Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State says bandits terrorising the country are made up of criminal elements from different ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Mohammed, who lamented the profiling of Fulani herdsmen as bandits, said both the Yorubas and Igbos are also involved in banditry.
Speaking on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ programme monitored by PlatinumPost on Friday in Abuja, the governor said Nigeria must unite to fight the criminals irrespective of their ethnic affiliation.
His words: “To every Nigeria in the South bandits are just Fulanis and herdsmen, it is wrong. They are not….
“These bandits are not only Fulani, in fact, they are terrorising the Fulani. They have Fulani miscreants within them, they have Hausas, they have Igbo suppliers, they have Yoruba, they have people benefiting from illicit trade.
“So banditry is not restricted to Fulani. We should not be fighting ourselves ( because of their activity) is the point I am trying to make. They are criminals and should be dealt with.”
The governor, who threw light on his recent comment that herdsmen can carry AK47 for self-defence, said the statement was a mere figure of speech, but expressed the need for innocent herders to protect themselves from attack.
“The Fulani man is so exposed, dehumanised, demonised in fact, because he is being seen as a bandit and so, anywhere he goes, he is being pursued. Not only in the southwest or the southeast, even in the north because he is in the cattle route, his commonwealth which I call his cows, are being taken and rustled and of course, sometimes, they are fined beyond your imagination.
“If one cow strays into the farm because the cattle route has been taken away illegally without the authority giving permission, he will be fined seriously, mercilessly.
“And so, he is exposed and then he has no option but to protect himself. We have so many vigilante groups in Nigeria even at the level of government, subregional groups, sub nationals are establishing vigilante groups to make sure that their communities are protected. Why wouldn’t the Fulani man protect himself? And if he carries a gun in order to protect himself, it may not be a legal carriage, it may be legal. He may also register and carry it to protect himself,” he said.
While lamenting that Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has destroyed the good relationship between the Tivs and Fulani people, Mohammed also expressed concern on the recent action of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State in attempting to evict herdsmen from the state.
“Land is in the hands of the state and federal governments in trust but Nigerians don’t need the permission of governors or the federal government to settle everywhere. You don’t need the permission of the governor of Bauchi or the governor of Ondo to be in the forests of Ondo if you choose to live in the forests because under Section 41 of the constitution, you are free to settle anywhere, ” he said.
Speaking further, the former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, called for the arrest and prosecution of individuals fomenting crisis in the country, including Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho, who he accused of attacking Fulani people in Oyo and Ogun states.
The Bauchi governor, also expressed opposition to amnesty for bandits, saying every criminal must be ready to face the full wrath of the law.
“These people are criminals and bandits, they should be dealt with, they should be tried and they can be killed because they are killing people,” he said.