President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday that the killer herdsmen who have been responsible for the wanton killings in Nigeria were trained and armed by the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi. According to him, while the problem of killings in Nigeria predates his administration, it became worse following the influx of armed gunmen from Sahel region to different parts of the West African sub-region.
President Buhari spoke when he received the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in London where he had travelled on Monday for an official working visit ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
Responding to comment from his guest on the farmers/herders clashes in different parts of Nigeria, the president said, “The problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region.
“These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram.
“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. But we are working on solutions.”
A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, also quoted Buhari as lamenting that “irresponsible politics” has been brought into the farmers/herders’ crisis, assuring however that enduring solutions would be found and justice done to all concerned.
President Buhari also explained why he declared his intentions to run for another term in office on Monday during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC), saying he bowed to pressure from Nigerians who had over flogged issue of his re-election bid.
He said, “I declared before leaving home because Nigerians were talking too much about whether I would run or not. So, I felt I should break the ice. We have many things to focus on, like security, agriculture, economy, anti-corruption, and many others.
“We needed to concentrate on them, and politics should not be a distraction. The majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing, and that is why I am re-contesting.”
Recounting some successes of the administration to his Archbishop Delby, with whom he has built a deep friendship in recent times, the Nigerian leader was quite particular about strides in agriculture.
“We have cut the importation of rice by about 90%, saving billions of dollars in the process. People who rushed into petrol money have now gone back to agriculture. Even professionals have gone back to the land. Nigeria should be able to feed itself comfortably soon. I am so pleased,” he said.
On the war against insurgency, Buhari stressed the need for continuous education of the people, “so that they can be free from religious manipulation,” adding that no true religion advocates the hurting or killing of the innocent.
On Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl from Dapchi still being held by insurgents, reportedly because she refused to renounce her Christian faith, the President said, “We are managing the matter quietly. Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organizations.
“There are too many fraudulent people around, who claim they can do this and that. We won’t deal with them. That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls.”
On his part, Archbishop Welby said it was always a delight to see President Buhari whom he has “tremendous respect for.
“You have my best wishes on your recent decision. I read your declaration speech. We are neutral as a church, but we will pray for you. Great statesmen are those who run for the good of their country. We will be praying for you,” the cleric added. The Archbishop presented President Buhari with a copy of his recent book, ‘Reimagining Britain. Foundations for Hope.’