The women of Nnite in Godogodo Chiefdom, Kafanchan area of Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State, last week, protested against the violent attacks of their communities by people said to be Fulani herdsmen. The herdsmen had reportedly invaded three of their villages and killed about 11 persons and turned hundreds into refugees.
Similarly, in Adamawa State, the Fulani herdsmen also attacked Kodomun and neighbouring villages in Demsa Local Government Area last Monday and left about 30 people dead.
The violence of Fulani herdsmen seems to know no end. No doubt, this is a sign that the subject is not receiving sufficient attention from the government. On May 29, 2016, a review of the first year of the present administration showed that at least 3,094 Nigerians had been killed since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office. Out of this number, 525 were reportedly killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
These figures were conservative but they show why the Fulani herdsmen constitute a threat to peace and security in the country. It was just three months ago that the massacre at Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani of Enugu State created a national uproar. Two months earlier, the invasion of Agatu land by the herdsmen and the slaughter of hundreds of people in Benue State attracted worldwide condemnation and a national outrage. In May this year, the police confirmed that 15 people were killed in Taraba State by Fulani herdsmen, although the local population put the figure at 40. Within the same month, the herdsmen also attacked Oke Ado in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State. Following the attack, Governor Ayo Fayose lamented that farmlands costing billions of Naira had been destroyed in states in the South-West, South-East and North Central geo-political zones.
We believe the depredations of the Fulani herdsmen have persisted because the Federal Government has paid scant attention and only lip-service to the issue. The deafening silence of the President was only interrupted in April when the Presidency issued a wishy-washy statement about “ending the recent upsurge of attacks on communities by herdsmen reportedly armed with sophisticated weapons.”
We think the attacks have continued because no one has been apprehended, charged and tried in a court of competent jurisdiction. These crimes, properly evaluated, are terrorism offences and deserved to be charged under Section 33 of the Terrorism Act of 2011. Till today, no one has been made to face trial in spite of hundreds of incidents which occurred in the presence of witnesses.
It will be recalled that early in the year, the Defence Headquarters touted a task force to be headed by Major General Edward Nzeh. But except an appearance in Enugu State, nothing more has been heard of this task force. The recent attacks by the herdsmen seem to indicate that the task force has either gone dormant or is still-born.
The silence of President Muhammadu Buhari on these incidents is very disturbing. It also sends the wrong message to millions of Nigerians to whom silence could be interpreted to mean consent. We also want to believe that the President would wish to find out the sources of the assault weapons which these herdsmen reportedly use to destroy lives and burn communities.
The excuse that the herdsmen are foreigners amounts to playing the ostrich. Whether they are Nigerians or foreigners should not stop their being arrested and tried for murder. It would be useful to know also if Boko Haram has infiltrated the herdsmen and where the cattle breeders actually stand on these issues and why they cannot ask their men to stop the barbaric attacks. We urge the Federal Government to wake up to its responsibilities which primarily is the provision of security for all Nigerians. The government should assist the victims of these vicious attacks.