The minister said the killings in Zamfara prove that there are no religious or ethnic motives behind them.
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.
While speaking during an interview with TheCable, the minister illustrated why it was dangerous to escalate the crisis with deliberate manipulations, noting that the problem is not peculiar to Nigeria.
He said that herdsmen, who have been mostly believed to be Muslim Fulanis, are affected by the killings as much as farmers which confirms his position that the killings have nothing to do with religion or ethnicity like many have suggested.
He said, "What's happening in Nigeria is not unique. Pastoralists and farmers are always having these problems. I'll just give you two instances to convince you that what's happening has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity.
"Zamfara has lost more people to cattle rustling than Taraba and Benue State put together. Yet, the cattle rustlers are Muslims and Fulanis and the victims are also Muslims and Fulanis, so how do you factor religion there?
"Or take Kebbi state where 70% of those who are in Kebbi prison today are as a result of herdsmen/farmers clash; yet, both groups, farmers and herdsmen, are Muslims and Fulanis. We should please stop playing very dangerous politics with religion and ethnicity.
"Why is it that when there are killings in Zamfara, they call them 'bandits', but when there are killings in Benue, they call them 'herdsmen'? We should be very careful because we have no country but Nigeria."
During the interview, he also criticised comments that display a lack of understanding of the crisis between cattle herders and farmers.
With the federal government recently unveiling a plan that will cost N179 billion over a 10-year period to improve livestock production in the country and put an end to herders/farmers conflicts, Mohammed said it is time for herdsmen to adopt ranching as the way forward.
"In the short term, Nigeria has deployed police, air force and army to the troubled spots but in the long term, we must embrace technology. Herdsmen must adopt ranching, farmers must adopt best practices," he said.
The government's proposed ranching solution will supposedly improve genetic material of indigenous cattle for milk and meat production; improve reproductive performance of indigenous cattle; provide critical market access infrastructure; and create better linkages between smallholder livestock producers and investors for agricultural technology adoption and support for value addition. It is also hoped that it will foster sustained peace and harmony between farmers and herders.
During an interview on Arise TV on Wednesday, June 20, President Muhammadu 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 all over the country for political gain.
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.
President Buhari's Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba 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."
More recently 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.