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Plateau Killings Buhari insists herdsmen only carry sticks, machetes during Jos visit

He said his administration has made notable successes in the security sector despite obvious setbacks.

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Buhari warns Nigerians to stop travelling abroad illegally play President Muhammadu Buhari during his condolence visit to Plateau State (Facebook/Femi Adesina)

President Muhammadu Buhari has once again insisted that Fulani herdsmen, who have been accused of killing hundreds of people in several attacks, only carry sticks or machetes while herding their cattle.

The president said this while meeting with stakeholders in Plateau State in the wake of the gruesome killing of at least 100 people in the state on Saturday, June 23, 2018.

The president arrived in Jos on Tuesday, June 26, following widepread criticism by Nigerians and political opposition for sending Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to the troubled state on Monday, June 25, instead of going himself.

Muslim Fulani herdsmen were reported to have killed dozens of people in several communities in Plateau on Saturday, leading to subsequent retaliation by locals who reportedly targeted Muslims in some communities.

On Monday,  Buhari blamed the escalation of the herders-farmers conflict on politicians who are taking advantage of the crisis for political gains in the upcoming 2019 elections.

While addressing state leaders on Tuesday, he reiterated his previous claims that herdsmen only herd their cattle with sticks and/or machetes to clear the bush. He also displayed irritation for claims that he should talk to the perpetrators because he shares the same ethnic background with them.

He said, "Whatever is being given to the media, we have to be very responsible about it. Take for instance the situation in Benue. The Benue subsistence farmer knows that the Nigerian cattle herder that he knows doesn't carry nothing more than a stick, occasionally sometimes something to cut grass to feed his cattle.

"But the present herder, I am told, carries AK-47 and people are even blaming me for not talking to them because maybe (they say) I look like one of them. There is some injustice in these aspersions."

The president further said that Nigerians still acknowledge that despite the security challenges, his administration has made notable successes in the security sector.

He used the occasion to urge traditional rulers, community and religious leaders, representatives of youth, women and trade union groups, security chiefs and some top government officials to appeal to Nigerians to avoid inflammatory utterances that endanger peace or promote conflicts.

He disclosed that he's putting pressure on law enforcement agencies to put an end to the killings that have ravaged the country in the past six months.

"I will continue to pressurise members of the law enforcement agencies directly under me by the Constitution as the Commander-in Chief," he said.

He also condoled with the families affected by the spate of killings in Plateau and wished those injured a speedy recovery.

Buhari and stick-wielding herdsmen

In the face of gruesome killings blamed on AK-47-wielding herdsmen, President Buhari has claimed on many occasions that they only carry sticks and machetes.

While meeting with United States president, Donald Trump, in April, he told him that herders who have been largely blamed for the killings don't carry AK-47 rifles as claimed, but sticks and machetes.

In an interview just the next day, the president said the fact that Zamfara State has witnessed more killings than in herdsmen-troubled Benue and Taraba combined proves that the attributions are merely mischievous.

He said, "Those making these allegations against the herdsmen know that herdsmen, as we know them only carry sticks, going about with guns is a new thing and those making the allegations know that conflict between farmers and herders has a long history even before we were born.

"Therefore, it is wrong to say the conflict is between Fulani and Tiv or other tribes, like in Taraba. What of Zamfara, where more people were killed than in Taraba and Benue put together?

"People need to understand that it is mischief that makes people to bring in religion or ethnicity."

He said a similar thing weeks earlier in response to a question from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a meeting between the two at the Abuja House in London.

"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," he said.

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