Buhari Runs To ECOWAS Over Herdsmen, After Rejecting Its Judgement On Dasuki, Others
Nigeria’s effort to seek ECOWAS intervention in the Fulani herdsmen crisis has begged the question of what moral justification the Federal Government has to seek help from the regional organisation promoting economic integration in West Africa.
Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, revealed in a recent statement that the Muhammadu Buhari regime plans to organise a regional conference involving the ECOWAS Commission aimed at ending the savage killing of innocent citizens by suspected Fulani herdsmen across the country.
The ECOWAS Commission had quoted Dambazau as saying: “Clashes between cattle herders and farmers are tending to be more prevalent in Nigeria, owing to its size and population. We think that we and ECOWAS should come together to look at the wider dimension.
“We require stability in the region; hence, this high-level conference is being proposed to examine, among others, the ecological dimension such as desertification and drought.”
Meanwhile, a number of factors may come into question as to whether the regional economic union will be able and willing to help in ending the herdsmen crisis that has become widespread under the Buhari-led government.
It is not readily known what role the Federal Government may want the ECOWAS to play in finding solution to the herdsmen crises that has left thousands dead in their wake, but Dambazau revealed that the planned conference will explore the relationship between the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement.
Speculations are that the government may be seeking some form of restriction in herdsmen’s movement from other West African countries into Nigeria.
That, however, appears difficult to achieve given the provision of the ECOWAS treaty that allows for the free movement of persons and animals across the West African borders.
But as seen with Ghana’s recent eviction of alien herdsmen, ECOWAS member countries are allowed to restrict citizens of the other member countries on the ground of national security or non-fulfilment of an essential condition of residence.
Meanwhile, Chief Audu Ogbe, Nigeria’s Agric Minister, in 2017 at the ‘Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes’ that “For pastoralists from neighbouring West African countries, access to grazing rights in other countries in the ECOWAS zone including Nigeria, are guaranteed.”
He added, “It is not strange to see a Malian, Burkinabe or Nigerien pastoralist grazing his cows, sheep or goats in Nigeria or a Nigerian pastoralist grazing in Benin, Togo or Ghana and by extension, transhumance pastoralists from other neighbouring countries.”
So the possibility of West African countries stopping herdsmen from crossing borders to neighbouring countries may be unattainable.
Another drawback that the Nigerian Government may face in seeking ECOWAS help in the herdsmen crisis is its disobedience to the commission’s stance on the continued detention of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.
Recall that the ECOWAS Court had ruled that the circumstances leading to Dasuki’s arrest contradict the provisions of Section 28 of the Nigerian Police Act.
The Court had asked the Federal Government to immediately release Dasuki and pay the ex-NSA N15 million as damages. The judgement was flouted by the Buhari government
The government had similarly flouted the Court’s initial order asking for the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
Many of such factors may come to play when asked if the government holds the moral justification to seek ECOWAS’ help in the Fulani Herdsmen crisis.