Nigeria And The Menace Of Fulani Herdsmen | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigeria And The Menace Of Fulani Herdsmen

Posted: May 17, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Nkemakonam Nnaji

As Nigeria is still reeling from the Boko Haram insurgency and its numerous atrocities, the country seems to be playing host to another terrorist group as yet unrealised. The Fulani herdsmen, or nomadic cattle grazers, have now become another deadly terror group the country is now grappling with. The terrorist activities of the herdsmen are no less comparable to Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban and Alshabab outside Nigeria. The group {Herdsmen} in the recent time has wreaked great havoc to be acknowledged by the global community as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. The “Fulani militants” as they have come to be known, is made up of members of the Fulani or Fula ethnic group, a tribe of over 20 million people , 70 percent of whom are nomadic grazers , who are natives to at least seven west African countries. There is no doubting the fact that the tension between Fulani herdsmen and the farming communities has been in existence over the years past, but has turned a dramatic escalation in recent times to include attacks, kidnappings and killings by the nomads.
A cursory statistics reveals that between 2007 and 2012 the herdsmen slaughtered in different parts of Nigeria people totalling about 100, but between 2013 and 2015 the human carnage perpetrated by the Fulani nomads in different parts of Nigeria has risen to figure totalling about 1012. The state that seems to be the hardest hit by this bestial acts of killings by the herdsmen are Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa, Plateau, Kaduna , Kastina and Enugu with pockets of such attacks across most of the states in southern Nigeria. The issue that bugs the minds of Nigerians is that in the past these Fulani herdsmen who wander in the bushes grazing their cattle do unleash terror on the host communities at times but the magnitude of damages to life and properties was not high as it is becoming now. The fact is that in the past they operate with knives, clubs, bow and arrows. But now they move with sophisticated arms- gun, riffles, Ak-47, pump action and the likes. The question is who trained and lunch these desert habitats into the sophisticated arms race?

Worse still, they are armed with sophisticated weapon and usually attack their target communities at a time that they are most vulnerable such as at midnight or on Sundays when they are in church, killing people indiscriminately, burning houses and looting properties. Most worrisome is the brutality and impunity with which these guerrilla assailants operate with no regard for the law and the sanctity of human life. Painfully still the Nigeria police, military and other statutory security agencies came to no useful help and the unsuspecting villagers are mercilessly slaughtered in their homes with their houses and properties destroyed.

The nomadic militants dominate the middle belt region of Nigeria. The global Terrorism index of 2015 states that over 90 percent of the attacks carried out by the group are on private citizens, accounting to 81 percent of deaths in the area. Recently no fewer than 300 people were killed following a series of attacks launched by Fulani herdsmen in Benue state. Also the herdsmen attacked and killed people in part of Awgu in Enugu state and most recent the herdsmen stormed Nimbo community in Uzo-uwani local government area of Enugu state slaughtering people, burn houses, churches and looted properties. They did the evil act unscathed. It is unfortunate that this level of criminal impunity is happening in a sovereign nation with a constitution which declares that security and welfare of citizens shall be a major responsibility of the state.

Discreet investigation on the matter reveals that both the Fulani herdsmen and the farming communities involved in the crises have their complaints/grievance against each other. While the host community complain that the cattle rearers destroy their farms and water with their cattle which sometimes they {communities} take action to protect their farms and farmlands, the herdsmen on the other hand had their grouse that the villagers often kill their flocks. The justice of the matter is that in as much as the constitution of Nigeria provides for freedom of movement within the country, care must be taken not to allow that free movement to become trespass.
Government should take urgent measures to disarm these herdsmen, fish out and prosecute those involved, including their sponsors and bring them to justice. The security agencies need to be alert and responsive to these security challenges in the rural communities. Better still stake holders should come to a round-table to discuss dialogue and agree on how best to resolve the crises. I equally suggest that the government should consider and adopt a sedentary grazing policy/practice in the country instead of nomadic.