The growing rate of insecurity in Nigeria has become a major scourge on the path of the country’s peaceful coexistence. While a lasting solution to hack down various security challenges bedevilling the country has not yielded desired outcome, it is imperative that the government stops at nothing in fashioning ways to resolve the agelong obstacle that has continued to cripple the nation’s unity and socio-economic development.
According to the Nigerian Security Tracker, a project of the Washington-based non-profit, Council on Foreign Relations, 25,794 people have encountered violent deaths in the country since the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015. It is without a doubt that insecurity has emerged as the biggest problem confronting Nigeria today and the country cannot continue to pretend as if all is well.
Another NST report said 7,253 died from violent activities in Nigeria between June 2018 and May 2019. They were either victims of mass killings by the different insurgent groups holding the country to ransom or those who are victims of extrajudicial killings by the military in the course of their counterinsurgency operations.
But in Nigeria, killers saunter away from the scenes of massacres unchallenged, just as they did in Benue last year after killing two priests of St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayar-Mbalom and 13 other worshippers. Killer Fulani herdsmen who have been wreaking havoc across the country, described by the Global Terrorism Index as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world, appear to have unofficial freedom to roam the country. They are neither arrested, nor are they prosecuted when police manage to round up a few. How then would the mindless killings and sacking of villages not continue?
Why does the ownership of the estimated 19.5 million cows in Nigeria remain shrouded in secrecy? Surely, the herdsmen we see carrying AK-47 rifles and following the cows through the roadways, villages, and farmlands are not the owners of the cows they tend. Rather, they are hired by the cattle owners to ensure that the cattle are fed and defended against rustling and other dangers
We also know that the herdsmen are organised into an association known as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria. Speaking at the General Assembly of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace on January 18, 2018, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, revealed that MACBAN was established over 32 years ago to cater for the welfare of its members and advance the growth of Fulani business. By Fulani business here is meant cattle rearing. MACBAN has a branch in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country, which often promptly intervenes on matters concerning the herdsmen within its zone.
Benue and Kogi States have been two major states in Nigeria that is constantly hit by the Fulani herdsmen Militia.
Friday 8th December 2017 was a black day in Agebenema Community in Kogi State as Fulani herdsmen attacked a large farm owned by Olufemi Solanke killing 10 of his workers leaving farmhouses burnt, women and children killed.
The attackers, who were armed with guns, ranging from Ak47 to locally made short guns launched attacks on the farmers and villagers and shooting sporadically into the air to ward off possible resistance from their victims. According to a source who painted a gory picture of the scenario, the herdsmen allegedly set houses ablaze and opened fire on fleeing inhabitants, and killing others by slitting their throats and severing their vital parts.
The words of the former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s comment at the graveside of the 73 Benue victims in August of 2018 that “Whatever is behind this … we must get to the root of it; and until we get to the root of this, we will be burying victims … we must know why this is happening”.
The Soldiers of Peace foundation, VTM, Okwuku for Farmers protection amongst other groups have asked questions, gave leading information to the police, coordinated vigilante groups, apprehended and even lost their lives in demanding for answers and sometimes producing names with concrete evidences pointing at top echelon in the Military, top politicians, Emirs and even top federal government functionaries who were fingered as sponsors and collaborators of herdsmen Militia.
The recent attack on Tawari community on the early hours of Friday 4th January 2020 where the leader of a group known for defending the rights of farmers was butchered and 23 people in total lost their lives during the attack which seemed like a premeditated attack on the community as a result of arrest of a Fulani herdsman who revealed the names of their sponsors in the community.
While those who survived the penultimate Friday morning attack continued to bemoan the gruesome killings of families by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen, the unspoken thought that appeared to be playing out in the minds of the people remains, how safe are we?
At a town hall meeting well attended by the Kogi state Commissioner of Police and the representative of the Kogi state government, the leader of SPF Olufemi Solanke publicly declared that they have forwarded recorded videos and other materials which obtained by the joint vigilante group comprising of local members and the SPF sponsored Vigilante from the houses of the apprehended Herdsmen Militia to the police and also reminded the police commissioner that they know who the sponsors were and those financing the group.
Olufemi in 2018 stated that also supported the common that leadership of MACBAN owns some of the cattle; but the vast majority of the cattle are owned by people outside the association. This leads to several questions: Who are the cattle owners in Nigeria? What is their relationship to MACBAN? How many heads of cattle does each of them own? How much tax do they pay on each head of cattle? Let us examine these questions more closely.
Beyond the leadership of MACBAN, the first suspects are the patrons of the association. The list consists of the upper echelons of Fulani oligarchs. Here’s the list as recounted recently by one of them, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II: “The first grand patron was Sultan Abubakar III; and he was replaced by successive sultans – Dasuki, Maccido and Saad Abubakar now. Other patrons were Emir of Kano, Lamido Adamawa, and emirs of Zazzau and Katsina. So, my predecessor was a patron and on my ascension to the throne, I became a patron” (The PUNCH, January 14, 2018).
It is well-known that the Fulani elite own millions of heads of cattle. However, the ownership of cattle goes well beyond the Fulani. Many Northern politicians of various ethnicities, especially governors, senators, and members of the House of Representatives as well as their predecessors in office, also own cattle. So do businessmen and thousands of livestock farmers. It is also true of military and ex-military officers from the North.
But then, why do security officers under the control of the Federal Government appear complicit in the herdsmen’s crime? If the perpetrators of Banks robberies are attacked and their sponsors named, why is the government silent about the mentioned names? Why did Kogi state Police command release the two herdsmen Militia arrested and refused to arrest any of the mentioned prominent Fulani leaders and gangs in the state?
About 60 percent of the Fulanis in Nigeria are governors, Pastors, Imams, Emirs, Sultan, House of Rep members, Importers, Exporters, Ministers, Oil well owners, Top generals in the army, lecturers, Vice Chancellors, Ministers, and Senators etc. In a nutshell, the Fulani control all sectors of the northern economy. These rich Fulanis own all the cattle being reared in Nigeria
This may answer the question that have been asked by various interest groups including Transparency international and the united state of America demanding that President Mohamadu Buhari proscribe the deadly group as one of the deadliest terrorist groups in Nigeria.
The simple answer is that the atrocities of this deadly group is being ignored by security agencies and the federal government of Nigeria because of the involvement of powerful Nigerians backing the organization.
Alas! The Nigerian state is in a place of anarchy where citizens can not hold their leaders and elected officials accountable. Where citizens can not ask questions and where many governors have turned themselves into emperors.
The spike in target attacks across the country especially in Nasarawa where a pastor’s throat was sliced for speaking against the herdsmen and asking government to bring their sponsors to justice, Benue where many members of the Movement against TIV massacre have been kidnapped without a trace, Enugu, Edo and Ekiti states. The same were Fulani herdsmen are credited with destabilizing the city of Jos, a once tourist destination; and their history of mayhem extend beyond the borders of the Nigerian state and Kogi State where communities have been made to abandon their homes, their farms and are left with no means of livelihood and many members of non-governmental organizations kidnapped, killed and some had become the main target of the sponsors and backers of herdsmen.
Its high time reliable statistics were generated that would provide necessary data for planners and researchers interested in livestock farming in Nigeria. Such data should be able to tell us who owns what breed of cattle and where? If such data are not available now, where does the figure of 19.5 million heads of cattle come from? On what basis is the government planning its intervention in the ongoing conflicts between herdsmen and farmers? Appropriate data are needed, and necessary taxes should be collected, if livestock farming were to make a dent on Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and bad eggs in the security agencies be flushed out.
Finally, it must be emphasised that the government cannot keep advancing theories behind herdsmen’s killings without stopping the rampage or at least investigating with the evidences provided over years about who the financiers and sponsors of the herdsmen militia are.
Holistic measures aimed at curtailing this menace should be set in motion without any delay. However, failure of the government to act fast might launch the nation into a state of inoperable institutional rigidity.