President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted that gun-wielding herdsmen are not Nigerians, blaming the surge in killings in parts of the country on foreigners who escaped through porous borders.
Buhari’s position was similar to those advanced by senior government officials, including the Minister of Defense, Mansur Dan-Ali, in the past, who maintained that killer herdsmen are not Nigerians.
Receiving in audience the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby in Abuja House London on Wednesday, Buhari who said the clash between farmer and herdsmen preceded his administration, however, noted that it got worse when armed bandits poured into the country.
Buhari identified the gunmen responsible for killings in parts of the country to be remnant of those trained and armed by fallen Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi regime, assuring his guest of efforts to end the menace.
“The problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region,” Buhari told the revered priest.
“These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gadaffi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms.” he added.
Explaining that the armed herdsmen are no different from Boko Haram, the dreaded sect that have killed over 15,000 people since 2019, Buhari detailed instances where the country’s security forces engaged killer herdsmen during the fight against Boko Haram.
He noted that the usual herdsmen only bears sticks and a times, cutlass, to navigate the bush, adding that killer herdsmen bears sophisticated weapons that raises suspicious on their real identity.
“We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram,” he noted, explaining that “Herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but these ones now carry sophisticated weapons.”
“The problem is not religious, but sociological and economic. But we are working on solutions.”
He, however, frowned at what he described as “irresponsible politics” that has been brought into the farmers/herders crisis, but assured that enduring solutions would be found, and justice done to all concerned.
On Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl from Dapchi still being held by Boko Haram, after she reportedly refused to renounce her Christian faith, Buhari told his guest that the government is making efforts to reunite her with her family but that it was an issue that doesn’t require making noise.
In a scenario reminisce the Chibok schoolgirls abduction, Miss Sharibu and her colleagues from Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state, were on February 10, taken away from their school by Boko Haram.
While five girls were confirmed to have died, Boko Haram returned the remaining schoolgirls after a negotiation with the government, except for Miss Sharibu, who was held back by the insurgents, because her decision to hold on to her faith.
Engaging his guest on efforts by the government to secure her release, Buhari said “We are managing the matter quietly.”
“Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organizations.
“There are too many fraudulent people around, who claim they can do this and that. We won’t deal with them. That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls.”
In his own remark, Archbishop Welby admitted his delight at seeing Buhari, declaring that he is “whom I have tremendous respect for”.
Commenting on the president’s decision to seek re-election in 2019, the revered priest said he (Buhari) have his best wishes and that he will pray for him.
“You have my best wishes on your recent decision,” he told Buhari, who seem to have grown fond of the clergyman.
“I read your declaration speech. We are neutral as a church, but we will pray for you. Great statesmen are those who run for the good of their country. We will be praying for you.”
The Archbishop presented President Buhari with a copy of his recent book, ‘Reimagining Britain. Foundations for Hope.’