Debunks ₦4.75 billion Compensation Claim by Northern Traders, Cattle Dealers.
Adamant Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, on Friday insisted that COVID-19 was the least of the problems confronting the state and so he would neither take the COVID-19 vaccine that is being distributed, neither would he make his people guinea pigs by making them to take it.
Governor Bello, who alongside Femi Fani-Kayode, former aviation minister, mediated in the recently called off food blockade from the north to the south, also debunked the claim by the chairman of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers in Nigeria, Muhammad Tahir that the federal government had agreed to pay his members ₦4.75 billion compensation for lives and properties lost during the #EndSARS protest and the crisis in Shasha market in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Speaking on Politics Today, Channels Television programme monitored by TELL, the governor said the two weeks ultimatum given by President Muhammadu Buhari to the newly decorated service chiefs to clear the north of bandits and other criminals was “not a tall order”.
Asked if he would also publicly take the COVID-19 vaccine like the president, the vice-president and other governors, Bello, who had always dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as a scam, said “Mr. President is the leader of this country; I respect him so high. All of us respect him so much; we love him and he’s leading by example. If he needs to take the vaccine, and he takes it, it’s a welcome development. As far as I am concerned, I, as a person, I don’t need to take vaccine; nothing is wrong with me. I am hale, hearty, 100 percent healthy. I can give you my health report any time you desire it. I won’t take any vaccine”.
Governor Bello also stated cheekily that “COVID-19 is not our business in Kogi State. There are more prominent issues, or more pertinent issues and more serious matters that we are attending to in Kogi State. Insecurity we met, we’ve tackled it and several others. Disunity, we met it on ground, and we have united Kogi State today, not COVID-19. COVID-19 is just a minute aspect of what we are treating in Kogi State”.
According to him, “There have been outbreaks of Lassa fever, yellow fever, and those were handled without making noise about it. That of the last yellow fever, because we vaccinated our people against the yellow fever, we encouraged them, we educate them and they felt the impact because it ravaged some communities in Kogi State; they came up and we vaccinated them.
“So if the federal government is gracious enough and gave us COVID-19 vaccines, we are equally going to sensitise our people; whoever wishes to come and take should come and take. But I am not going to subject the people of Kogi State to vaccination or I will not make them the guinea pigs”.
While noting that the shoot-on-sight order of anyone wielding AK 47 rifles given by the president was not new, Governor Bello posited that “Now, he has said it once again and it behoves on us at leadership levels in various states and communities to ensure that Mr. President’s orders are carried out and I trust our security agencies that they will not toy with Mr. President’s order”.
He said on the two weeks ultimatum to service chiefs to deal with insecurity in the country, “I want to believe it’s not a tall order. It is not a task that is beyond the Nigerian Armed Forces and all other security agencies”, stressing that they are equal to the task. He however argued that security is the business of everybody, not just the security agencies alone; not even just that of Mr. President or the governors, but also leadership at all levels. He urged the service chiefs and all law enforcement agencies not to listen to any political statement from any angle while discharging their duties and responsibilities.
Governor Bello, who controverted the claim of ₦4.75 billion as agreed compensation to northern foodstuff and cattle dealers, said though the matter had been resolved and there were demands, “One of the demands is compensation. As I speak with you now, there has not been any number or figure put forward or that I have advanced to the federal government for compensation. It’s just an agreement in principle; that okay, we’ve heard you, please sheathe your sword, return back and continue your food supply. So, no figure has been ascertained.
“At least, there should be names, there should be value of properties destroyed; there should be corroborative police report, or as the case may be. Such documents have not been given to me. What we have agreed, and what Mr. President has directed is that I should liaise with the police and other law enforcement agencies that all the agreements of ensuring that their lives and livelihood are secured, that extortions stop… These were the directives from Mr. President and that shall be carried out”.
The governor stated that the amount to be compensated would be determined “as days pass by”, stressing that it’s not easy. “Remember there were lives and properties that were destroyed during EndSARS, and Shasha market massacre. All these have not been determined. It is not easy. When did the Oyo State, or the Ibadan problem occur? So, they couldn’t have been able to come up with such a number by now. So, it is going to take time for them to come up with that… As soon as the numbers are put forward, and we are able to aggregate and verify them, we are going to push it forward for approval by the grace of God”.
And while not favourably disposed to negotiating with bandits, arguing that joblessness is not an excuse for criminality, Governor Bello canvassed for bail out for cattle dealers who had lost their animals to rustlers. He said “Well, it depends on how you look at it. First, I will differentiate categorically the difference between the agitation in the Southsouth and the issue of this banditry. Let me tell you; I don’t subscribe to the fact that because you are idle, that you have no job, then you take to crime and criminality. There are a lot of jobs to be done. If you can’t do anything, please go and farm; go and farm! There are several menial jobs out there that can engage you. Joblessness is not an excuse for crime.
“That is number one. Number two; having distinguished between agitation of the South-south that were given amnesty, and the current banditry, I will go this way that majority of those that are being peddled as criminals today, or bandits today, are Fulani herdsmen. These people are known for rearing cattle, keeping livestock; that is a business. As a result of cattle rustling and non-availability of land for grazing again, a number of their cattle are either depleting or taken away.
“And I am asking that the government should be able to bail out the real genuine livestock farmers the way we bailed out rice farmers, cassava farmers, other crash crop farmers; the way and manner we bailed out airlines, the way and manner we bailed out banks. The way and manner we even bailed out salary earners. When we came on board, Mr. President bailed us out, giving us money to pay our salaries. Let these poor, innocent lawful citizens get bail-out to be able to keep their livestock.
“Aside that, when you attempt that, and anybody that is carrying rifle again, that is carrying arms against the State, they are criminals. I will not subscribe to negotiating with such criminals having made provision for each and everybody to improve his lives and livelihood. So, the issue of kinetic and non-kinetic; when a criminal holds gun against the State, common, let’s get them out. When people are ready, that look, I have no job, please engage me; we should be able to provide succor for lawful, law abiding citizens of Nigeria to have a gainful employment or self-engagement. But he who takes arms against the State as a result of joblessness should be dealt with decisively”.
The governor disagreed with some of his colleagues who often complain that they are not chief security officers of their states in the real sense of it, with one saying he is just a chief logistics officer. He stated emphatically that “I am governing Kogi, I am not governing other states. Today in Kogi State, I am the chief security officer; I am not the chief logistics officer. Even if I am the chief logistics officer, I manage the logistics well and it’s yielding results. I ensure that all the law enforcement agencies in the state, I corporate with them. But when I need input from the top, I ensure that I have the full cooperation of each and everyone.
“I sensitise the citizens of Kogi State and everybody is up and doing and living up to their responsibilities of ensuring that their environments are secured. They volunteer information. I build confidence and trust amongst all of us, both the government and the people; and they are able to volunteer information and that is why we were able to quell all the insecurity we inherited on 27th of January, 2016 to the barest minimum as we have t today. It is not yet Uhuru. We will continue to fight crimes and criminalities…”.
Reacting to the controversy surrounding the touted move by Fani-Kayode to join the APC which the governor announced but never happened, Bello said the former minister must have had a rethink. He said “Myself and Chief Fani-Kayode are brothers and we are partnering in ensuring that there is peace and tranquility across the country. The Chief Femi Fani-Kayode that everybody knows, by the time he met me, and we met, I think he had a rethink of what life is all about, what Nigeria is all about.
“And you can see the mix so far; together we were able to broker peace between the Amalgamated Union of Traders and our other aggrieved brothers. That is the much I can say. He joining APC is at his own volition. He not joining APC is at his own volition. Political party divide has nothing to do with both of us working for the unity, peace and progress of this country”.
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