Irked by incessant attacks of Fulani herdsmen in different parts of the North, the House of Representatives summons security chiefs in a bid to find a lasting solution to the problem. On the other hand, the federal government plans to introduce grazing farms in different parts of the country to eliminate the problem
| By Olu Ojewale | Apr. 21, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
INCESSANT raids by Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the North have sparked off growing concern nationwide. In the last few months thousands of people have been killed while several other thousands have been displaced. One of the latest raids by the herdsmen was in Dansadau, Zamfara State, where more than 100 people were killed. During the April 5,raid, several houses were destroyed, more than 300 motorcycles burnt and 150 herds of cattle carted away on Saturday.
Irked by the growing audacity of the Fulani herdsmen, the House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 8, summoned top security chiefs in the country to appear before it . To appear before the House committee on security are Aliyu Gusau, a retired general and minister of defence; Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel and national security adviser and Mohammed Abubakar, inspector-general of Police. They are expected to explain the recent killings of villagers, allegedly by Fulani herdsmen in Zamfara State as well as the escalating attacks by herdsmen in various parts of the country.
The resolution of the House followed a motion brought before it by Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, a member, who said the attacks resulted in “the wanton destruction of lives and property,” including 15 villages where, he said, more than 200 villagers were killed in cold blood. “Mr. Speaker, honourable colleagues, the past 72 hours have witnessed unprovoked attacks on innocent villagers by Fulani herdsmen who now organise themselves on motorcycles with sophisticated weapons ranging from sub-machine guns, assorted rifles, automatic weapons to unleash terror on helpless and defenceless villagers. The most surprising thing is that these attacks can go on for hours without any form of intervention from the security agencies in and around the state as the attackers do whatever they like with their victims, including raping of women,” Gusau said.
The lawmaker said it was imperative for law enforcement agencies to review their strategies in combating the menace. The lawmakers also argued in favour of establishing battalions in various violence-prone areas to forestall future occurrences as well as directed the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to supply relief materials to the affected villages.
On Wednesday, April 9, the attack by the herdsmen in Zamfara State took a new turn when the people of Dansadau in Maru Local Government Area in the state accused the police of complicity in the murder of more than 100 of them. The protesters who claimed to have obtained incontrovertible evidence alleged that the police supplied arms and ammunition to the killers and as such, asked that the police helmsmen be sacked for their complicity in the matter.
Saidu Mohammed Dansadau, a senator who spoke on behalf of the community at the ongoing national conference, described what happened in his community on April 5, as systematic genocide. Dansadau said the people had been living with the agony of unwarranted killings in his community for more three years, and that the “premeditated” killings took place on a market day. He claimed that the police who had foreknowledge of the attack did nothing to prevent it. The senator said in July 2012, “the Zamfara State Police command armourer, along with eight other members of the arms supply ring within the police, were caught supplying arms to bandits and handed over to the police,” but that the police “failed or ignored to prosecute the culprits.”
He said further: “The leader of the armed bandits who killed our people on Saturday 5th April, 2014, and who threatened to continue to kill people was arrested at the instance of the state governor, A.A. Yari, but was released within a few days by the police.” According to the senator, for more than three years, the Dansadau Emirate and neighbouring communities, whose major means of sustenance is subsistence farming, have lived under the shadow of the menace and naked intimidation by a band of dare-devil and heavily armed gunmen made up of mostly of Fulani herdsmen.
Dansadau said the Fulani herdsmen had terrorised the people at every opportunity, stealing their cattle and inflicting starvation on people by chasing them away from their farmland. He alleged that the invaders who meet regularly under the auspices of cattle rearers’ union had warned residents through the emir and the police to desist from holding meetings on how to protect their farmland and also threatened that “if the state government does not provide them with sufficient grazing reserve, they will continue to kill people in the area.”
Dansadau said that his people do not need any relief materials from the federal government or any organisation, but assistance from President Goodluck Jonathan to sack the inspector-general of police, for what he called “negligence of duty.” The senator similarly asked for the immediate sack of the assistant inspector-general of Police, Zone 10, state commissioner of police and the divisional police officer in charge of Dansadau Emirate for their alleged complicity in the April 5, killings. The people also demanded compensation for lives and property lost during the mayhem.
However, the defence headquarters has come in defence of its officers in reaction to the accusation of Jama’atul Nasril Islam, JNI, that the military was targeting either Muslims or Fulani for elimination in its counter-terrorism strategy. Chris Olukolade, a major-general and director of defence information, said in a statement: “Much as the military is reluctant to join issues with a respectable religious organisation like the JNI, the need to set the records straight makes this response imperative. The Nigerian military remains non-partisan, non-sectarian and will continue to be the symbol of patriotism and a unifying factor in the face of threats to national sovereignty.
“If this wild allegation was meant to cause disaffection or brew disharmony within the military, then it has woefully failed as the Nigerian military does not operate along religious or ethnic lines. Contrary to the false claims, no law abiding individual, faith, ethnic group or organisation is being targeted as alleged by the JNI.”
As a way of finding a lasting solution to the menace of the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, the federal government has mooted the idea of establishing grazing reserves across the country. The government recently approved a panel to work out the modalities for the establishment of such reserves in different parts of the country.
But that in itself has generated debate in some quarters. Simon Onwubuya, national coordinator, Towards a Renewed Nation, TRN, said that creating grazing farms would amount to creating problems to solve problems. “Historically, the Fulani use violence to achieve their aims. So, Nigerians should not be surprised with what is happening across the states now, especially in the North. One is troubled that the government is considering creating grazing reserves in other parts of the country. We will resist that, because it will amount to endangering the areas where the sites will be located. What is the assurance or guarantee that the Fulani herdsmen will not unleash terror on the inhabitants of the villages where the sites will be established? It does not make any sense. The North should be considered as the preferred area for the grazing sites because the South does not have historical link with the Fulani which might guarantee a peaceful coexistence. I am not supporting their killings in the North, the government cannot solve the problem by aggravating it indirectly.” But Abubakar Tsav, a retired police commissioner, who hails from Benue, one of the flashpoints of the herdsmen killings, argued that the grazing sites should not be restricted to the North alone. ”In the past, the Fulani were living happily with people. It’s wrong to say that citing grazing sites in the South will not be in the interest of the nation because the South also consumes meat. People need cows and for the sake of proximity, having grazing sites in the South will save cost of transportation,” Tsav said.
Controversial as the proposed grazing cites may be, everyone seems to agree that finding a lasting solution to the current bloodletting caused by Fulani herdsmen is the only acceptable way to go.