As the manhunt for killer herdsmen responsible for the recent carnage in Benue State intensifies, what appears to be the lead on the possible direction security operatives need to beam their searchlight on may have emerged.
Sources told Sunday Sun that while those behind the killings and other high profile crimes, including kidnapping for ransom and cattle rustling are indeed largely of Fulani extraction, they maintained it is erroneous and misleading to dub every Fulani cattle herder a killer.
Generally, there are three different types of Fulani based on settlement patterns: the nomadic or pastoral or Bororo, the semi nomadic and the settled or “town Fulani” who are also known as Fulani Ngida. The pastoral Fulani move around with their cattle throughout the year. Typically, Bororo do not stay around for long stretches not more than two-four months at a time. The semi-nomadic Fulani who happen to settle down temporarily at particular times of the year, or move around beyond their immediate surroundings, and even though they possess livestock, they do not wander away from their fixed or settled homestead. The settled or town Fulani are easily identified with their communities and are easily traceable since they have permanent residence.
Sunday Sun gathered that while there are indeed three categories of Fulani, two of these categories, the settled or town Fulani otherwise known as Fulani Ngida and the Bororo are more popular in Nigeria. The Bororo, besides having no traceable addresses, are also known for their wild nature. In addition to these, they are believed to migrate perpetually with their cattle, traveling from as far as Mali and Niger Republic to Nigeria and other West African countries in search of greener pasture for their herds.
Although the same blood is said to flow in both the Fulani Ngida and the Bororo, the latter, Sunday Sun learnt, have more wayward elements in the mould of the street urchins in the Southern part of the country, most of whom resort to criminalities to survive.
The Bororo many of whom are said to be wild in nature owing to their upbringing, which sources claim is often devoid of all forms of education and religious orientation, largely reside in the bush from where the criminal elements among them launch their operations. “This set of Fulani neither believe in the existence of God nor worship God. This perhaps informs the reason for their unforgiving disposition whenever they are offended. No matter how long the offence may last, they will always come back for a revenge until there is nobody to attack again,” a source said.
The criminals among the Fulani subset are alleged to be responsible for high profile kidnappings along major highways in the country including the Abuja-Kaduna highway and Abuja-Lokoja. They have also been linked to cattle rustling and killings of fellow Fulani.
No fewer than seven of such criminal herders were sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2017 for their involvement in the abduction of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Chief Olu Falae who was kidnapped from his farm in Ilado Village, Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo state in September, 2015.
In a related development, 28 of such suspected Fulani criminals terrorizing the Abuja-Jere-Kaduna highways were also arrested last December. The suspects were apprehended by the IGP Special Tactical Squad upon the raids carried on some of their identified den, camps, black spots and hideouts in the forests located in the Federal Capital Territory, Niger and Kaduna states.
Lately, however, these criminals are believed to have constituted themselves into avengers for their tribesmen who lodge cases of injustice with them. A source informed Sunday Sun that once vengeance-seeking members of a community lodge complaints against anybody or any community, the group could go as far as other neighbouring West African countries to hire fighters, launch attack against the offending community, after which they disappear.
Senator Kabiru Marafa from Zamfara State confirmed this much last week while raising the alarm about his state being under the siege of militias. According to him, “My state is now under the control of foreign militias. They move freely with their arms. I said it on Tuesday. I was home during the fuel crisis. In my own town, they (militia groups) are the ones that judge between the people. The people no longer go to the local authorities. If there is a problem, they go to the bush and tell these people that I have a problem with somebody. That is a national emergency. In all local governments, this is the truth of the matter,” the lawmaker disclosed.
Sunday Sun gathered that the scenario as painted by Senator Marafa is also obtainable in some other states in the North and might have been largely responsible for the recent upsurge in the activities of killer herdsmen in Benue with the recently passed Anti-Open Grazing Law and the setting up of Livestock Guards by the state government, fueling the latest attacks.
Before the attacks, allegations of extortion and high-handedness were said to have trailed the activities of the livestock guards since they were commissioned to enforce the new law. Sunday Sun was informed that some of the livestock guards were allegedly confiscating the cattle of herders who ran foul of the new law and, in some cases, feathering their own nests with herders’ misfortune.
Piqued by the incessant harassments from the livestock guards and the losses incurred from their confiscated cattle, some the affected Fulani herders, Sunday Sun gathered, resorted to seeking the help of criminal minded Fulani who responded by launching the coordinated attacks on the affected communities in the state and leaving no fewer than 73 people dead.
But reacting to this, a former commissioner of police in Lagos, Abubakar Tsav disagreed with the claim that the attacks on Benue communities were caused by the Anti-Open Grassing Law in the state. He noted that similar killings had been witnessed in the state in the past when the law was yet to be made. He called on the Federal Government to set up a commission of enquiry to look into the problem with a view to ascertaining the root cause.
His words: “Nobody has been able to find the root cause of these killings. The best place to start is to try to know the root cause. In the past, herdsmen lived amongst the people and there was no such problem, why is it happening now? The government should constitute a federal commission of enquiry, which will cover all areas where herdsmen had killed. It is only when we know the root cause that we can start tackling it.”
“In Benue State, there was no anti-open grassing law when so many people were killed in Agatu and when they made this law they still killed so many people in Logo and Guma local government areas. Let the government constitute a commission of inquiry to find out the real cause. We need to hear the side of the herdsmen. Are they the ones killing or some people are coming to support them and in the process killing people,” he queried.
Tsav added that there was also a need to probe into the activities of livestock guards, insisting only a commission of enquiry would reveal the truth behind the problem. “These livestock guards are armed but they have not been trained in the use of firearms. We also understand that a lot of them have cattle of their own and that they make a lot of money and whenever there is problem between them and the Fulani, the government gives them money. So, they take delight in causing problem. It is possible. But the truth can only be known when there is a commission of inquiry in place,” he declared.
In his own contribution, Col. Gabriel Ajayi (retd) said it was wrong to view the problem of Fulani herdsmen as a security challenge. He posited that apprehending and prosecuting the perpetrators of the killings as directed by the Senate would not produce the desired results.
According to him, “the problem of Fulani is not a security problem; it’s a Nigerian problem and the current security approach we are giving it can’t be used to solve the problem. Everybody wants the culprits to be arrested and prosecuted, will that bring back those people that had been killed and will that solve the problem?
“We need to immediately restructure this country and let the people take care of themselves. Let us go back to what we were as at October 1, 1960,” he said.
While recalling that nomadic herdsmen had always been part of Nigeria without the tale of bloodletting, he questioned the genesis of their resolve to carry firearms in the cause of their pastoral task. “The Bororo had always been part of the nomadic herdsmen in Nigeria since I was a child and then, they were carrying only sticks as at that time and not weapons.
“Who are the owners of the cows that are being herded around Nigeria? Are the Bororo the owners of these cows? Are the nomadic herdsmen who are not Bororo the owners of these cows? Is it possible for the herders to carry their cattle all the way from Mali to Nigeria? And how will they give back the money to the owner when they finish selling it here? Let’s take a closer look at what is actually happening in Nigeria and let’s take it as a national problem, and face it squarely.
“Those people are the very owners of the cattle and they’re Nigerians. So, don’t let us be under any illusion that the cattle belong to some people outside Nigeria,” he said.
Proffering further solution to the problem, Ajayi said Nigeria should consider phasing out the species of cows currently being reared in Nigeria, which, according to him, cannot be ranched. He maintained that as long as this species of cows continue to roam the country, farmers/herdsmen face-off will continue to be a problem.
“There are two types of cows: those that feed on dry leaves and those that feed on wet leaves.
What the government needs to do is to buy all the cows around from all these herdsmen and share it out and reintroduce the cows that eat dry leaves that can be ranched. The cows we have today cannot be ranched, because they eat wet leaves and not dry leaves, so they need to graze around. And as long as they graze around, there will always be problems between herdsmen and communities where the cows are grazed,” he said.
Ajayi also called on state governors to seek to assert themselves as chief security officers in their respective states to be able to put full state security machinery in place and safeguard the lives and property of the people in their respective states.
“There should be an opportunity for all the state governors to visit the Supreme Court now to seek the constitutional interpretation of what it means to be the chief security officer of their states. What does the constitution anticipate them to use to be the chief security officer of their states? How does the constitution expect them to act as chief security officer of their states?
“Everybody is blaming the governors for this and that, what will the governors use to protect anybody? The governors have no police; they are not the owners of the security apparatus in their states. The security architectures in their states are Federal security architectures. So how do the governors operate? The governors should go to court and seek out these problems once and for all,” he submitted.
Despite the order given to the police for the arrest of suspected herdsmen responsible for the horrendous killing of more than 70 people in Benue State three weeks ago, the killing continued unabated in the state and some other parts of the country.
The Senate had last week given the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, a 14-day ultimatum to investigate and arrest the perpetrators of the killings. The lawmakers’ position was sequel to the consideration of a report of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the Current Security Infrastructure in Nigeria. The committee had earlier visited Benue to ascertain the level of killings in the state.
The state, which prides itself as the food basket of the nation was on New Year’s day, thrown into mourning, following the massacre by suspected herdsmen who staged two days of coordinated attacks on six communities in the state. The affected communities are Tomatar, Umenge, Akor villages in Guma, Governor Samuel Ortom’s home town, and Ayilamo, Turan, Ngambe-Tiev in Logo Local Government Area of the state, leaving at least 73 persons dead, including nine members of the state livestock guards, who also had their operational vehicle burnt by the invaders. The attack also left several persons with varying degrees of injuries while scores of houses and property were razed and destroyed.
But in spite of the hue and cry the killings have generated in the country, the perpetrators, who are believed to be Fulani herders appear unyielding in their resolve to inflict more sorrow on people of the state. According to the state governor, no fewer than six people were reported killed in fresh attacks in Logo and Guma local government areas of the state last week by criminals suspected to be herdsmen.
Similarly, a pregnant woman was reported to have lost her life to killer herders in Ekiti last Thursday. The incident, Sunday Sun gathered, happened barely 24 hours after Governor Ayo Fayose had a peace meeting with Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, farmers and local hunters in the state.
Security experts, however, expressed the fear that the attacks and killings by criminal elements suspected to be herders may continue, unless the government decides to approach the problem more decisively, saying the current arrangement where the problem is left in the hands of security agents, might not yield the best result.
According to them, killer herders will continue to remain elusive to security operatives not only until the root cause of the problem is identified, but also until the government is able to sieve the grains from the chaffs, as according to them, not all Fulani herdsmen are killers as currently being peddled.