The pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere and its Ndigbo counterpart, Ohanaeze, have berated the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, for likening the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria to their groups.
Shehu had said the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria should not be criminalised because the Fulani group was in the same league with Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
He also defended the meeting between the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and the leadership of the Miyetti Allah, adding that the government needed the cooperation of Miyetti Allah to help in tackling weapons proliferation as the security situation in the country worsened.
But the two socio-political organisations said it was wrong to compare them with Miyetti Allah.
While Ohanaeze said it was in the same pedestal with the Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere on other hand described the comparison as unfortunate and unfair.
Shehu, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, urged Nigerians not to politicise the meeting as all stakeholders had a role to play in ensuring that the nation remained safe.
The police had come under fire recently for holding a meeting with the herders and urging them to assist in curbing the insecurity in the nation.
The President’s aide, however, said, “It is a mistake to say the Nigerian government is talking to bandits. The Miyetti Allah group is like the Ohanaeze and Afenifere. It is a socio-cultural group. There are criminals within the Yoruba race and you cannot say because of that Afenifere is a group of criminals.
“The Nigerian government is speaking with the leadership of the Fulani herders association, Miyetti Allah.”
When asked if it was true that the herders were offered N100m to help maintain peace, Shehu said, “That is 100 per cent untrue. I have confirmed that in all the meetings held, money was never discussed.
“All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of Miyetti Allah and getting them to prevail upon its members and they are many. We asked them to help assist the administration to recover weapons which were owned by a lot of these elements.”
Shehu said it did not directly translate to amnesty, adding that “it is a win-win situation for all because they also have their issues which they brought to the government and the more discussions take place, the more interesting it becomes.”
The President’s aide further stated that state governments would be involved in the talks.
He said some of the herders admitted that they were going into crime because they had been dispossessed of their cattle by rustlers.
Shehu added, “These things are being addressed and they are moving to the next stage. In states like Kogi, Benue, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina and Niger, they will be talking to the governors so that you can use them. They are available so that you can help the government to caution and control some of these things unfolding.”
In his response, however, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the Head of Human rights Writers Association of Nigeria, faulted the Presidency’s approach.
Onwubiko said Miyetti Allah had defended violence in the past and as such could not be said to be a peaceful organisation like Ohanaeze and Afenifere.
We’re on same pedestal with ACF, not Miyetti Allah – Ohanaeze
Also, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo said there was no justification for comparing the Pan-Igbo organisation with Miyetti Allah.
The organisation’s spokesman, Uche Achi-Okpaga, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Achi-Okpaga said it was bad for the presidential spokesman to compare a regional organisation committed to the unity of its people with “a group of criminals.”
He said the Ohanaeze Ndigbo could only be compared with the Arewa Consultative Forum in the North, Afenifere in the South-West and other regional organisations.
He said, “There is no justification for such comparison. It is a bad comparison. If he is comparing Miyetti Allah with Ohanaeze, then what is Arewa Consultative Forum compared to?
“Ohanaeze is a regional body that is promoting the unity of the Igbo; so also is Afenifere to the Yoruba and the ACF to northerners. We also have the Middle Belt Forum in the North-Central and PANDEF for the South-South.
“You can never put Ohanaeze and Miyetti Allah on the same pedestal. Even at that, Miyetti Allah members are herdsmen who are tormenting Nigerians and you are hobnobbing with them, what are you telling Nigerians?
“These people are invading villages, killing people, and you are telling us that they are on the same page with Ohanaeze. There is no justification for that.
“This is an organisation that the Global Terrorist Index has described as the world’s fourth deadly terrorist organisation.
“Where is the money the government has agreed to give them coming from? From which sub-head will it come? Does the President have the power to just give out money to any organisation that comes to negotiate with him?
“These people are just negotiating with criminals. We are in a state of lawlessness.”
Comparison unfortunate, unfair, says Afenifere
In its reaction, the Afenifere socio-cultural group berated Shehu for the categorisation which it described as unfortunate and unfair.
The group’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said Afenifere could not be likened to the Miyetti Allah which he said was responsible for killings and bloodshed across the country.
He argued that the Federal Government’s decision to meet with the Miyetti Allah leadership over the rising violence and criminality across the country highlighted the type of people that made up the group.
Odumakin said, “We are surprised that the spokesperson (Shehu) was talking like someone under the influence of drugs. In Afenifere, we don’t kill, we don’t abduct people. How can you compare us to a group of people who have been killing in Enugu, Benue, Ogun and other states?
“Why did the government meet Miyetti Allah as part of plans to stop banditry and kidnapping in the country? Why didn’t they meet Afenifere? We reject that categorisation. For anyone to compare us to a group of Fulani herdsmen which had been described by the global terror index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world is most unfair and very unfortunate.”
Miyetti Allah not like Afenifere, says Fani-Kayode
Also, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has lambasted the Presidency for saying that the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria is like Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other socio-cultural groups.
In his reaction, however, Fani-Kayode noted that Fulani herdsmen were listed as being among the most dangerous elements on the Global Terrorism Index.
He said, “No, they (Miyetti Allah) are not (like Afenifere). They are an association of butchers of cows and men. They are the purveyors of violence, the custodians of falsehood and the repositories of evil. They are as perfidious as they are dangerous!
“They are an umbrella organisation of dark, callous, bloodthirsty and merciless men that seek to legitimise, shield and protect the Fulani herdsmen, the fourth most deadly terrorist organisation in the world.”
– The Punch