The Department of State Service (DSS) believes that a network called the Islamic State in West Africa (Iswa) is operating in some north-central and south-south states, and hence, have been responsible for the herdsmen attacks.
The information was submitted by the agency to President Buhari in a security report. The report says the network uses foreign militants to provoke tensions along ethnoreligious fault lines in Nigeria.
This intelligence apparently came about from the arrest of suspected attackers consisting of herdsmen, and other persons referred to as government-sponsored militias, militants and other suspects.
Since the beginning of the year, more than seventy-three persons have been killed in Benue state by suspected Fulani herdsmen. The Buhari administration has been faulted by many from the state for not doing enough to seek out and prosecute the herdsmen whose rampaging destructions have cut across other parts for the country, from the South East to the South West. Buhari’s Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had stated that the government’s solution to the crisis was the creation of Cattle Colonies in states where herdsmen can settle with their cattle.
This solution has had very many critics, from state Governors including Samuel Ortom of Benue and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia to legislators in both houses of the National Assembly, as well as many citizens across various states. Reasons for rejecting the policy have varied from the unavailability of free land to give away, to the impropriety of treating the rearing of cattle by Fulani herdsmen as a more special enterprise than other worthy endeavours engaged in by persons from other parts of the country.
But as though their fears have not been well placed, the new ‘intelligence’ on the issue which brings IS into the picture should further create apathy towards the proposed Colony policy.
In the first place, the language of some state governors at present prove it was never going to be easy for them to surrender massive expanses of their land to herdsmen whom they do not know and whose identities they cannot verify. Creating cattle colonies in the states of the federation is not going to make Nigeria flow with milk, cheese and chocolate, as one newspaper editorial seemed to promote it. The direct implication of cattle colonies in every state would be that the herdsmen would settle in large numbers in those states, raise usually large families and grow to become influential communities in the states.
Chiefdoms and little emirates would sprout in no time; without proper definitions of rights and privileges of these diverse groups with strongly held religious and cultural beliefs, existing within the same boundaries, there would be potential for chaos.
With the supposition that the Islamic state could be present amongst the herdsmen, there should now be reasonable scepticism towards acceding to the policy of the cattle colonies. Insecurity problems would become exacerbated resulting from the scramble for ideological and territorial control over the inhabited states.
A reasonable path to the resolution of the crisis seems to be the one advocated by the Ekiti state governor, Mr Ayo Fayose, where herdsmen intending to own cattle in the state will henceforth be mandated to pay a fee (N5,000) for registration as a business enterprise and make themselves available for verification.
Through this means, each herd can be associated with a known owner registered with the state authorities and any damages resulting from the activities of his cattle will be booked against the offender. For all the arguments that seek to portray the open grazing as the way of life of the herdsmen, there could not be a far more safe, secure and all-benefitting approach than treating cattle rearing as a business which the government must be involved in regulating, without over-incentivizing to the detriment of the community as a whole.