A former military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, has defended President Muhammadu Buhari against allegations that hes tolerating the actions of killer herdsmen through his inaction.
Hundreds have been killed as cattle herders have severally clashed with local farming communities over the control of land, with most of the killings blamed on killer herdsmen.
The spate of killings have been blamed on the president who has been accused of not taking significant actions on the alleged perpetrators with whom he shares Fulani ethnicity.
In the aftermath of the killing of over 100 people in Plateau State in attacks allegedly carried out by herdsmen, President Buhari blamed the escalation of the conflict on politicians who are taking advantage of the crisis.
While paying a condolence visit to Plateau State on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, Gowon said it's impossible that Buhari will encourage the killing of Nigerians as being alleged.
"The Buhari I know will not be involved in such things. Certainly, no leader will encourage his people to be killed," he said.
Gowon also advocated that the perpetrators arrested in connection to the killings should be investigated and prosecuted in the state and not in Abuja as the military has suggested.
"People arrested should be investigated and prosecuted in Jos where the crime was committed," he said.
Herdsmen killings are political - Buhari, FG
President Buhari has had to defend himself against several allegations of encouraging attacks by Fulani herdsmen, protesting that such allegations are unfair.
His most recent defence came while speaking at a mega rally of the All Progressives' Congress (APC) in Ekiti State on Tuesday, July 10. The president said mischievous politicians have been wrongfully accusing him of failing to take action on the crisis because of his Fulani ethnicity.
He said contrary to the allegations, his administration is committed to protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians.
He said, "May I again clear the air on the issue of herdsmen and the farmers conflict. Many politicians in their mischievous attitude have been blackmailing me and the APC-led administration purporting that I have not taken any action on the issue because I am a Fulani man.
"The ill-achieved blackmail, like I said recently, the protection of lives and properties of Nigerians is my responsibilty. This I have vowed to do and will stick to the oath of office. I assure you that measures are being taken to ensure lasting solutions."
The presidency has, on several occasions, blamed politicians for fueling the crisis for political gain ahead of the 2019 general elections.
In a statement signed by the president's Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on July 8, he said the president has evidence that some of the killings that have been blamed on herdsmen are being sponsored by politicians.
During an interview on Arise TV on June 20, Buhari's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, blamed the federal government's political opposition for escalating killings allegedly carried out by herdsmen.
He said political detractors of the current administration have hijacked the conflict and sponsored attacks to discredit Buhari's achievements in strengthening security in the country.
Shehu made a similar accusation in April 2018 when he revealed that the federal government has evidence that most of attacks are being sponsored by politicians who are trying to blackmail the government.
Just days later, the Defence Headquarters also blamed the rise in the spate of killings carried out by suspected herdsmen as the handiwork of certain unnamed sponsors.
The Director, Defence Information, Brigadier-General John Agim, said, "The military is strategising on how to go after the herdsmen and their sponsors. We will get both the herdsmen and their sponsors. We want to say this to the killers and their sponsors that the military is coming for them. We are going to get both the killers and their sponsors very soon."
In May, President Buhari himself alleged that the spate of killings in Nigeria was being sponsored by certain individuals to start a war in the country for selfish reasons. He further remarked that attacks on locations like places of worship is an attempt to stoke conflict and turn Nigerians against one another on the basis of religion.
Herders and farmers have clashed for years over the battle for resources as roaming herdsmen tend to graze their cattle on farmlands, leading to tension and sometimes violence that leads to deaths of people on both sides.
Ever since herdsmen were blamed for the death of 73 people in attacks launched in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State in the opening days of January 2018, hundreds of people have been killed in similar attacks with Taraba and Benue bearing most of the brunt.