Herdsmen Attacks: Has Benue, Plateau Become A Slaughter Slab In Nigeria?

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It is quite amazing to imagine that a state blessed with the nation’s food production is gradually becoming a grave yard where innocent Nigerians are been killed at will by the ‘killer herdsmen’.

It is also sad to know that Plateau which is known as one of the peaceful and coldest states in Nigeria is gradually becoming a center point earthly cleansing by the deadly killer herdsmen.

Some of these States are known for their peaceful coexistence and amicable association with people from other states in Nigeria and foreigners across the world, appear to become a window point of attacks from militias or Fulani herdsmen in without any serious tangible assistance from the Nigerian government to neutralise them.

No day passes by without the sky crying out blood in Benue and Plateau as men, women and children regardless of their age(s) are being slaughtered with no sign of remorse for their action.

Pains and grief remains the only solace that has greeted the people as most of them have been rendered homeless, widows and widowers due to government decision to pass the bill on the anti-grazing law, that appears not to have go down well with certain individuals, groups, and some political office holders in the country.

The anti – open grazing law is currently operational in Benue , Ekiti and Taraba states .

In Ekiti State , the law , signed by Governor Ayo Fayose in 2016, prohibits open -grazing between 6 pm and 7 am .

Governor Samuel Ortom followed suit in 2017 with a law that places an absolute ban on open – grazing across Benue State .

Taraba State passed the anti- grazing law in July 2017 , but it came into effect on January 24 this year , with a caveat that it would be implemented gradually after aggressive awareness campaigns across the state .

More recently, Abia state joined the league of states following the anti-grazing law afted the Abia House of Assembly on Tuesday(June 5) passed into law, the Control of Nomadic Cattle Rearing and Prohibition of Grazing Routes/Reserve Bill, 2016.

Like the Land Use Act that denied the people access to their lands, the proposed law now known as the National Grazing Reserve Bill, is intended to cede portions of community lands to herdsmen.

The Bill is intended to serve a section of the multifarious ethnic groups and is characterized by inequality and injustice.

When passed, the law will dispossesses the people of their lands and given to the Hausa/Fulani to graze their cattle. The proceeds from the sales of the Cattles would go into private pockets while owners of the lands wallow in abject poverty. Farmers would have no enough land to farm.

The law is proposed to solve the violent crises between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in all parts of the country, but it is likely to create more problems than it is intended to solve.

However, since the beginning of the year, January 1st, 2018, the State was greeted with the gruesome murder of 74 innocent Nigerians from five local government area, the biggest since the onslaught began in 2017, and continuous attacks have besieged the two states without lasting solutions from the Federal government.

Interestingly, another 19 innocent Nigerians were killed during morning mass in a Catholic Church in Mbalom in Gwer East Local Government Area of Be State, where two priests and 17 parishioners suffered an attack from the Fulani Herdsmen.

Few days later within the month of April, the deadly group launched fresh coordinated attacks on three communities in Guma Local Government Area of the state, killing no fewer than 39 persons.

Till date, more than one thousand people have been killed, two thousand people displaced from their homes and many properties destroyed in many communities in Benue and Plateau since the inception of the attacks.

On Sunday, June 24, the Herdsmen killed over 100 innocent Nigerians in Plateau State, citing reasons that it was in retaliation of the 300 cows that was killed by them. How can such statement by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Chairman, North Central Zone, Danladi Ciroma be accepted by the security apparatus in the country without apprehending such person.

“These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human beings, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission.

Armed with sophisticated weaponry, including AK-47s, and on at least one occasion, rocket launchers, the Fulani herder militia is believed to have murdered more men, women and children in 2015, 2016 and 2017 than even Boko Haram, destroying, overrunning and seizing property and land, and displacing tens of thousands of people.

Whilst there has been a long history of disputes between nomadic Fulani herders and predominately Christian farming communities across the Sahel, recent reports show that attacks by the Fulani herder militia are now occurring with such frequency, intensity, organisation and asymmetry, that references to ‘farmer-herder clashes’ no longer suffice.Some local observers have gone so far as to describe the rising attacks as a campaign of ethno-religious cleansing.

The situation has been exacerbated by an inadequate government response, which in turn has fostered impunity. Beyond intermittent verbal condemnations, definitive action has not been taken to end it. There even exist abiding concerns regarding possible complicity of elements in Nigeria’s armed forces in militia attacks.

All efforts by the various security agencies in Nigeria to curtail the situation has proved abortive, making the whole appear as if the militias or herdsmen are not human beings but spirit.

But then, has President Muhammadu Buhari done enough to find a lasting solution to this problem? It is not enough to promise Nigerians that the culprits would be brought to justice without taking the tangible steps of enforcing strict military actions on such group that has brought tears in the faces of Nigerians?

If the Nigeria army can put a stop to leader of the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu’s agitation for self independent in the Southeast, Anambra State precisely, then why can’t they launch the same crocodile tears in Borno and Plateau State to subdue the herdsmen or militias as the case maybe to a halt.

What has Benue and Plateau state done to deserve such a cruel and ‘unholy’ attacks from the marauding beast in human nature parading the States in daytime and night time seeking for blood?

Perhaps, could there have been a conspiracy theory that could prevent the success of this military exercise in the State?

Could there have been a high ranked politicians, high ranked security personnels, business tycoons, individual or group of persons instigating and sponsoring such attacks on the people of the State all in the name of protecting the interest of their cows?

Earlier in the year, leader of Miyetti Allah cattle breeders in Benue State, Garus Gololo disclosed that there action was a reprisal for alleged theft of cows in Benue.

“As we dey relocate go Taraba State through Nassarawa State, for border town of Nengere, thief come collect 1000 cows from us, so we sef fight dem back”, he said.

Before now, he has initially quarried Gov Ortom’s decision to pass the anti-grazing bill into law, saying it’s a law that could cause more damage than good to the State.

“It is a negative law because it attempts to expel Fulani herdsmen from their grazing areas for ages, besides, that of Benue anti grazing law, no herder were involved during the cause of its preparation to get their input. To us, ensuring security of citizens should be the priority of governance, but this anti grazing law is nothing but a time bomb if not addressed with wisdom.

“It is a national challenge that requires National interventions by well meaning government, because it is capable of creating serious conflicts on the land resources, hence developing a policy of sustainable management of land resources is of essence.
Besides, which is more important, the lives of human beings or cow?

These are some of the thousand and one questions that need urgent answers from the federal government considering the fact that Benue State is gradually becoming a genocide ground.

There have also been calls by some interest groups and politicians urging Benue State Governor Emmanuel Ortom to drop the anti-grazing law, of which Ortom has stated that he lacked the powers to reverse or make adjustments to the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition Law which was enacted last May in the state but came into effect on November 1, 2017.

Those people who have been clamouring for the abolishment of the anti-grazing law include inspector-general of police (IGP), who said he blamed the escalation of the clashes on the implementation of the anti-grazing law.”

Also, Minister of Defence, Col. Mohammed Dan-Alli (rtd.), Thursday stoked the embers of fire, when he claimed that the enactment of the anti-grazing laws by some states was the immediate cause of violence by herders.

“These people are Nigerians. It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other.
“Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!” he said.

Meanwhile, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state has reacted to reported plans by Buhari government to suspend implementation of anti-open grazing law in states.

“January this year, the Minister of Defense blamed passage of anti-grazing law in some states as the cause of killings by herdsmen. Today, he is still singing the same song. Is there something to this old system of nomadic cattle rearing that they are not telling Nigerians?

“Why is Buhari not rearing his cows through open grazing? Why is it so difficult for the FG to support cattle ranching?

“Here in Ekiti, the Anti Open Grazing law stays. It is the Presidency that should stop looking the other way while herdsmen go about killing Nigerians.

“Methinks the Presidency should be concerned about how to take the herdsmen out of the bush and give them decent life by embracing cattle ranching.

“How can anyone be pleased subjecting his own people to a life of following cows through the bush from Yobe to Lagos?

By and large, it is high time for President Muhammadu Buhari should as a matter of urgency take drastic decisions not just in reorganizing the security apparatus but enforce military actions in order to checkmate the activities of the ‘deadly’ Herdsmen in Nigeria and restore peace back to the affected states.

By Augustine Akhilomen

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