The Presidency on Monday said “thousands of” herdsmen are being tried and convicted across the country for illegal activities.
President Muhammadu Buhari has faced criticism for taking a soft approach to the herdsmen crisis based on ethnic affiliations.
Most herdsmen are Fulani, the same ethnicity as the President.
But speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Monday, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said there is no substance to such criticism.
“I hope that the police will take responsibility and publish the full list of Fulani herders who are undergoing trial in various states, particularly in Benue State,” Mr. Shehu said. “Trials are going on, convictions are being made and the President cannot be complicit in the kind of things that are being said of him.”
Mr. Shehu also said the President is fully aware of the country’s security situation and is working to ensure the safety of lives and properties.
“The President is more than concerned about the ongoing situation,” he said “And he is fully conscious of the fact that it is the responsibility of his government to work with all Nigerians to secure lives and stop the ongoing crises, whether they are kidnapping or ethnic hatred and violence. He condemns it.
“It is for community leaders – local, traditional, and elected – to work with the President.
“The country’s military, as we speak, is overstretched because they are active in at least 34 of the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT.
“The Air Force, the police, they are recruiting, day and night; people are being trained in special operations and are being sent to the forest.”
‘Condemn Violent Herdsmen’
Earlier on the show, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe had accused the President of treating criminal Fulani herdsmen with kid gloves.
“The President needs to come out and say I do not support these types of actions, these criminal elements,” Abaribe said. “He has to come out and everybody sees that he is owning this problem.”
But “We have never heard it,” he added. “Where did the President ever say that these criminal herdsmen will never be tolerated in this country? What we’ve heard from 2016 all the way down is ‘live in peace with your neighbour’ and ‘try to accommodate your countrymen’ and stuff of that nature.
“And that now enables those who are committing these crimes, that there is no punishment.
“And when you see the rest of the country, eruptions here and there, all targetted at a particular segment of people, you should be very worried. And why you should be very worried is, what is it that gives these people the impetus to continue to commit these crimes?”
Abaribe is ‘Uncharitable’
Mr. Shehu disagreed that the President has not condemned the herdsmen’s violence.
“When Femi Adesina or myself speak for the President, people should accept that it is the President that is speaking,” he said.
“For this President, it is the actions that should speak for him. He is not a showman. He doesn’t have to be there.
“And let’s be understood, we are not trying to personalise anything. Senator Abaribe dwelt a lot, attacking President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that he has not, even at a rhetorical level, spoken against this kind of violence.
“That is most uncharitable. This country has problems. It requires the involvement of everyone. All hands must be on deck.”