Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has urged the National Assembly to enact a law to provide for “compulsory military training or military service for citizens” so that they can defend themselves against attacks by herdsmen.

Falana said the step was necessary since the government has lost monopoly of violence to criminal gangs and life has become totally cheap and unsafe in the country.

He was speaking on Wednesday at the 60th birthday colloquium in honour of Kunle Ajibade held at Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Falana accused the Federal Government of knowing the solution to killings by herdsmen yet ignoring it.

“Since the Government has lost monopoly of violence to criminal gangs and life has become totally cheap and unsafe in the country it is high time that the National Assembly enacted a law to provide for compulsory military training or military service for citizens of Nigeria without any delay,” he said.

“And pending the enactment of the law the governments of Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states should request the President to maintain adequate facilities in some institutions for giving military training to citizens whose lives have become endangered. This call is in line with the provisions of section 220 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended. 

“With respect to the killing by herdsmen the federal government knows the solution but has refused to embrace it. As far back as 2016, about 55,000 hectares of land were acquired in about 11 states for ranching. But instead of implementing the policy the federal government has been toying with the backward idea of cattle colony. 

“Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army which has a ranch at Giri in the federal capital territory has offered to establish more ranches in other parts of the country. The offer of the Army has been ignored. The Kano state government which has ranches and grazing zones has also offered to accommodate all herdsmen who have been displaced in Benue and Taraba states. The offer has equally been treated with disdain without any justification. However, to put an end to the violent clashes between farmers and herdsmen all relevant stakeholders should liaise with the Kano state government with a view to establishing a number of ranches.”

Lamenting the huge death toll of herdsmen attacks on civilians, he said: “In spite of repeated assurances of the federal government to ensure the security of life and property of every person living in Nigeria it has been confirmed that not less than 1,400 unarmed civilians have been killed in Benue state by armed herdsmen and armed gangs between January and May, 2018. The figures of casualties in Nasarawa and Zamfara states are said to be higher. 

“Although the satanic Boko Haram sect is said to have been substantially defeated it has continued to massacre scores of people through bomb attacks in schools, markets and mosques in the north east region. In the same vein, armed bandits have embarked on mass killing of people in some local governments in Kaduna and Zamfara states in the north west region. Armed robbery and kidnapping are regular occurrences in all the 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory.” 

He expressed conviction in the possibility of a bright future for Nigeria, but said it can only be possible if the members of the political class are compelled to abandon politics of money and the manipulation of ethnicity and religion. 

“Nigerian journalists like Kunle Ajibade and his colleagues should force all political aspirants to address serious issues during the forthcoming political campaign. In particular, they must extract commitment from the political class to implement the fundamental objectives enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution. Section 14 thereof provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. To actualize that political objective it is stated in section 16 that the economy shall be planned and managed by the government to promote national prosperity and happiness,” he said.

He congratulated the celebrant but urged him and his colleagues to do more in holding Nigerian leaders to account.

“I congratulate Kunle Ajibade on the occasion of his 60th birthday anniversary. He is lucky to be alive today because he had engaged in many risky ventures in the struggle for a better Nigeria. When Professor Wole Soyinka said about 30 years ago that his was a wasted generation Kunle never believed that his own generation would also be wasted. But since Kunle is still alive and active we urge him to team up with other patriots to arrest the imminent collapse of our country,” he said.

“Through its highly reliable sources The News magazine had confirmed in 1995 that the maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha wanted to be crowned as a civilian president. For exposing the plot to rope some retired and serving military officers into a phantom coup in a bid to eliminate any form of opposition the brutal dictator ordered the arrest of the editors of the magazine. 

“Even though did not write the story that provoked the dictator Kunle was the only editor in the office when the security forces invaded the premises of the magazine. He was arrested, detained, tried with three other colleagues, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. But he and others regained their freedom when the dictator was killed in a palace coup three and a half years later. We are celebrating Kunle today because he survived the dehumanizing prison conditions which claimed the precious lives of many other convicts.”

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