The New Year did not start too well especially for people in Rivers and Benue states. It started with needless bloodbaths in both states. In Rivers, about 17 people were killed during crossover night in a mayhem orchestrated by an alleged notorious cultist and kidnapper, Igwedibia Johnson also known as Don Waney. Same day, in Benue, over 70 people were also killed by herdsmen. But there are interesting perspectives to the two killings. Within a few days of Rivers’ incident, the security agencies made up of operatives of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian army was on the case. They located the linchpin in the attack and while trying to escape, he was shot dead alongside two of his lieutenants, Ikechukwu Adiele and Lucky Ode.
Incidentally, he had relocated to Enugu State but through what Maj-Gen. Enobong Udoh, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, described as the ‘geo-location’ of his new Enugu neighbourhood hideout by the DSS, Rivers state Command, troops of the 82 division of the Nigerian army, he was found. That would rate as one of the fastest and greatest detective works in the history of trailing hoodlums and dealing with them. The response of security operatives was record-breaking fast. If it was not the wrong person that was killed, then the security operatives must have had unimpeachable piece of intelligence which enabled them to locate and permanently deal with Don Waney and his accomplices.
Now to Benue, while the rest of the country was celebrating the New Year, that was not the case with the people of Guma and Logo local government areas of the state. They were in mourning. Herdsmen, in what could be seen as a coordinated attack invaded several communities. None was spared- women, children and the aged. The killings which began on Sunday, December 31 continued days into the New Year. In spite of the hues and cries, the attackers were merciless and still continued attacking several communities two days after the first wave of attacks. So far, over 70 people have been killed.
Such mindless bloodshed is not new to the state. Governor Samuel Ortom, you have to give it to him has not been quiet. He had shouted it to whoever would listen. Last July 2017, while speaking with Edward Kallon, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, he had lamented the incursion of herdsmen into Benue. He noted that within three years, no fewer than 1,878 people had been killed, 750 critically injured with about 200 unaccounted for.
“Between 2013-2016 alone, Fulani herdsmen killed more than 1,878 men, women and children in cold blood from 12 local government areas of Benue State. Another 750 were seriously wounded while 200 are missing. Over 99,427 households were affected and property worth billions of naira destroyed. In 2014 alone, the destruction recorded across 10 local governments in Benue State exceeded N95bn,” he noted. The governor further sounded a note of warning that what was happening would have wider implication for food security. We all know that Benue is known for the production of yams and other produce, so its tag of food basket of the nation, is not misplaced. But no one paid heed to him until the latest killings.
It is rather unfortunate that the herdsmen have continued to take lives at will and whenever it suits them. There is no part of the country that has not felt the brunt of their attacks. In the Southeast, States like Enugu and Abia have had violence unleashed on their communities. It was the same with states like Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo in the south west. Ekiti governor, Ayodele Fayose had enacted a law to curtail the excesses of the herdsmen. A few days ago, he had again gathered hunters in the state and given them a marching order to protect his people.
In this latest outrage in Benue, it is obvious that the leadership of the Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body for the association of cattle owners (in which prominent northern leaders are members and sponsors, even if they will not own up to it), cannot be exonerated. From statements credited to the association and the Benue governor before and after the incident. The leadership of Miyetti Allah had stated openly that it was opposed to the law put in place by the state government against open grazing. The association clearly stated that the law would not fly and would be challenged.
One of association’s representatives was on national television yesterday, acknowledging the association’s opposition to the Benue anti-open grazing law and adding that it was being challenged in court. He was only being diplomatic; his association had other ways of showing their displeasure to the law. This was further confirmed by Governor Ortom, “I have repeated my call that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore should be arrested. I had earlier given this notice to the security agencies and reported these people to the Presidency because they came out boldly and said they were going to resist the law and that they would do everything possible to sabotage what we are doing.
These people are known, I have reported them to the President and currently, they have taken us to court. They issued several press statements and threats against us and their threats have become reality. They are living in Abuja with the Federal Government so why can’t the Federal Government do something? The governor went further yesterday during the stakeholders meeting with the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris who had been ordered to the state by President Mohammadu Buhari in what one would clearly describe as medicine after death. Governor Ortom claimed to know where the attackers of his people were and challenged the IGP to investigate his claim. He gave the name of the community.
It is obvious that the latest killing will go the way of other killings by herdsmen in the country. No one would be made to pay for the bloodshed and destruction of the livelihood of the people. No compensation would be paid to those who lost loved ones. And that tells us clearly that the killers have the protection of some “big men”. The governor acknowledged this fact when he said, “they are living in Abuja with the Federal Government”. May be he should even have said they are the federal government.
Why has it been so easy for the security agencies to quickly latch on the trail of the Rivers state killers and deal with them permanently but have found it difficult to bring any of the killer herdsmen to pay for their crime? We know how fast the security operatives can move, if encouraged. Is it because the killers enjoy the protection of those who should act in Abuja? Come to think of it, is there a prominent Fulani or Hausa man that does not have herds of cattle?
These cattle owners are directly and indirectly the sponsors of the violence, they are equally the shield for these killers. That is why we will all shout ourselves hoarse while the killings would still continue. The best that would happen is that cattle owners would warn their herdsmen to lie low for now until the hues and cries are a bit reduced. To curtail the problem, the rights of land owners and farmers should be respected. The possibility of ranching should equally be looked into. Beef is important, but you do not beef alone, it is eaten with other meals.
And no matter what, no animal is worth the live of a human being.