800 herdsmen arrested over violent attacks

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TEXAS, OCTOBER 30, 2016 – Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that no fewer than 800 suspected violent herdsmen have been arrested across the country by security agencies.

Osinbajo said this in Houston, Texas in the U.S. on Friday at a Townhall event where he interacted with US-based Nigerians, according to a statement, issued on Saturday, by his spokesperson Mr Laolu Akande.

The Vice President fielded about 30 live and internet questions at the event moderated by Mr Rudolf Okonkwo of Sahara Reporters and Prof. Nimi Wariboko of Boston University.

On the herdsmen attacks in certain states across the country he said the Federal Government was acting to curb the menace.

“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.

“There are about 800 of suspected violent herdsmen in the country that are currently in custody,” he said.

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 that the issue of killings by such violent herdsmen had been a perennial issue especially as grazing lands continued to disappear over the years and the cattle fed on peoples crops on the farmlands.

He clarified that the matter just did not crop up when President Buhari assumed office.

Osinbajo then cautioned against the tendency of interpreting the herdsmen issue as a religious issue, stressing that it was important for all Nigerians to refuse such divisive narratives and tendencies.

He reminded his audience that there had always been conflicts between herdsmen and communities across the country.

He said that people should disabuse the notion that the problem had just started because President Buhari, a Fulani, is currently at the helm of affairs in the country.

On community policing, the Vice President indicated that community policing via State Police is indeed a cardinal programme of the ruling APC.

He, however, noted that the party’s agenda could not be introduced until there was an amendment to the nation’s constitution.

He gave a scenario where a policeman from Bayelsa for instance was working in Borno where he could neither speak the language nor understand the culture of the people, noting that such was counterproductive.

“The current situation where police activities are controlled at the federal level sure has some limitations.

“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 his audience that impunity could be very dangerous in any sector.

He explained that the federal government was only exercising its executive function in attempting to check excesses.

He pointed out that the important thing was that due process was being followed as the judges were released about 24 hours after their arrest and once they had given their statements.

Osinbajo also responded to a question on the state of the nation’s economy and attributed the current recession to the loss of about 60 per cent of government revenue due to pipeline vandalism and endemic corruption.

He, however, stated that getting back oil production was a sure way to get out of the recession and the federal government was working to sort it out.

Answering question from the internet on when former President Goodluck Jonathan would be arrested, Osinbajo pointed out that the Buhari administration was not in the business of arresting just anyone anyhow.

He said all the Buhari administration did was to empower the security agencies and the anti-corruption agencies to do their jobs without executive interference.

He also added that the fight against corruption in the country was not fought on ethnic, hasty or premeditated grounds.

“Corruption is not an ethnic thing, there is an equal representation in the stealing as no one operates with his/her ethnic group alone.

“The culprits are in every case seen so far, united by greed to steal and not by ethnic or religious interest.”

He frowned at a situation where for instance as much as 15 billion dollars had disappeared from the national coffers into private pockets, pointing out that no responsible government would wave that aside.

Commenting on the nation’s decline in international sporting competitions occasioned by poor funding by the government, the Vice President said a long-term solution to inadequate funding of sports would be through private-sector involvement.

According to him, looking around countries that have excelled in international sporting competitions, the private sector in those countries are directly involved and that is exactly what should happen in Nigeria.

He expressed the hope that by the time companies and organizations took up sports sponsorship the tide would change for good.

Nigerians in Houston, Texas and other parts of the U.S. attended the town hall meeting which was preceded by a Nigeria Infrastructure summit which showcased opportunities for foreign investors in Nigeria.

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