirement, death and other factors.
What do you expect the president to do now that the National Assembly has passed vote of no confidence on the security chiefs?
Well, if I were the president, I will call the service chiefs and give them a last warning, it is not easy to sack them now and bring other people and expect them to do very well. So, you give them the last order. The other time the Exercise Ayem Akpatuma was deployed to Benue State, we expected soldiers to flood the state to fish out these murderers but it did not happen. So, as far as I am concerned, that Exercise Ayem Akpatuma was not effective and that is why the killings continue and the latest killings are designed to incite religious crisis in this country. If there is outbreak of religious crisis, the country is finished.
I am not holding brief for anybody but I think that people must be sensitive now. Our people are not even helping matters because when these people came to attack, they ought to have called even the council chairman immediately. May be they would have been able to get the people and if they had arrested one, they will be able to know who their sponsors are and their mission. But all along, they come and kill and run away, leaving behind sorrow and blood. So who are you going to interrogate? Is it the man on the street? But if they are herdsmen violating the law of the land, then you can pick those ones, but to assume that he is a murderer is very wrong.
And there is this dangerous dimension that Fulani people are waylaying our people along Makurdi/Abuja Road and if this continues, it will make the road impassable and more of our people will get killed. That is why am appealing to whoever is responsible to try and take action and stop these thing.
Just some few days ago, President Buhari alleged that the late Libyan leader, Moammar Ghadaffi, trained men who were responsible for killings in the country. The same president had earlier advised Benue delegation who visited him to accommodate their fellow countrymen. What is your view of the apparent double speaks by the president?
I will not blame the president for that because he is talking, based on the security report he received. The whole thing is the failure of our security agencies because these people are not spirit; they come and commit this heinous crime and go away and nobody knows them. It is the fault of our security agencies. The security men too are also being killed. Unfortunately, we have many people in possession of arms in this country and the security agencies have not been able to control this. So also our youths are not been controlled because they are jobless. To control them is to create job for them and also to enlighten them. So, if government does not take step to stop these young men, then we are in for a very serious problem in the country.
Are the borders safe in view of the statement by the president?
The problem we have here is that the war against corruption has been left in the hand of Buhari and a very few people. If our borders could be so porous like that, then it means corruption is serious in the country. Sometimes ago, the Head of Service of Ghana addressed custom officers against corruption which he said was undermining the security of that country. That is exactly what is happening here, in Nigeria. No one is monitoring the borders. You find a young man just being recruited and in the next few months you see him cruising in big cars and no one is asking them questions.
Some were saying that the anti-open grazing law initiated by the Governor Samuel Ortom administration triggered the incessant killings. Do you support this view?
These killings started before they enacted this law, even before Governor Samuel Ortom came into power. The only thing is if there is anything they can do to modify the law, like to have a space for them to create ranch and if this is done and they disobey, then you apprehend them. One thing I know is that the law did not drive away anyone.
What would you have done differently to stop crisis if you find yourself in a position of authority?
This is a security matter. I will not say anything about it and even if I say it, they may not work on it. But if I have any suggestion, I will put it in writing and send it to the appropriate quarters as I have been doing.
Governor Ortom recently ordered the people to defend themselves. What is your view on the doctrine of self-defense?
Our law provides the right of self-defense to everybody, but the best thing, to me, is to find lasting solution to end the crisis because if this thing gets out of hand, it will be very bad for us. I think we need to find ways of stopping these killings so that we can continue to live as we used to live together in the past. Both Christians and Muslims preach peace and we should learn to live in peace. That is why I was happy when the leadership of the Catholic Church in the state stopped the planned mass protest. Though the killing of the two priests is a sad one, but the Bishop has been able to stop what may likely create another crisis. I sympathize with the Christian, the Catholic Church and the people of the state.
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