Nigerians have been expressing serious concerns over the activities of marauding herdsmen who have visited host communities with terrible mayhem leading to loss of over 400 lives across the country, particularly in the middle belt in tzhe past few weeks.
News across the country on a daily basis will not be without incidents of killing, robbery, rape, maiming and kidnapping by the cattle herdsmen in one part of the country or another. They have inflicted pains on most farmers, even as farm produce have been drastically affected. Farmers, leaving in fear, have scampered to safety in desperate bids to avoid being hacked down by the rampaging herdsmen. Benue alone is home to over 10,000 Internally Displaced Persons owing to the activities of the herdsmen.
On April 25, 2016 the Nigeria Police Force said it arrested five suspects for their role in the Enugu attack by suspected herdsmen which led to the death of about 20 persons in the Ukpabi Nimbo area of the state. The Force Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Kolawole, informed Nigerians that the police also recovered a phone from the herdsmen which had a video which recorded the massacre.
At that time, the Nigeria Police Force was swift enough and could tell Nigerians the true position of things as it expressed its determination to rid the society of crimes and all forms of criminality.
It was learnt that scores of armed cattle breeders, reportedly numbering more than 100, stormed the sleepy community in the early hours of the day and caused the mayhem. The police high command was said to have been angry due to the fact that the villagers had informed the state police command about the impending attack but the formation did nothing to forestall the killings.
Given the perceived complacency of the State Commissioner of police Mr. Nwodibo Ekechukwu in the attack, he was removed over the attack on the community by the herdsmen. It was also on the score that Enugu State has experienced significant bloodshed from attacks by Fulani herdsmen and communal violence. Many Nigerians were angry due to the fact that the police authorities had to wait for instructions from the Presidency before taking action against the culprits.
Ironically, it was also reported in March that 76 residents of Ugwuneshi autonomous community in the Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, were arrested while attempting to rescue their wives from the captivity of the Fulani herdsmen.
Edo State is not left out as Governor Godwin Obaseki recently paid the medical bills of one victim of the herdsmen attack in the state. Several people have been killed in their farms while females farmers were raped.
The recent mayhem unleashed on Benue, and Taraba States by the herdsmen leaves many Nigerians wondering what the country has been turned into or what the agenda really is. With the mass killings, slitting of throats of fellow countrymen by the cattle herdsmen, many Nigerians have been wondering if the life of a cattle is considered more important than the life of human beings.
The seeming silence of those in position of authority to act also leaves many more Nigerians and friends of the country wondering what was happening in Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari weeks after the Benue Pogrom , ordered the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue State ostensibly to bring the killings under control. But since then there have been more reported cases of killings in Benue and neighbouring states, with no reported cases of arrest of the culprits even with the presence of the IG of Police. The Inspector General of Police had said the killings in Benue was a mere communal conflict. He has since apologised to Benue people over his scatting comment but it also goes to show the high level of insensitivity and disregard to the sanctity of life of Nigerians on the part of the IG who has not been able to show any herdsman arrested for the killings or evidence of his relocation.
In the same manner, President Muhammadu Buhari whom many have been unhappy with for not responding promptly by visiting the people of Benue State when the state was boiling also did not show up or send delegate to Benue State when the mass burial of victims of the herdsmen attack took place to assuage the feelings people of the state. He was said to have received a delegation of citizens from the state in Aso Rock and told them to go home and endeavour “to accommodate other Nigerians in their state.”
The Emir of Kano had poured more petrol to the crisis when he reportedly said that people should not complain over the herdsmen killings as over 800 herdsmen were killed in similar way in Taraba State. But that was an unexpected from such a high ranking traditional ruler. All these actions and inactions from those in authority practically put a knife in the heart of the unity of the country, which is also what the present administration has been preaching. If the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable as we are frequently told, then there should be honesty of purpose amongst the leaders.
Last week, there was a security meeting in Abuja in response to the cry of many citizens over the menace of the herdsmen. The Minister of Defense, Dan Ali told Nigerians that the Anti-grazing laws passed by some of the states was responsible for the massacre of Nigerians by the herdsmen. He spoke , again in ways and manner that suggest that something was fishing.
Now, when the Benue people were being slaughtered, some citizens who noticed the complacency of those who should halt the killings went to the streets protesting. The police went and chased them out of the streets. This is just before the mass burial.
The President also took a step. He constituted a committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the mayhem and proffer the way forward. The committee was just about to commence its work when the herdsmen who operate under the aegis of Maiyetti Allah movement spread across the country went into the streets of Benue and Taraba protesting the inclusion of the Governors of Benue and Taraba States in the committee. The Inspector General of Police who was still re-located to Benue when this happened , did not chase the protesting herdsmen away. They had a field day protesting all around Benue and everyone could see them. What does that signal to the rest of Benue people?
All these happenings have left curious minds wondering what is amiss in the country. Cattle herdsmen have been operating in the country for a very long time without any qualms. They lived amongst other Nigerians even in the south who openly received them and treated them as citizens of the country wherever they go. Even when the cattle herds want to turn to crops, the cattle Fulanis usually chased the cattle away from the crops. So, such convivial relationship endeared the cattle herdsmen to the people. They were not destroying farms and economic crops then and people didn’t really care when they moved about with their cattle.
But what has turned them against the people is the wicked act they introduced as they plied their trade. Most herdsmen now turn crops of farmers into forage. The herdsmen now move about their host communities across the country destroying farmlands, raping women and girls in the farms, some are reportedly involved in kidnapping and those who dared resist them were gruesomely murdered. What with their moving about with sophisticated weapons which is contrary to the provisions of the criminal Act in Nigeria?
This is the crux of the matter which we expect the federal government to address. Also coating measures to address the crisis with religious agenda as has been roundly perceived further worsens the matter. This is why the issue of Cattle colonies and Grazing Reserved areas as propounded by various government is being rejected. Nigeria is a circular state and should be allowed to remain so.
What appears to be the way forward as already canvassed by many which government has not given serious attention to is the issue of ranching. Cattle farmers can even form themselves into cooperatives to set up a ranch. That remains the best and permanent way forward. A target date can be set by government to achieve this and not for government to join force with a particular business community, in this case cattle herdsmen and foist their wishes on hundreds of millions of other citizens. It shouldn’t also be a measure that takes over territories and lands of other people under any guise. If the government adopts ranching as practiced in developed and other civilized societies, it will even provide employment for more people. It will boost the dairy industry in Nigeria and government can effectively and efficiently collect their taxes for overall societal development.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a Chieftain of Edo the All Progressives Congress, Edo State