The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud OON, SAN has said that the continued attack by herdsmen in various states of the nation is as a result of the non-implementation of past recommendations on how to deter recurrence of violence which has created a culture of impunity over the years and which needs to be fully addressed.
The President was speaking in Makurdi, Benue State on 19th day of January,2018 where he led a team on a two day Fact Finding Mission over the killings in Benue State by suspected herdsmen.
To be properly briefed, the NBA team had a meeting with NBA members from the various branches in the state.
In his preliminary remarks, President A. B. Mahmoud noted that the gruesome image of the massacre was indeed disturbing and extended the Association’s condolence to the victims and the people of Benue State.
“We have seen some of the gruesome images and we are deeply disturbed, so we came here to commiserate with our colleagues, the people and Government of Benue state and also to extend our condolences and demonstrate our sympathies and support to the victims of this heinous attacks”
He explained that from the initial briefings from experts who were familiar with the situation, his team learnt that the escalation in the crisis in recent years had bred public mistrust, widespread anger and frustration.
The NBA President noted that the non-implementation of past recommendations on how to deter recurrence of violence, created a culture of impunity over the years, which needed to be fully addressed.
There is a need, he added, for stakeholders, particularly members of the bar, to live up to their calling and avoid emotive statements that will add no value in finding a lasting peaceful solution.
As a medium term measure, he suggested the need for neutral intermediaries to support the government’s measures in the areas of engaging with stakeholders and improving communication.
The Chairman of Makurdi Branch of the NBA, Emmanuel Agbakor, Esq. praised the NBA team for its initiative and said the incessant killings in Benue is a serious cause for concern.
Chief Ofodile Okafor SAN, noted that, Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources and the crises is avoidable if only we have a government that truly care about the sanctity of lives and property of its citizenry. He urged the NBA, as a matter of public interest, to institute litigation process against the Federal Government on behalf of the Nigeria masses.
J. S. Okutepa SAN, in his submission wondered why no person has been arrested and prosecuted to serve as an example, despite the recurrent crises. He believed, this is an indication that the country is descending into a lawless state, which emboldens the criminals to continue killing people. Maimuna Ibubolan Esq, urged the NBA to champion the cause for compensation for victims.
After the interaction with bar in the state, the team headed to the government House, Makurdi where they were received by the Executive Governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Samuel Ortom and members of his cabinet.
The NBA President in his opening remark summarized the mission of the NBA Team thus:
“Your Excellency our visit to Benue has three broad objectives. One is to commiserate with you and the people of Benue State and offer our sympathy and support. The Bar Association has consistently been an advocate of rule of law, and we have always condemned violence, the fact that this incidents continued to happen is unacceptable, we felt we must come over and expressed our concern”
“The second broad mission is to interact with community leaders, try to get sense of what is really going on, so that, the Bar Association can within its resources and within its abilities be able to contribute to long term solutions to this spate of killings in the country.”
The third broad objective is to appeal to all affected stakeholders to work together and bring about lasting peace in the country.”
Governor Ortom thanked the NBA team for its visit and said the narrative in the media that the recent killings was as a result of the anti-grazing law enacted by the state is not true.
He mentioned that, the State conducted three public hearings on the anti-grazing bill and invited all stakeholders, including Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association who promised to make inputs, but refused to do so for reasons only known to them. The Governor told the NBA team that the bill was assented to on the 22nd of May 2017, with the commencement date delayed for six month being 1st of November, 2017. He stated that the leadership of Miyetti Allah demanded for extension of time within which to make the law operational but the state government refused the request.
The Governor emphasized two elements that contributed to the crises. “The first is the criminal aspect; where criminals rustle cows from herdsmen, and the herdsmen come back to exert vengeance on innocent souls living in proximity to where the cattle are rustled, and the second element is the fear of land grab.”
He wondered why open statements of intended aggression against the state by members of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association had not been investigated and arrests effected.
The NBA President also presided over a town hall meeting with community leaders and relevant stakeholders and there after visited the affected communities. Details of this would be published subsequently.
The President was on the mission with: Chief Ofodile Okafor SAN, Dr. Garba Tetengi Mni, J. S. Okutepa SAN, former Commissioner of Justice and leader of the bar in Benue State; John Ortega SAN, First Vice President of the NBA; Caleb Dejan Esq, Welfare Officer; Adeshina Adegbite Esq, First Assistant Secretary of the NBA; Okey Leo Ohagba, Esq, Financial Secretary of the NBA; Mrs. Ngozi Udoji and National Publicity Secretary; John Nwachukwu Austin Esq. Other members of the team include Chief of Staff to the NBA President; Muritala Abdul-Rasheed Esq, Ag. Executive Director of the NBA, Salamatu Sidi, Assistant Director Bar Services, Mrs. Sarah Ajijiola. The team also include three resource persons, Prof. Godwin Abu, Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim and Dr. Shankyula Samuel Terso.