Rampaging herdsmen sent a chilling message to Nigerians on their determination to continue perpetrating violence with impunity in the nation’s farming communities with a mindless bloodbath which reportedly left about 50 people dead in Benue State, on Monday and Tuesday. The Police confirmed another 10 killed in a fresh attack on Friday night. The only sensible response that the Federal Government can give to this gory massacre is to make its security agencies fish out the killers immediately and bring them to justice. The time has come for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to demonstrate true leadership and say a decisive No to the herdsmen who are now riding roughshod over the nation and killing people at will. This government must stand up and be counted on the side of ordinary Nigerians who have become game for these murderous herdsmen. It should take the country back from the herdsmen who are now operating above the laws of the land.
The primary purpose of any responsible government, as also outlined in Section 14(2) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution, is to ensure the security and welfare of the people. Any government that fails to do this, as is fast becoming the situation in the country, has failed in its primary responsibility and must, without any prompting, do a self-assessment of its continuing relevance to the citizens and the country.
We sympathise with all the victims of herdsmen attacks in the country, especially the ones just killed or injured in the Benue communities identified as Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan in Togo Local Government Area, and Umengaer, Tse-Akor and Tomatar near Tse-Abi in Nongov District in Guma Local Government Area. The herdsmen reportedly launched the gun attacks in Benue as some Christians were leaving their churches after the New Year service on Monday morning, moving from one community to the other. Apart from those who died, a surgeon at the Department of Surgery of the Benue University Teaching Hospital has confirmed that over 30 injured persons are receiving treatment in the hospital, while many corpses have been deposited in the hospital mortuary. The incident also made residents to flee the affected communities. Nine members of the security outfit, Livestock Guards, were killed by the herdsmen.
It is simply unacceptable for killers of any ilk to take the lives of the people with impunity with the government not demonstrating much interest in bringing them to book. These herdsmen’s attacks have gone on for far too long. The attackers have flagrantly demonstrated their murderous inclinations in Enugu, Kogi, Plateau, Kaduna and so many other states. It is high time the president and his administration stopped their glaring indifference to this problem and brought it to a halt. Nigerians deserve to live in peace in their communities. They also deserve security for their lives and their farm produce.
We, therefore, charge the government to get a handle to this problem and prove that it is standing with ordinary Nigerians on this matter. The situation has become intolerable and the government has to demonstrate that it will no longer overlook the despicable criminal conduct of the herdsmen in this new year.
Our security agencies also have a responsibility to end these attacks. It is, indeed, shameful that such attacks are taking place without our security agencies and their helmsmen seen to be working hard to stop them. Instead of stopping the attacks and bringing the culprits to book, they are mostly found giving excuses for their lacklustre performance. Illegal possession of firearms is an offence under Nigeria’s laws, yet the gunmen are found wielding AK47 rifles in full public glare in many parts of the country without the security agencies doing anything about it until they have unleashed mayhem on innocent persons. Herdsmen’s willful attacks on farming communities have become the order of the day in many states but these agencies have not demonstrated much interest in stopping the trend or the capacity to do so. Instead, there have been allegations of the collusion of some of their unscrupulous officials with the herdsmen in some places.
The latest massacre in Benue is apparently a fallout of the anti-open grazing law promulgated by the state government to protect the farming communities and make livestock farmers establish ranches for their business. Governor Samuel Ortom and the people of Benue State have said that there is no going back on the anti-open grazing law. This law is well within their right as they have the right to administer their state the way they deem best.
As a matter of fact, and as we have stated in past editorials, ranching of cattle is the way to go to modernise and boost cattle rearing. It is the tried and tested path taken by countries that successfully built their economies around livestock farming. The continuing insistence of herdsmen on open grazing of their cattle on the farms of other Nigerians is an open invitation to anarchy and we expect the president to use his good office as a leading light of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association to either dialogue with these incorrigible herdsmen to make them see reason or speedily bring them to justice.
It is not enough for the security agencies to claim that the herdsmen are not Nigerians, or that they are not Fulani. Wherever they are from does not give them the right to ravage our farming communities. Let the government and the security agencies rise up and protect all Nigerians, wherever they may be in the country. Unbridled bloodletting such as the one unleashed on the six communities this week can only breed disaster and destabilise the country. President Buhari, as father of the nation and Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s Armed Forces should rise up to this challenge and halt the impunity of the herdsmen. The Year 2018 is a pre-election year. With the general elections and the campaigns thereof now around the corner, we must not allow herdsmen attacks to sow seeds of disunity and ultimately destabilise the country. They should also not be allowed to disrupt agricultural production at this time that the nation is striving for self-sufficiency in food production and increased agricultural exports. Enough is enough of the herdsmen’s murderous attacks.