Hon Tarkighir Dickson Dominic represents Makurdi/Guma federal constituency of Benue State. In this interview with Ruth Choji, the lawmaker says there is never a time in the country when herdsmen have to kill and maim people like now.
The government seems to be slow in taking decisive action against Niger delta avengers, IPOB-MASSOB and Herdsmen/farmers clashes. What is your take on this?
Well, let’s take the issue of Niger delta avengers. 90 per cent of our earnings come from there. In my understanding, the zone has been treated fairly. They have 13 per cent derivation, NDDC, ministry of Niger/delta and the rest. No state in the north or middle belt gets up to that, some states get a little as two billion naira, yet these people are not holding their leaders who get the bulk of the money responsible or accountable for the underdevelopment in their region. Nigeria is not the only oil producing state in the world, but you don’t see the kind of criminality you see in the Niger delta. What is happening there is criminalism at its best. Government should be able to handle it. Government has to deploy a wide . of resources to tame them. They have sent some of them abroad, yet their people rise up every day to disrupt the flow of oil in the name of agitation. The unfortunate one which I am not satisfied with is the way the government is handling the Fulani/ farmers clashes, because I am a victim. They have attacked my community and killed my relatives, burnt down my house. I haven’t been able to fix it because every day you see them going back to attack communities, kill people and burn down houses. My state is an agrarian state and our economic stay is agriculture. We need to use our land to cultivate food. That is why we are the food basket of the nation. We are contending with Fulani herdsmen and government is doing nothing about it. Nobody has condemned the attacks on the middle belt and nothing is being done. You can equate what is happening in the zone in Benue to the menace of boko haram. Government has deployed troops in Niger delta, Kano and Sokoto against cattle rustlers yet they have failed to deployed troops in Benue, Taraba, Plateau and the rest where herdsmen are killing innocent farmers. Recently they invaded a community in the night in Logo local government of Benue state where they slaughter people. I have not heard the president condemn it. There has never been a time in this country where herdsmen have been embolden to kill and maim people like right now.so that tells you that something is wrong. If the government whose responsibility is to defend the citizens, leave the citizen to defend themselves, then you will see the proliferation of arms everywhere. That is why you see armed robbery in the south east.It is because of the civil war that people have access to arms after the war and started using it to do armed robbery.
But will the creation of grazing route solve the herdsmen and farmers problem?
There is nowhere in the world where people are talking about grazing routes. If you want to go that way, when that law was enacted in 1945 or so, the population was small but now, we are almost two hundred million people in populations. Zango of Kaduna state was a grazing route but now people have built estates there. That means that you need to uproot that community that was given a grazing route. Abuja was a grazing route, so will you uproot Abuja and make it a grazing route? Cattle rearing is a personal business. Government has no business providing land for people who are doing their private business. You want to collect land from people who are doing poultry, piggery, and yam farming to give others to put their cattle. I have traveled to two counties that produce cattle and are the biggest exporters of beef, Brazil and Bulgaria. Their ranching system is good, they have laws and I copied their laws and brought it here. They have created a commission of cattle ranching and made laws that sanction those violating the laws. The FG has no basis to allocate land to people who are doing private business. The only thing they can do is give out loans to those who cannot afford the ranch. In Europe where you have cattle rearing, the milk in gallons and cheese are gotten from it and it is a big business, but here cattle hardly produce five gallons of milk because of the way they travel all over with them. For the bill to go into effect, we need to amend the constitution because the 1999 constitution vest the administration of land to the states. The FG do not have the power to go into any community to take land. You cannot force any state to give land for grazing. My governor has said they do not have land for grazing activities. Land must be made available for agriculture. So nobody in Benue is willing to donate his land for grazing. If you want to buy land and somebody is willing to sell to you, then fine. They will sell it to you and you domicile your cattle in one place.
What is the state of IDPs in Benue State?
When the current state government came in, we had IDPs from other states which the state was taking care of and now, there is not enough resources to cater for them because the state has its own IDPs. We used to take care of those from other states effected by insurgence but now we have our own with the attacks from herdsmen. The government has been doing very well to ensure that the IDPs are taken care of but it is not enough. Government need to do more by creating basic amenities in IDPs camp.
As a member of the committee on Navy, can you say that they are properly taken care of?
Over the years there has been a depletion of the capacity on navy. But this government is doing a lot about that, we have provided some resources for the navy to acquire equipment that are able to put them in a position to defend our territory’s sovereignty.
Do we have enough personnel in the Navy?
No, but they will be recruiting this year, as much as the resources can allow them to recruit. Most of the equipment they have are made locally. We are looking inward to see if we will be able to build our own ships to Man our water ways and we think that, going forward, the president has promised that all the armed forces will have enough capacity to defend this country
You are also in the National population committee, what is being done to check our population explosion?
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As you are aware, we are having a census in 2017. That parastatal is important because that is the only way you can plan when you know the number of people you have.
Does Nigeria have the resources to carry out the census?
Yes, I think we do. We provided for that in the budget for them to start acquiring equipment. And their secretariat so that they can have a conducsive environment. Government will provide more money in 2017 budget for the censors. But we are also appealing to NGOs who are interested in assisting in that area. It is in the interest of stakeholders to ensure that we know how many we are in the country.
Some have accused the president of appointing more northerners in the government than other zones. Do you share such view?
When I hear that, I ask which north they are talking about. We gave him maximum votes yet the only appointment we have is the minister of Agriculture. So we are complaining in the north too. We have an APC government in Benue yet we don’t have people in the government. The people of Nigeria gave the president their mandate. I believe he is looking at people he feels are competent to carry out certain assignments, but then you have the federal character in place, that is the only way people will see that you have carried out justice. Government is doing well in fighting corruption but when people see injustice, they definitely will not key into the program the government is bringing. So appointment must be made proportionally to the region.
Are you worried with the state of the economy?
Yeah, everybody should be worried. Things are not well but let’s not forget where we are coming from. The APC government inherited an economy that was already bastardized, oil revenues was down, the system was terrible. It will take time to build. You cannot built something that was destroyed in 10years in one year.
But does this government have the capacity to handle the economy?
Yes, but you must understand that a whole lot of things went wrong. The government got into power with the promised that they will fight corruption and that is what the president is doing. It is also seem to be putting the right people and policies in the right places. I believe we will see a Hugh light at the end of the tunnel.