By Kingsley Chukwuka
The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong has said he is not justifying the carrying of arms by either herdsmen or farmers.
Lalong said during the investigation of the fall out between herders and farmers it was revealed that not only herders carry AK-47, but farmers also do.
According to him: “Herdsmen would also want to keep away from carrying AK-47. I’m not justifying anybody to carry AK-47 but don’t forget that in the course of our deliberations and investigations, it was not only Fulani herdsmen that were carrying AK-47, even farmers were carrying AK-47”, Lalong said.
He however condemned the bearing of arms by herdsmen and called for strong measures to end the ugly trend. He lamented that there are many non-state actors who are in possession of arms, a situation that must be addressed.
Lalong who spoke on Channels TV programme Sunrise Daily on Tuesday said he was the first Governor to reject the Rural Grazing Area Program, commonly referred to as RUGA, given reasons that it was a strange concept that came after the National Economic Council’s recommendation of the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP).
“The NLTP was thoroughly debated, scrutinised and adopted as a very comprehensive and inclusive idea to tackle herder-farmer clashes and other associated challenges.
“Because the RUGA initiative did not have the buy in of stakeholders and fell short of addressing the concerns of most Governors, it was not possible to embrace it, rather it further fueled the misconception over the NLTP which is neither for one ethnic group nor meant for land grabbing.
“To start with, RUGA literally sneaked in for reasons we did not understand. For me as Governor of Plateau State, I just heard that they have erected signposts in some sites within some local Governments. How can you earmark such a project without my knowledge and buy-in of the people in my State? I had no interest in it because it was far below the NLTP which was more robust and passed through a series of engagements with critical stakeholders.
“We subscribed to the NLTP because of the fact that it will carry along many groups and individuals involved in Livestock business and its associated value chains. These include farmers, herders and other people involved in processing of meat and packaging. There is also a provision for other animals such as sheep goats, pigs, and others.
“Plateau was chosen as one of the pilot States having earmarked the Wase and Kanam Grazing reserves, reiterated that the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP) will go a long way is addressing many of the issues associated with the activities of herdsmen which have led to clashes with farmers and other crimes”, he said.
Reacting, the National Coordinator, National Prayer Network Amb. John Pofi said it is unbecoming of a Chief Executive of a State whose peace is being threatened and people are being killed in their numbers on a daily basis to make such a statement.
According to him, “It is rather unfortunate hearing this from a Governor who has failed woefully in protecting the poor and innocent farmers and other citizens in the State who are attacked, harassed, raped and killed on a daily basis.
“The same people he is accusing of carrying arms are poor people who can hardly afford two meals a day yet are being accused of buying and carrying AK-47 that are far beyond their financial reach”, Pofi said.