A Problem Like Fulani Herdsmen | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Columnists, Scruples

A Problem Like Fulani Herdsmen

Posted: Oct 27, 2015 at 12:22 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The brutal abduction early last week of Chief Olu Falae, a former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) and former finance minister, by a band of Fulani herdsmen has once again brought to the fore the often tragic excesses of these cattle herders whose unwholesome understanding of their place as co-inhabitants in their host communities appears to have led them into the erroneous and dangerous belief that they are, perhaps, incapable of being restrained by any law.

On Monday, September 21, 2015, the day Falae turned 77, heavily armed Fulani herdsmen reportedly stormed his farm at Ilado in Akure North council of Ondo State , attacked his workers and violently took him away.  This is how his personal assistant (PA), Capt Moshood Raji (retd), explained what happened while speaking with newsmen in Akure  on Thursday, September 24, the day Falae regained his freedom, as reported by Vanguard on Friday:

“About a month ago, there was a clash between the herdsmen and Chief when some cows destroyed maize on the farm. I was the one that led the policemen to arrest them. We arrested some and detained them for about four days. Chief Falae said he has no problem with them that they have to sign an undertaking that they will not go there again. They signed an agreement that they will not go there again. The Fulani Secretary signed for them. The secretary then said I should caution Oga (Falae) that he should go and fence his farm. He said if he dared harm any cow or kill any of their cows, there would be trouble. He said that before the officer in charge of SARS. They have [now] carried out the threat. What they destroyed was about N500,000.00 but N120,000 was paid and the chief distributed the money to all his workers when it was brought to him.”

After his abductors set him free, Falae told Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State who visited him that during his four days in captivity, he was made to sleep on bare floor and trek several kilometers from his farm in Ilado, where he was kidnapped, to Owo, where he was eventually set free. It was reported that he returned with a wound on his left hand. Falae’s abductors had asked for a N100 million as ransom, but it was not clear if any money was paid to secure his release.

Given the tone and contents of the statements of those who had condemned Falae’s abduction, it ought to be clear to the federal government that the activities of these Fulani herdsmen have unduly tested the patience of a growing number of Nigerians, and now pose a serious threat to peace and unity in this country. A lasting solution must immediately be found to their menace before they plunge this country into an avoidable crisis.

Falae’s ordeal had attracted such a significant attention, including a presidential order to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to immediately secure his release, because of the caliber of his person. Some other victims who had even lost their lives only managed to attract just a brief or no mention in the papers. Their families are in their quiet, obscure corners mourning their loss.

In March 2015, for instance, an 85 year-old community leader in Oma Eke village in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State, Pa Tagbuo Oguejiofor, was murdered in cold blood by some Fulani herdsmen rearing their cattle in his community. According to PUNCH newspaper March 19, the late octogenarian’s offense was that he had the temerity to drive away these herdsmen who had unleashed their cattle on his farm which promptly devoured his crops and polluted his water well. Later, they armed themselves, returned to the farm, murdered him and went their way.

How these herdsmen are able to retain the conviction that farms that people had invested labour and resources to raise would continue to serve as food for their cattle remains very difficult to comprehend. And the deprived farmers are expected to go home quietly (and probably thank the herdsmen and their cattle for helping them to destroy the farms they may have raised with their life-savings or even loans), or else they would lose their lives, or (if they are lucky) be kidnapped so that their families would pay huge sums to secure their release.  Not even in the colonial era, with all its several inhuman and degrading treatments to conquered natives, were human beings brazenly subjected to such extreme indignities. So, those who are seeking to entrench such a callous and oppressive enterprise should better know that they are planting a time bomb in the country, provoking an otherwise peace-loving people.

When you do an internet search on the phrase “Fulani Herdsmen,” you will be shocked at the incredibly humongous harvest of tragedies these fellows have accumulated with utmost impunity across Nigeria . You will be further benumbed by the lamentation everywhere that they always manage to get away with whatever they do, and even when they are arrested after any of their tragic, crimson exploits, they would always find their ways out of custody soon, further emboldened to wreak more devastations. When they invaded a village in Benue State around 4 a .m. in March this year, for instance, more than 90 lives (including those of women and children) were callously wasted before their bloodlust could be assuaged (Vanguard of March 16, 2015). 

It must, however, be pointed out that these herdsmen are doing an important work which they are sadly discrediting with their brazen disregard for the rights of others, including the right to live. Their products serve as a source of protein to many across Nigeria . Their activities must therefore be regulated. They must be made to realize that there are laws governing civilized existence and that Nigeria is not their conquered and lawless jungle. In most cases, these itinerant herdsmen are not the owners of the cattle they are rearing. The owners who sit in their comfortable homes and watch them kill, maim and abduct innocent people almost daily must now be compelled to realize that there is a limit to impunity in a society governed by law. The only way to halt these reckless and callous killings is for those who perpetrate them to be duly dealt with according to the law. So long as people enact tragedies and get away with it, so long will others be emboldened and even derive animation from doing more. Even when people are provoked, they should learn to restrain themselves from taking laws into their hands.

A lasting solution to these constant clashes would be for the government to muster the political will to confine the activities of these herdsmen by mandating cattle owners to raise ranches and grazing grounds for their cattle. Given the amount of blood-curdling tragedies that clashes between herdsmen and farmers have already accumulated, this measure and more should be treated with the urgency they deserve.