The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity , Garba Shehu, has said that Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria is like Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo socio -cultural groups and thus should not be criminalised.
He also defended the meeting between the Inspector -General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and the leadership of the Miyetti Allah, adding that the government needed the cooperation of Miyetti Allah to help in tackling weapons proliferation as the security situation in the country worsens
Shehu, who was a guest on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, urged Nigerians not to politicise the meeting, arguing that all stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that the nation remains safe.
The Police had come under fire recently for holding a meeting with the herders and urging them to please assist in curbing the insecurity in the nation.
The President’s aide, however, said, “It is a mistake to say the Nigerian government is talking to bandits.
“The Miyetti Allah group is like Ohanaeze and Afenifere. It is a socio -cultural group. There are criminals within the Yoruba race and you cannot say because of that, Afenifere is a group of criminals.
“The Nigerian government is speaking with the leadership of the Fulani herders association, Miyetti Allah.”
When asked if it is true that the herders were offered N100 m to help maintain peace, Shehu said, “That is 100 per cent untrue. I have confirmed that in all the meetings held, money was never discussed.
“All of the issues were about the involvement of the leadership of Miyetti Allah and getting them to prevail upon its members and they are many . We asked them to assist the administration to recover weapons which were owned by a lot of these elements ,” Shehu said .
The presidential aide said it did not directly translate to amnesty , adding that “it is a win- win situation for all because the cattle breeders also have their issues which they brought to the government; and the more discussions take place, the more interesting it becomes.”
The President’s aide further stated that state governments would be involved in the talks.
He said some of the herders admitted that they went into crime because they had been dispossessed of their cattle by rustlers.
Shehu added, “These things are being addressed and they are moving to the next stage .
“In states like Kogi , Benue , Kaduna, Zamfara , Katsina and Niger, they will be talking to the governors so that you can use them . They are available so that you can help the government to caution and control some of these things unfolding.”
In his response, however, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, faulted the approach of the Presidency .
Onwubiko said Miyetti Allah had defended violence in the past and as such could not be said to be a peaceful organisation like Ohanaeze and Afenifere.