Senator representing the Senate District of Benue South in the National Assembly, Abba Moro, in this interview for SUNDAY ABORISADE, talks about the arrest of a barber, born in the state of Benue, Elijah Odeh, in Cannes during his work and, among other things, attacks by shepherds across the country
Why have you decided to initiate a case involving a barber from the state of Benue who is being prosecuted in the state of Kano for cutting his clients ’hair, which is considered“ anti-Islamic ”?
The news of the arrest and prosecution of the young man came to me as a gross shock, especially that such a thing could have happened in Nigeria in the 21st century. I wonder why a citizen of this country could be arrested in one part of the country for a crime that the law does not know about. We have a constitution for Nigeria that contains clear provisions on what constitutes a crime. I believe that instead of being subjected to the trauma that Elijah Odeh, one of my constituents, is experiencing, the Nigerian government should praise and recognize him for creating all the chances to get an education, as he is a Bayero University (Kano) student who continues to take up the barber’s call to he takes care of himself, instead of resorting to other nefarious activities such as kidnapping, armed robbery, robbery and hooliganism. As he is, he was arrested and charged before a misdemeanor court. I am of the opinion that the misdemeanor judge should have ordered the release of Odeh almost immediately, unconditionally because it is ridiculous to say that the barber who designed the hairstyle at the client’s request committed the offense. I think this is something that all Nigerians should stand up against. Therefore, after all the subtle efforts, including the judge’s refusal to release him on bail, I felt it necessary to let Nigerians know that one of my constituents had been subjected to horrific mental torture.
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What is your next step now?
I work day and night to get a possible political solution to the problem. I will encourage lawyers to continue the fight to release Odeh. I also appeal to all goodwill Nigerians to intervene in the current irresponsible act of the security agencies in the state of Kano.
Governor Samuel Ortom recently raised the alarm over the state of insecurity in the state of Benue. What is the current situation now?
The situation is very frightening. My people wake up every day from the news of people being slaughtered by armed men in various parts of the country. There are daily kidnappings while robbers kill dozens of people. There are also regular conflicts between cattle breeders and farmers.
Are you saying that the perpetrators of heinous crimes are foreigners or some group of people in the state of Benue?
Crime and crimes are not limited to a particular nation. In the case of Terwase Akwas, also known as Ghana, the leader of an armed gang operating in the Katsina Al axis of the state of Benue, this is a recent phenomenon and an isolated case in this regard. The problem of insecurity in Nigeria has far outweighed Ghana’s activities. According to information available to us from security agencies, Ghana did not operate outside the state of Benue. Kidnappings, robberies, wanton destruction of property and murders that take place in many parts of the country are mostly committed by foreigners. In addition, cultures have become the order of the day in Nigeria. In the past, we knew that students were involved in cultism, but today it has crept into all tertiary institutions and unfortunately, primary and secondary school students are now in culture. I think it is the responsibility of the government to stop this ugly trend in the bud before it will have very serious security implications for the country.
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Are you signing a total ban on open grazing advocated by some people, including northern governors?
I support any law that protects against grazing. I have had the opportunity to say before that Fulani herders and farmers in my area have lived together for a long period of time without any problems, but society is dynamic and things are changing. It is becoming increasingly obvious that due to the arrogance shown by ranchers, farmers and ranchers can no longer live peacefully together. If this is the case and it has been established that open grazing is partly responsible for some of the conflicts we have had lately between farmers and ranchers, then it is only reasonable and responsible for the government to ban open grazing. The only alternative to this is to raise livestock.
What legislative interventions do Nigerians expect from the National Assembly in this regard?
It is the responsibility of the National Assembly to adopt the law and leave it to the executive to sign it. The Ninth Senate actually devised a policy of legislative intervention in areas affecting ordinary Nigerians. We are determined to do everything possible to intervene on the side of the people of Nigeria. We would still do that. I am a good authority, I tell you that one of my colleagues is sponsoring an anti-grazing bill and I have assured him that I will support him and lend my vote to his account given the fact that the state of Benue already has an open grazing law.
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Some prominent Nigerians, including your governor Samuel Ortom, advocate self-defense as a solution to the constant attacks by ranchers on innocent Nigerians. Do you subscribe to it too?
Self-defense should be the ultimate tool when it comes to human life, security and peace. I would not really advocate for self-defense, but I am on the side of the governors and governments of various states who take measures and pass laws that would secure the lives and property of their people. Self-defense is a delicate issue because it can lead to anarchy, chaos and a total breakdown of law and order. I can understand the attitude of the governor of the state of Benue, frustrated as he is, in resolving insecurity in the state, but advocating self-defense goes to extremes. When we resort to self-defense, the consequences can be too dire for this country.
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