Gyang Bere, Jos
Utter hell. Unimaginable nightmare. These have become the lot of farmers in Sot community of Gyel District in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State since cows belonging to Fulani herdsmen have been grazing mercilessly on their farmlands at Gyero village.
The affected farmers, numbering about 68, lamented that they have been living helpless and hopeless lives. They said, having invested all their resources into farming during the COVID-19 lockdown with high hopes of making bumper harvests, it was regrettable that their maize farms have been destroyed by cattle.
The incident started on Friday June 5, 2020, when the Fulani herdsmen attacked John Amos, a 41-year-old hunter and farmer, as well as his two children, while hunting near their farm. Machete cuts were allegedly inflicted on their bodies.
It was gathered that John and his two children had visited the farm to look after their crops and to hunt for animals, unaware that some Fulani herders were looking for their missing cows in the bush.
The innocent John, who was holding his local gun, had an exchange with the Fulani men during which he was allegedly battered with sticks. His two boys, Amos,13, and Isaac, 11, who were watching the incident from a distance, became uncomfortable. While Amos started stoning his father’s attackers, the younger boy ran home to inform their mother.
It was learnt that after John had been beaten unconscious by the herders, they ran after Amos and battered the boy with sticks and machetes. They left him thinking he had died.
When John’s wife was informed of the incident, she raised the alarm that Fulani herders had killed her husband. The community subsequently mobilised its youths and they invaded the farm. The Fulani saw the crowd and fled, it was learnt.
The reporter was told that Amos managed to escape into the bush that night. His father, who was almost lifeless, was discovered and taken to Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH).
Thinking that Amos had been killed, the youths of the community killed one cow belonging to the Fulani. But before further violence could be unleashed, the leaders of Gyel community intervened and calmed the situation.
But on Saturday June 6, 2020, some Fulani boys reportedly led some cows into maize farms belonging to the natives. The crops were totally destroyed. Some Fulani leaders, however, rounded up the suspected perpetrators and handed them over to the B Divisional Police, Bukuru.
At the moment, John is nursing his wounds at JUTH. His son, Amos, who was inflicted with machete cuts on his head, is still fighting for his life at home.
John said he had been a hunter throughout his life. It was with the proceeds of hunting that he was able to send his children to Government College, Keffi, for studies.
“My children were sent home from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic and I am aware that they will return any moment government reopens schools across the country. That is why I’m making efforts to get some money for them.
“The Fulani attacked us in the bush that evening. I never know that I was going to survive it, but I will pursue justice. I don’t know how my children will go back to school if government reopens schools today.”
When the reporter visited the family house in Sot, 13-year-old Amos was groaning in pain. He was trapped on a mat outside with all manner of antibiotics prescribed by doctors.
He explained that, after they left the farm, they went into the forest to hunt: “As we were going, we met some Fulani boys who were looking for their cows. They asked my father and we said no, we didn’t see any cows. But they started beating my father with sticks and cut him with machetes.
“My younger brother ran to inform people at home but I insisted that they should free my father. I was throwing stones at them and they also came after me and inflicted machetes wounds on me. I slept in the bush that night because I couldn’t walk home until the following morning.”
A community leader in Gyel, Yakubu Chung Gam, described the fate of farmers in the community as pathetic. He said this was not the first time cows would graze freely and destroy farmlands but noted that the people had been resolving the issue with the herdsmen.
He said: “One of us and his children went hunting and they were attacked by Fulani men. If you know Gyel, it is one of the peaceful communities on the Plateau, when you talk about issues between herders and farmers.
“When we learned about that incident, we communicated to the Fulani people to know the whereabouts of those youths. We never believed that Fulani would attack our youths from Gyel.
“That night, we don’t know how it happened. Cows were running and destroying farmlands and when we discovered the damage between Saturday and Sunday, the Fulani people on their own arrested their youths who deliberately destroyed people’s farmland.
“We went to the bush with the security and discovered that land belonging to 68 persons was destroyed. Some were severe and some were minor and some of our people said they have forgiven them due to our peaceful nature.
“We appreciate the effort of the Fulani people for arresting their own youths and I am calling on both the Fulani and our people to work more to build on the peace in Gyel.
“Three years ago, that same farmland that was destroyed last Saturday was destroyed and the cost of damages was in millions and they didn’t pay any compensation to the farmers. And now, they are saying the Fulani will have to pay. Leaders of both groups should come together and foster peace and the Fulani should not graze on people’s farms again,” he said.
A Fulani youth leader, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Jos South Chapter, Ahmed Mua’azu, described the incident as unfortunate. But he said it was the action of some Berom boys who killed 11 cows that led to the whole problem.
“What happened was that on Friday night, some Berom youth shot three of our cows at Sabon Kanada and eight others in Gyoro. And as our children were running, the cows destroyed their crops.
“After, some of our boys came deliberately to destroy the crops and we arrested them and took them to the police station,” he said.