Following condemnation from various quarters including his colleagues, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State has clarified comments he made justifying Fulani herdsmen carrying Ak-47 rifles for self-defence.
Recall that Bala Mohammed had said Fulani herdsmen carry firearms to protect themselves against cattle rustlers who attack, kill and take away their possessions.
The Bauchi governor slammed the South-west for refusing to accommodate herdsmen.
He noted that the north has over the years accommodated westerners, stressing that Fulani herdsmen have the right to live anywhere as Nigerians.
In a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media, Mukhtar Gidado, Mohammed said the primary objective of his comment was to avert the dangerous prospect of a nation-wide backlash and generalization of the Fulani clan as criminals.
The statement read: “The attention of the Bauchi State government has been drawn to reactions from various members of the public to gov. Mohammed’s speech, at the closing ceremony of the Press Week of the Correspondent’s Chapel of the NUJ in Bauchi State, last Thursday.
“The Governor used the occasion to weigh in on the contentious issue of clashes between herdsmen and farmers, particularly against the backdrop of the eviction and other forms of restriction orders, issued by some state governments and non-governmental entities.
“The primary objective of the Governor was to avert the dangerous prospect of a nation-wide backlash as tempers flared and given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration, is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria.
“By extension, the Governor made it abundantly clear that it will be inappropriate to label anyone tribe based on the crimes of a few members of the ethnic group.”
Gidado stated that the Bauchi governor’s reference to AK47 was simply to put in perspective the predicament and desperation of those law-abiding Fulani herdsmen who, while carrying out their legitimate cow-rearing business, have become serial victims of cattle rustling, banditry, kidnapping and assassination.
He said these were the people who, in the absence of any protection from the security agencies, are forced to resort to self-help, to defend both their means of livelihood and their lives.
“As a Constitutionalist which, he has proved over time, all through his political career, gov. Mohammed will be the last person to advocate a subversion of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He did not do so in the past; he will not do so today,” Gidado said.
Speaking further, he said Mohammed’s description of forests, as “no man’s land” is a carry-over from his own geo-political environment where a pastoralist could set up camp, in any forest, for a few weeks without causing any uproar or opposition.
“To interpret such a temporary stay as a form of ‘land grab’ by the Fulani herdsmen is completely incorrect.
”In actual fact, neither does such temporary habitation of the forest inconvenience anyone nor does the itinerant Fulani sojourner, bother anyone about his plight in the forest characterised by life without access to electricity, pipe borne water, good roads or hospitals.
“On the contrary, Mohammed is very familiar with the Land Use Act, including the criteria for land acquisition and cannot, therefore, seek to undermine the statute which, as governor, he has sworn to uphold,” he said.
He stated that all those vilifying Gov. Mohammed should instead tackle governors whose lack of restraint is responsible for the escalation of this crisis.