Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana

Lawyer and activist Femi Falana (SAN) has said that former President Olusegun Obasanjo view that Boko Haram is about Fulanisation of Nigeria and other West African countries must have been influenced by social media.

Rather, he told newsmen in an interview that Boko Haram is out to Islamise West Africa, insisting that Obasanjo got it wrong when he said it was all about Fulanisation.

Former President Obasanjo had stated this in a keynote address titled, “Mobilizing Nigeria’s human and natural resources for national development and stability” delivered at the 2019 Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), held in Oleh, Isoko South council area of Delta State.

Falana disagreed with Obasanjo on the issue, contending: “as majority of the members of the sect are of the Kanuri ethnic nationality, it has nothing to do with Fulanisation of West Africa or Africa as alleged by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. But the dreaded group is out to Islamise West Africa.”

“I have recently read in the social media that the Fulani herders have invaded the south west region and have created not less than 1,300 cells in the forests. I want to believe that Chief Obasanjo’s latest outburst was informed by such campaign in the social media”, he said.

Falana observed that the crisis of insecurity is worse in the northern part of the country than the south, notwithstanding the allegations of Fulanisation and Islamisation of the country.

“I believe that it is the unpardonable failure of the federal government to address the crisis of insecurity in the country that has led to the diversionary campaign of stigmatizing the criminal elements that have subjected the people in all states of the federation to intimidation”, he said.

He advised the federal government and the various state governments to address the serious security challenge facing the country by funding the police to secure the life and property of every person living in Nigeria.

He recalled that Boko Haram sect emerged through the criminal negligence of the federal government under former President Obasanjo’s watch.

He said the development led to the emergence of many groups of young people, including the Boko Haram sect, to enforce the Sharia law and turned Nigeria into an Islamic state.

To ensure security and welfare of the people, he said Buhari administration has an urgent duty to deal decisively with the menace of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, poverty and reckless looting of the treasury by unpatriotic public officers to prevent anarchy in the country.

Falana said the nation needs fresh ideas to combat terrorism and Boko Haram.

He advised the federal government to equip and upgrade the capacity of the armed forces to defend the nation’s territorial integrity.

He regretted that while Boko Haram sect is preaching the ideology of hate the federal government is yet to come up with a plan to demystify the sect and expose its fake ideology to the youths.

On curtailing activities of herdsmen, he insisted on ranching as the best way out.

According to him, ” it is primitive to be talking of grazing routes and anti grazing laws in this age and time. I expect serious minded leaders to embark on the establishment of ranches in Nigeria instead of whipping up ethnic and religious sentiments.“

He listed countries that are successfully practicing ranching in Africa to include Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Botswana among others.

“In those African countries herders and cattle are restricted to the ranches. It may interest you to know that Botswana has a population of 1.2 million people but the cattle population is 2.8 million. But with ranches Botswana is the largest producer and exporter of meat in Africa”, he noted.

He recalled: “in the first republic there were ranches in Mokwa in Niger state, Akunnu in Ondo state and Obudu in Cross River state. They were maintained by the regimes of Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikwe respectively. Under the Yakubu Gowon regime the Audu Bako regime in Kano state had many functional ranches.

“In 2016, the Buhari administration embraced ranching as a policy. 55,000 hectares of land were acquired from 11 states in the north for the establishment of ranches. But not a single one has been built. Hence the violent clashes between farmers and herders have continued unabated”, he argued.

He disagreed with claims that Fulani are responsible for high crimes in south west.

He said information extracted from police diary confirmed that such high level criminal offences were not committed by the Fulanis but by southerners as well.

He said “many of the people who were kidnapped and freed have also attested to the fact that majority of the kidnappers speak flawless English. Can such well educated people be Fulani kidnappers?”, he asked.

He accused state governors of abdicating their powers to supervise the police in ensuring security and protection of property of the people and expressed regret that only a few state governments are assisting the police to provide security for the people.

He argued that former heads of intelligent agencies and their counterparts Service Chiefs are not in position to proffer solutions to the country’s security challenges.

“If the former rulers and former service chiefs had institutionalized an effective security system for the country, we would not be in the mess in which we have found ourselves.

“No nation consults former Presidents who had wasted the opportunity to fix problems but engaged in the criminal diversion of huge fund earmarked for the purchase of military equipment”, he stressed.

Falana remarked that the modus operandi of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has made it impossible for the recovery of the loans.

“AMCON appoints receiver managers who take over companies with ex parte court orders. Armed with such orders, the receiver managers embark on closing down factories and offices for months and sometimes for years. At the end of the day, the companies collapse, workers lose their jobs while the debts continue to pile up in the books of the banks”, he noted.

Falana also said the threat by AMCON to go after high profile obligators of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in a renewed attempt to recover bad bank debts will not yield desired result.

He explained that in a situation where loans were taken when the exchange rate was N150 to a dollar, it would be unfair and immoral to insist on payment at N360.

He said AMCON has to review its strategy of loan recovery which presently is not working in the interest of the economy.

“If the objective is to recover loans, the businesses involved should be allowed to continue to run and thrive. Instead of ruining businesses by locking them up, AMCON should look out for competent hands to operate companies in receivership so that they can repay their loans. For me that is the best recovery strategy”, he said.

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