Ehidiamen Blessing Obehi
Nigerians have long been suffering deadly attacks from deadly terrorists. It is no surprise therefore, that it has ranked the third most terrorised country in the world. Apart from the infamous and callous sect, Boko Haram, other terrorists groups, which had vented their unprovoked anger on innocent citizens, have emerged.
Among these deadly groups is the Fulani herdsmen, reputed as the fourth deadliest group in the world. This group has been in operation in different parts of the country, especially the north, brutally killing and maiming people as well as destroying property worth billions of naira. One of their recent infamous exploit was the heartless attack of a community, where over 15 persons were massacred.
Boko Haram, it was rumoured, came up with the sole intention of islamising the nation. As uncertain as the allegation is, it is not yet known what the Fulani herdsmen’s intentions are. A lot of people have insinuated that they are Boko Haram in disguise, but one thing is certain, both of them carry out same acts of terrorism on their victims.
However, the Chairman of Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Garus Gololo, had denied that those perpetrating acts of terror were Fulani herdsmen. He said he doesn’t know who has been conducting the attacks, especially in the case of Agatu community, as there is no Fulani person currently residing in the area.
Agatu, a local government in Benue State is mainly invaded by this heartless sect. It was gathered that the Fulani herdsmen carry guns to look after their cattle, they graze their livestock on farmlands in communities and in the process of doing so, crops are destroyed by these livestock. Over the years, several clashes have been recorded between the host communities and the herdsmen with the indigenes mostly at the receiving ends. The so called herdsmen have been a nuisance and threat to any community they found themselves, even a threat to food production. Fulani herdsmen have at least killed 400 people, according to the member representing Agatu constituency at the Benue State House of Assembly, Sule Audu, adding that the attackers are over 5,000 spread across all the communities.
Fulani herdsmen are usually blamed for the escalating violence in Plateau, Benue, Kwara and other states. In order to halt the conflict between farmers and Fulani, the Senate had passed a law that would bring peace to some northern and middle belt areas of the country. Many believe that this sect is on a revenge mission.
When the sect unleashed terror on two densely populated settlements, Suwa and Burukutu in Lamurde Local Government Area, eyewitness said about 500 of them, and who are believed to be on a revenge mission, suddenly descended on the communities, and began massacring. There were speculation that the Fulani herdsmen were planning a reprisal attack to avenge the attacks on their cattle and kin earlier, following an orgy of violence that rocked Jimata, Mubi and Lamurde, with some fulani herdsmen alleging molestation by their host communities. The sect members do not only slaughter their victims, but also rape women in the communities, prompting residents in the affected areas to leave their home towns in search of safety.
The leader of the herdsmen in the besieged Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State, Ardo Boderi, gave reasons for the invasion. He said that over 10,000 of their cattle were allegedly killed by the people of the area. The Fulani were bent on taking over Agatu land hence their resort to recruiting mercenaries to wipe out the people.
Also, Saleh Bayeri, the interim National secretary of Gan Allah Fulani Association rose in defence of his kinsmen saying the February bloody conflict in Benue was a reprisal attack by his people against Agatu, who he accused of killing in 2013, a prominent Fulani man. The Fulani leader said about 20 Agatu and TIV militias on April 20, 2013, invaded the compound of one Shehu Abdullahi, killing him and carting away over 200 cows. The case was reported to the Police, which confirmed that they knew where 150 of the cows were kept and “the Divisional police officer promised to recover and return the cows, but up till today, nothing has happen”.
He also narrated how a dangerous point was reached in the crises between the Agatu people and Fulani three days after the murder of Mr. Abdullahi and the stealing of his cows.
A prominent Fulani leader, Ardo Madaki, was invited to the palace of the District Head of the area on the grounds that a solution was being sought to the problem. “However, the Agatu Militia beheaded Ardo right in front of the district head”. He continued: “This action reverberated across all Fulani people in the whole of West Africa and the clamour for revenge began to grow stronger”.
He also said that Fulani have records of how the Agatu killed over 300 of their people, adding “but because we don’t have people in government or the media, no one said anything when genocide was being carried out against our people.”
“It is sad to know that the crises are due to the nonchalant attitude of others. It is unfortunate because this is very unlike Nigerians, violence of this nature is terror, and it is not something that is a part of us” said Dr. Mariam Marsha, the senior special assistant to President Mohammadu Buhari on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Following violent attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Ondo State, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, raised the alarm that Nigeria may be heading for the rocks if the incessant killings are not checked.
The Governor said the issue of Fulani herdsmen rampage had become a beastly act that is threatening the security and unity of the country.
He spoke in Akure, the state capital during a peace meeting with members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). The Ondo Governor said the situation demands a national emergency, and
called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders to put their heads together to save the nation from imminent catastrophe.
“There is no question about the fact that this is becoming a monster of sort . I have had cause to express my view on this on many occasions, and I think we all ignored this menace as a nation. I can see us moving towards a precipice, and we must do something about it as early as possible, it is getting dangerous, the audacity is very disturbing,” he said.
Mimiko specifically condemned the attack on the farm of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae , and the killing of one of the guards , Ayodele Ige , by suspected herdsmen, describing the development as unfortunate and barbaric.
The governor appealed to the OPC members not to take laws into their hands over the killing of Ige, who was their member. He also commended all the security operatives in the state for rising to the occasion, adding that the police had been supportive, having successfully traced those behind the killing of the guard.
Mr. Mimiko further warned that if his advice was not heeded, it may reach a stage where people would resort to self –help:
“I say it again, we are moving towards the precipice and the earlier we pull back , and it requires all the stakeholders from the President, and this is a bi-partisan issue , all major stakeholders must come together on how to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that “These herdsmen must be called to order , these wanton destructions , audacious incursions in other people’ s territory cannot continue for too long.”
Mr. Mimiko noted that the activities of the Fulani herdsmen would not only pose a threat to national security, but a great challenge to food security, especially when people are calling for the diversification of the economy with agriculture as the main focus . “It is very ironical, we have been talking about diversification and agriculture is the main focus, but in this state, there is hardly any medium scale or large scale farmer that has not had any encounter or the other with the herdsmen,” he said. “ They just go to the farm and devastate the farms, some of them have been turned to perpetual debtors because some of the input for the farms are from bank loans , the herdsmen will just get there and destroy these farmlands and we are talking of diversification . “ But I think if we don ’t do anything about the activities of these herdsmen , I can see a threat to the security of this country so it is a major challenge and I think the President and all major stakeholders should take this as a very serious challenge ” .
He also faulted the proposed Fulani grazing reserves bill by the National Assembly , saying if passed into law, it would further worsen the crisis between the land owners , farmers and herdsmen.
Mr. Mom, a civil rights activists and President of Lawyers Alert, an Abuja-based nongovernmental organisation, insisted that the herdsmen resorted to nomadic life because of the peculiar situation they find themselves in Nigeria. Mr. Mom noted that if the right conditions were created for herdsmen
to graze their animals without moving farther away from home, some of the crisis associated with the practice would have been averted. Because of favourable grazing conditions and deliberate government
policies, he said cattle farmers in developed countries do not move their animals around in search of grazing fields like it is done in Nigeria.
“Fulani people are not nomads. They would not move around the country if the right conditions were put in place for them to feed their animals in one place. Let the Federal Government of Nigeria do what is expected of it, and ensure that Nigerians have what is required to live peacefully with one another, and we will not be hearing of herdsmen invading a community in Benue or Plateau state.
This sect is equally a big threat to the country as Boko Haram, as people are killed virtually every day by them. They may even form a greater threat given the fact that their presence is seen in every part of the nation, unlike their counterpart, the Boko Haram.
The country should give all focus equally on all sect group members that pose a threat to humanity. The government should not give any opportunity for a wicked sect group to arise under their very own nose.