The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, on Thursday described the blockage of grazing routes across the country as the remote cause of recent killings especially in Benue and Taraba states.
He also identified the implementation of anti-grazing law in some states as the immediate cause of the killings.
Dan-Ali spoke with State House correspondents at the end of a meeting of the National Security Council presided over by President Muhamamdu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the recent killings formed part of discussions at the meeting and the proposed National Commission on Proliferation of Arms was one of the steps being taken by the Federal Government to tackle the violence.
The minister said, “Whatever crisis that happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote cause of this farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s independence, we know there used to be a route whereby the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation.
“If you go to Bayelsa or Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law.
“These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with one another. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave. Finish!”
Asked if he was justifying the killings because of the blockage of the routes, the minister said, “I have told you that the remote cause is part of the grazing law. Since independence, there are clear routes where these people pass.
“On the issue of arms, they are all over. In those killings you are talking about, there are also militias that did the killings. Some people were caught with arms and they call themselves Forest Guards or whatever with AK47.
“There is nowhere in this country where arms are allowed to be carried apart from legitimate security forces.
“So, anybody carrying any arm is doing so illegally. Militias were caught in the same land doing the same killings, so the killings are not done by any particular group, it is a communal issue.”
Asked which one should Nigerians believe between his position and the government’s earlier position that the killings were done by foreign terrorists, Dan-Ali said, “Of course, that is why I said they are militias. Militias are part of illegal immigrants. They are the people.”
The minister said the meeting also featured discussion on the stringent conditions imposed by the United States government for the sale of 12 Super Tucano A29 planes and other weapons worth $495m to Nigeria.
He said while the US government insisted that the payment must be made by February 20, it also maintained that the aircraft could only be available in 2020.
Apart from that, he said the US government had also stopped Nigerian personnel from being sent to understudy the production process of the aircraft as Nigeria did in the case of other countries.
The minister said the council had approved that the Ministry of Defence met with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, to iron out the contentious issues.
He said, “The contract include cost which is $494m to acquire the Super Tucano A29 plans as well as training, where the facilities will be accommodated and continuous servicing among others.
“Some of the stringent measures include that we will start having them from 2020, which is two years from now. They are also thinking of not allowing our technicians to be part of the production inspection.
“But this is what we normally do in all the defence contracts: we send our personnel to go and understudy especially when it comes to specialised aircraft like in Russia, our personnel are permanently based where the production is being done for this MI35 helicopters.”