By Onyedika Agbedo
Thursday, August 25, this year, will go down in history as a day of tragedy for indigenes of Enugu State, nay well meaning Nigerians. On that fateful day, the peace of Ndiagu community of Attakwu, Akegbe-Ugwu in Nkanu-West Local Government Area of the state was shattered by suspected Fulani herdsmen who invaded the community and slaughtered a Catholic Seminarian, Lazarus Nwafor. The herdsmen, who were reportedly numbering over 50, were reportedly armed with machetes with which they severely injured four members of the Ogbodo Nwarum family, where Nwafor, the Seminarian, who had finished his apostolic work at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Ndiagu, Attakwu, on Tuesday, August 23, lived as a tenant. The herdsmen also reportedly slit the stomach of six-month pregnant Mrs. Nwarum in the operation that started about 2.15a.m.
The incident came barely four months after a similar attack on Ukpabi Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani local council of the state left several persons dead.
The traditional ruler of the community, His Royal Highness, Igwe Greg Ugwu, who spoke to the media on the incident, had expressed shock over the development. He said: “There was no issue at all between them and my people. The only thing I heard is that they entered into the heart of the community Wednesday afternoon and a woman sounded a gong, after which the cows scattered; they got the cows together and left only to return in the night.”
Incidents of Fulani herdsmen-farmer clash are not new in Nigeria and even globally. The 2015 Global Terrorism Index put Fulani herdsmen as the fourth deadliest militant group in the world with a record killing of 1229 people in 2014. In Nigeria, records have it that among conflicts/crises recorded in Nigeria between 1991 and 2005, farmers-herdsmen conflicts accounted for 35 per cent of the clashes. However, to say that the spate of such clashes has become mind bogging in recent years is to state the obvious. The clashes, instead of abating, have been on the increase exponentially to the chagrin of helpless Nigerians.
Statistics provided by the Institute for Economics and Peace show that 1,229 people were killed in 2014, up from 63 in 2013.
Benue State seems to be the hardest hit in the recent times. Barely five days to the end of former governor Gabriel Suswam’s administration in May 2015, over 100 farmers and their family members were reportedly massacred in villages and refugee camps located in the Ukura, Per, Gafa and Tse-Gusa local government areas of the state. According to reports, in July 2015, suspected herdsmen attacked Adeke, a community on the outskirts of the state capital, Makurdi.
Last December, six persons were killed at Idele village in the Oju local government area. A reprisal attack by youths in the community saw three Fulani herdsmen killed and beheaded.
This year, newspaper reports show that over 700 people have lost their lives to Fulani herdsmen attacks. As chronicled by the media, on February 18, 2016, five persons were killed by Fulani herdsmen at Okokolo village in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State. Again, on March 5, 2016, another 500 persons were killed by the rampaging herdsmen following a siege on communities in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State. The attacked communities included Aila, Akwu, Adagbo, Okokolo, Ugboju, Odugbeho, Ogbaulu, Egba and Obagaji.
April 12, 2016: Fulani herdsmen attacked two villages in Gashaka Local Government Area of Taraba State, killing 15 people; April 19, 2016: Twenty-five local government areas in Delta State grounded activities on the Benin-Asaba Expressway while protesting the alleged killing of over 23 persons in their areas by herdsmen; April 21, 2016: Farmers in Lagun, Iyana Offa, Offa, Atagba, Lapata and their surrounding communities in Lagelu Local Council Area of Ibadan, Oyo State, alleged that a group of Fulani armed men attacked their communities at night, injured a guard and carted away valuables; April 25, 2016: Fulani herdsmen attacked Ukpabi Nimbo in Uzo- Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State. About 40 persons were reportedly killed; June 16, 2016: A 45-year-old renowned farmer was shot by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen in Ossissa community in Ndokwa East local government area of Delta State; and June 20, 2016: At least 59 deaths were recorded following recent attacks on Benue communities such as Ugondo, Turan and Gabo Nenzev in the Logo Local Government Area of the state by suspected herdsmen, among many others.
The economic cost of these clashes has been catastrophic for Nigeria. A recent report by Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organisation, funded by the British Department for International Development (DFID) said the endless conflict between farmers and herdsmen across the country, especially in the North-Central, is costing Nigeria at least $14 billion in potential revenues annually. Mercy Corps issued the report after a research it carried out between 2013 and 2016 on the causes and effects of the perennial clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria. The report was officially launched at an event at Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, recently.
“While Boko Haram violence in Northeast Nigeria garners the majority of media attention, the study shows that ongoing, low-level conflict is thwarting the country’s economic development to an enormous extent. We found that the average household affected by conflict today could see income increase by at least 64 per cent, and potentially 210 per cent or higher if conflicts were resolved,” Iveta Ouvry, country director of Mercy Corps.
It is expected that the findings would be of interest to the authorities who are frantically looking towards agriculture as an alternative source of revenue following the crash in oil price but have failed to stop Fulani herdsmen from continuing with their destructive tendencies and heinous crimes against Nigerians.