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Fulani Herdsmen’ Killings: A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode in Nigeria

6 years ago | 56



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The increasing spate of Fulani herdsmen’ killings in various part of Nigeria is a time bomb waiting to explode should affected communities decide to fight back, especially when the security agencies in the country are doing nothing to check the ugly trend

By Maureen Chigbo  |  May 9, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

IF a fortune teller had told Mathias Ezugwu, a retired civil servant from Amangbana village of Nkpologu in Enugu State, that he will sleep in a bush on Monday night, April 25, he would have laughed off the prophesy. But that was exactly what he did on the fateful night. Ezugwu, who is also a farmer, had to scamper into the bush when he heard a frightful barrage of gunshots emanating from the neigbhouring village of Ukpabi, Nimbo, an agrarian community in the Uzo-Uwani area of Enugu State. Prior to the night of bombardment, Ezugwu had heard while he was in the busy Nkwo Mkpologu market, that the Fulani herdsmen attacked Nimbo and that they will equally attack his community. Because of this, some of the villagers including Ezugwu’s wife, Blessing, ran to Nsukka urban for safety. Ezugwu, as the man of the house, opted to guard his house and ward off any attack.

However, the unrelenting sporadic gunshots approaching close to his house which borders Nimbo, was too close for comfort. So, he hastily locked up his house and dashed into the bush where he kept vigil, with mosquitoes keeping him company all through the night until day break when the shootings subsided. He emerged from the bush to hear of the gory details of how Nimbo was ravaged and burnt by the marauding Fulani herdsmen. In the attack, about 48 people were hacked down and more than 50 injured even though police said that only eight people were killed.

Michael Ezugwu, one of the survivors from Nimbo, who witnessed the harrowing incident, told Realnews that the Fulani herdsmen came to the community on Monday, April 25, by 3am and went to CY shop at Onueke, the major market in the community and shot the owner of the shop. The gun shots made people to gather to know what was happening and then the herdsmen open fire on them.

According to him, a hunter in the community brought out his local gun but realised that the herdsmen had superior guns and ran away. Ezugwu noted that the hunter ran into St. Mary Catholic Church, Nimbo, and the herdsmen pursued him there and burnt down the church and the Christ Holy Church, which was nearby.

[caption id="attachment_42027" align="alignright" width="429"]Buhari Buhari[/caption]

Also recounting his experience to Realnews, Paul Okeja, a native of Nimbo, said the threat to attack them came four days before the herdsmen finally struck. He said their attackers had written them through John Akor, traditional ruler of the community, who quickly summoned a meeting of the town and mobilised security agents to ward off the attack. He regretted that the security agents, from the police, National Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC and other security agents were guarding the community until Monday morning when they left thinking that the threat was an empty one, only for the attackers to strike immediately they left. Okeja wondered why all of them had to leave at the same time, thereby creating opportunity for their attackers to strike.

Okeja said that as early as 7am when their people went to their farms, more than eleven people were already beheaded on their way to their farm. He added that the herdsmen shot sporadically and cut down other victims with cutlass when they entered into the villages after they have killed those they met in their farms. “The security agents were nowhere to be found when they started killing people in the town, and it was later when about 30 to 40 corpses littered the town that the police and other security agents arrived and they took off, without any of them being arrested.

A youth who just concluded his National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, who just returned to the town that weekend was cut down in the attack, as I am speaking with you now, nobody is in the town now as they escaped through our boundary with Kogi state. There is a river called Eshi River where we have boundary with Kogi State, that was where we suspect our attackers came in from and it was from there they escaped when the security agents arrived. Our worry is that the people were armed to the teeth with AK47 and we kept wondering what Fulani herdsmen will be doing with such sophisticated guns if they are not being sponsored by some well-placed people in the country,” he said.

After the horrendous attack, there were those who survived. They include Patrick Eze, who just finished his National Youth Service Corps programme. Eze sustained severe cuts on his ankles and other parts of his body. Another victim, Kingsley Ezeugo, a former local government councillor, said he only survived because the herdsmen left him for dead after inflicting severe machete cuts on him. Other survivors who are in critical conditions were observed in various hospitals in the Nsukka area, according to Punch reports.

Since the attack, the people of Nimbo have remained in shock. Bodies are still being recovered from the bush. The actual number of victims of the incident is yet to be determined by the villagers as many people who ran away are yet to return to enable them determine those who lost their lives in the incident as some of the bodies were hacked beyond recognition.

The Nimbo massacre is not the first time the Fulani herdsmen wreaked havoc in a community in the country. From North to South, the herdsmen have left in their trail sordid tales of rape, banditry, kidnap and outright murder. The uncivilized activities of the Fulani herdsmen have grown worse in the last two months with the worse incident recorded in Benue State with the Agatu Killings which happened in March. About 500 people were reportedly killed overnight and a whole community sacked in Agatu.

At present, there have been public outcry over the Nimbo massacre where villagers who survived are recounting tales of woes of how the incident could have been avoided had the police harken to their cries for protection.  The villagers revealed that the security agencies abandoned them after they were alerted of the impending attack when Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu State Governor, visited the community on Tuesday, April 26, accompanied by Major General Attahiru Ibrahim, General Officer Commanding, 82 Division, Enugu, and Nwodibo Ekechukwu, commissioner of Police, Enugu State.

A corpse of one of the victims of the herdsmen’s attack, which was uncovered in the bush on Tuesday morning, was displayed in a police Toyota Hilux van at the event. The corpse was said to be that of a secondary school teacher, who was reportedly abducted from his home and killed in the bush by the herdsmen. The corpse had deep machete cuts all over it. Unlike before the attack, security was beefed up in the community during the visit, with heavily armed military and police personnel positioned at strategic locations.

George Ajogu, community leader, who spoke on behalf of the people of Ukpabi Nimbo at the village square, told the visitors that the villagers had information of an impending attack which they communicated to the security agencies who failed to act to protect them.  In an emotion laden voice, Ajogu said: “They (Fulani herdsmen) did not take us unawares, we knew they were coming. We are not happy; we have been crying for more than two weeks that our community is under threat. Now, over 20 people are dead. We are still discovering corpses; we discovered one corpse this morning and so many corpses are still in the bush.

 “We have been shouting and crying but the security agencies did not come to our aid; only one police patrol van comes to this community. Because we lack security, the Fulani come here and tell us the land is theirs. They tell the farmers to kneel down and they rape the women in front of their husbands,” Ajogu said: adding, the villagers were always under attack from the herdsmen who are always heavily armed. He said the Fulani herdsmen have turned their village into grazing fields for their cattles. He begged: “Please don’t leave, if you leave now, they will return to attack us again. They (herdsmen) have been killing and raping our people for some time now,” the community leader added.

Similarly, Cornel Onwubuya, caretaker chairman, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area, said he personally alerted the governor, the commissioner of police and heads of other security agencies after he received a confirmation from some Fulani leaders in the area that the herdsmen were going to attack the community.

Onwubuya added: “We had a security report that this was going to happen and I convened a meeting with Fulani stakeholders in Enugu State. Some Fulani leaders told us that the herdsmen were camped very close to our community. I informed the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State, who assured us that the attack would be stopped. He (Commissioner of Police, Enugu) said he would get in touch with the Commissioner of Police in Kogi State to prevent the attack. The information we got was credible but unfortunately, they still attacked us.”

[caption id="attachment_29221" align="alignright" width="268"]Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi Ugwuanyi[/caption]

Corroborating, Ugwuanyi said, “At the emergency security council meeting, which I convened, we were given all the assurances that the attack would not happen.” According to him, the attackers came in from Kogi in two lorry loads of herdsmen before entering Enugu to attack. “The federal government should do the needful, but as the governor, I call for peace and prayers. Until the federal government decides to address this situation, this will continue to happen,” he said. Ugwuanyi announced a donation of N5million to the community, adding that the government would foot the medical bills of the injured. He said the youths have been restrained from embarking on a reprissal attack.

On their part, Ebere Amaraizu, Police Public Relations Officer, Enugu State Police Command said it was investigating the incident. Part of what the investigation should uncover is who ordered the police to withdraw by 4am while the attack started by 5am in the morning. Was the police commissioner or the Divisional Police Officer, both of whom are Igbo people compromised?

Since the Nimbo massacre, Nigerians have reacted angrily to the rising incidents of Fulani herdsmen attack. More importantly, some security experts have tried to explain how the herdsmen who are previously seen with bow, arrow and cutlass now carry sophisticated AK47 guns.

A retired police officer, who wishes anonymity, told Realnews that the herdsmen were armed by the All Progressives Party, APC, who wanted to used them to destablise the country if it had lost the 2015 presidential election. Now they are in power they have not disarmed the herdsmen and they are now using the arms to foment trouble all over the country. Narrating how the herdsmen also ravaged, raped and wounded farmers in Delta, he advised the politicians to quickly contain and disarm the herdsmen otherwise they nation will be heading for another civil war should the communities decide to retaliate the attacks.

Another school of thought believes that the bad state of the economy is also causing the herdsmen attack since they are not making business as usual. The herdsmen have been penetrated by criminal elements and because they appear incognito people don’t know them. And they now abduct victims and seek ransom before they can let them go. For example, Olu Falae, former finance minister of Nigeria and former presidential candidate of Allaince for Democracy, was kidnapped in 2015 by the herdsmen from his farm in Ondo state and was only released after his family paid a ransom. Eight farmers were also reported to have been kidnapped last week in Delta. They were later released. There is also the problem of climate change, deforestation which have made the herdsmen to migrate to the south to pasture their flock.

Nonetheless, some security analysts are suggesting that community policing will help to contain excesses of the herdsmen. The Department of Security Services, DSS, can also use the Maiti Allah, the umbrella forum for cattle rearers to gather intelligence to handle the problem. “The most important thing is to get the herdsmen disarmed and do peace mediation. We have another militants on our hands. And it’s our politicians who created this. This is another version of Boko Haram. If it is not nipped in bud, it is going to get very bad. We can’t continue senseless wars, can’t continue to fight crimes and criminality. If the communities begin to fight back that means we will to go into another civil. If we don’t take action now to disarm them they can be used for political purposes for Boko Haram to use them to penetrate the South,” a security analyst told Realnews.

Another worrisome allegation among the communities which the herdsmen have attacked is that the law enforcement agents and security agencies appear to look the other way while criminals carry out their evil deeds.  This is why some security analysts think the solution to the herdsmen attack is for the affected communities to come together and invoke their right of defense. “They could liaise with their state governments to resist the stay of the Fulani herdsmen in their areas. They can come together and approach their state governments to take a proactive action to stop cattle rearers from misbehaving.That is the only way to handle it,” the security analyst said.

Agreeing that the cattle rearers should be contained, C. Ezigbo, former lecturer, who narrated how his own community in Idemili North local government of Anambra State was troubled by the herdsmen, said: “If they are not contained, Nigeria will explode. There is need for awareness about the mission of the cattle rearers to be created so that people will know what they are up against. Some of the herdsmen are believed to be Boko Haram members funded by Iran.”

He also sees a bad omen in the proposed cattle grazing bill stating that it will dismember Nigeria. “Seventy-five percent of oil concession in Nigeria is in the hands of the North. They determine what happens in the oil industry. Now, they want to take over farmlands. The Fulani herdsmen are armed to the teeth. Nobody is disturbing them. Of course, it will not work. The pen is mightier than the sword, once their plans are exposed, they will withdraw. Journalists should write to sensitise people on what is happening,” Ezigbo said,

Also, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, while commiserating with his counterpart in Enugu State, Governor Ugwuanyi condemned the carnage and wanton destruction of human lives meted out to the defenseless people of Nimbo by the herdsmen. He also condemned the excesses of the herdsmen across Nigeria, warning that the situation could degenerate into a national crisis if drastic measures were not taken by the federal government to checkmate the rampage. Ikpeazu noted that the herdsmen audacious killings and sacking of communities and farmlands constitute another national security challenge and a huge threat to the peace and unity of the country, stressing that the trend is a time-bomb waiting to explode.

He expressed worry over how the security apparatus of the country has treated the dangerous trend with kid gloves, resulting in more invasion of communities by the herdsmen, from Agatu, through Ondo, Delta, Benue and now Enugu. As at this report, the herdsmen are atill killing people in Taraba State, prompting Femi Falana, SAN, and human rights activists to say he was taking the case to the International Court of Justice.

Observing that the herdsmen could be another disguised form of terrorism and insurgency, Ikpeazu called on President Muhammadu Buhari to nip this trend in the bud before it gets out of hand like Boko Haram.

[caption id="attachment_37541" align="alignright" width="421"]Arase Arase[/caption]

Similarly, a group of human rights activists in Nigeria have urged Buhari to step aside from office, if he could not put a stop to the incessant Fulani herdsmen mindless killings of innocent citizens of the country. This group has concluded arrangement to storm the nation’s seat of power, Aso Rock Villa to register their displeasure over the development. They sympathised with the governments and people of the affected States and communities  in the Federation over the loose of their love ones in the Fulani Herdsmen massacre, calling on the governments at all levels to come to the aid of the affected people and families in order to ameliorate their suffering as a result of the dastard incident.

The activists under the aegis of Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice, CHRSJ, include Centre for Constitutional Rights and Counter Corruption Crusader, Save Lagos Group, SLG, ,The Conscience Mainstream, TMG, African Masses Voices for Survival, AMVS, The Christians Youths for the Peoples’ Rights and Development, CYPRD, Islamic Movement for Muslims’ Rights(IMMR), Divine Nigerians Liberators for Peoples’ Fundamental Rights DNLPFR.

Others are the Christian Awareness Mission Group, CAMG, Passengers Fundamental Rights Group, PATRGIA, the Political Awareness Group, TIPAG, Centre for Social Justice and Equity of Nigeria, CESJEN, Civil Societies Coalition for the Emancipation of Osun State, CSCEOS, Veteran Groups for Operation Clean Crusade, VGOCC, Apata-Aiyeraye Social Political Volunteer Group, ASPVG, and De-Mainstream Independent Group, DIG.

Rising from their expanded meeting on the “State of the Nation” on Wednesday, April 27, Alimi Sulaiman Adeniyi, leader of the group, insisted that they would soon storm the Aso Rock in large numbers to show their grievances against the Fulani herdsmen massacre and insincerity of the President Buhari on the protection lives and property as stipulated in the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Sulaiman, who called on the security agents’ in the country to wake up from their slumber and be alive to their constitutional duties of protecting the lives and property of the citizens, urged them to increase their intelligence gathering mechanism to forestall the future recurrence, stressing that this was how Boko Haram insurgent began some years back in the country. The group gave seven days ultimatum to President Buhari and security agents to fish out the sponsors of the Agatu and Enugu massacre by bringing them to justice, adding that if President has not done anything to curb or put an end to this Fulani herdsmen madness, then, there is trouble in his hand.

They strongly condemned the body language of President Buhari over the Fulani herdsmen massacre for showing no serious concern to the development which shows his ethnic bigotry nature, contrary to the Oaths of Allegiance for the office of the President in line with the seventh schedule of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He alleged that the remnants of Boko Haram sect began the current attacks on the farmers with arms and ammunitions which were contrary to the section 227 of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Another activist, a Lagos-based activist lawyer and journalist Richard Akinnola, venting his anger in his Facebook declared: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”. Akinnola called on Nigerians to “Arise and defend yourselves against the rampaging terrorist gangs, masquerading as herdsmen. From Agatu, to Akure, to Ibadan to Enugu, this madness must stop. It is a big shame that our president has treated this matter with kid gloves. That makes him somehow complicit. This is a great indictment on the president that many of us staked so much to support. I am not a blind supporter of Mr President. Person wey dey cry dey see road o.”

[caption id="attachment_42707" align="alignright" width="450"]Victims being inspected by Nigeria's Police Chief, Solomon Arase Victims being inspected by Nigeria's Police Chief, Solomon Arase[/caption]

Apparently stunned by the criticisms, President Buhari, who has remained mum on the herdsmen atrocities across the nation, on Wednesday, April 27, through Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, ordered security agencies to crackdown on the perpetrators of the massacre in Enugu and extended kind words to those who lost their relations in the mayhem. Garba Shehu, special adviser on Media and Publicity to the president also issued a statement to that effect. As at press time, nothing has been heard from the security agencies and no arrest has so far been made.

Amidst all the anger about the shedding of the blood of innocent people by Fulani herdsmen, the key question is: why are they taken up arms against their host communities? Several reasons have been adduced. They ranged from cattle rustling to innate greed to grab farmlands for cattle grazing.  In the case of Nimbo, Realnews gathered that villagers and Fulani herdsmen had issues over land. As the unconfirmed story goes, the Fulani herdsmen bought land from Nimbo community two years ago. Thereafter, the community alleged the herdsmen went beyond the land that was sold to them and encroached on their farmlands. In addition to the trespassing, the herdsmen started raping their women. When this got out of hand, the villagers said they did not want the herdsmen again in their land and contributed the money twice to refund them so they could leave. Unfortunately, the herdsmen refused to accept the money and instead they invited other mercenaries who came and carried out the heinous attack on the community.

Reported by Anayo Ezugwu

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