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In what appears to have become a recurring human tragedy, several villages in farming communities of Benue State were sacked by killer Fulani herdsmen on the night of the first day of January in the new year. The marauding killer herdsmen descended with fire and fury on several communities, including Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan in Logo Local Government Area as well as Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomatar in Guma Local Government Area. The quantum of volume of blood of slaughtered men, women and children estimated to be over 80 people has transformed the Benue valley into an estuary of blood with dark clouds of sorrow hovering over the landscape from the thick smoke of burnt carcases of human lives and properties.
These recent attacks are believed to be directly linked to the anticipated implementation of the anti-open grazing law that was enacted by the Benue State House of Assembly last year. This law, which seeks to prohibit unrestrained grazing and incidents of grazing on cultivated farmlands, is, however, fiercely opposed by cattle breeders. While reacting to the signing into law of the anti-open grazing bill by the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, the umbrella body of cattle breeders in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, declared in no uncertain terms: “At the end of the North-West meeting, after series of deliberations, we are completely opposed to the anti-grazing law, and we are worried on the possible crisis that may emerge, if such laws are allowed to take effect.”
Despite Governor Ortom’s plea for help from the federal government in securing lives and properties of Nigerians of Benue State origin in the wake of this threat by Miyetti Allah, the carnage was not averted. Significantly, the latest bloodletting started from Guma, Governor Ortom’s area of origin, as if to punish him personally for initiating the anti-open grazing law. As has become the norm, security agencies appear powerless in the face of numerous killer herdsmen’s attacks across the country. The inability of the various security agencies to avert, curtail, confront, apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators of this genocidal crimes against humanity has led many to insinuate state complicity in these tragedies. The ethno-geographic composition of Nigeria’s top echelon of the security apparatus lends credence to this conspiracy theory.
The entire security configuration of Nigeria is dominated by elements of northern Nigeria. Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s armed forces is an ethnic Fulani and a consummate cattle breeder from Katsina State. His minister of defense (Army, Navy and Air Force) is Mansur Dan Ali, an ethnic Fulani from Zamfara State. His minister of interior (Police, Immigration, NSCDC, NDLEA), Abdulrahman Danbazzau is an ethnic Fulani from Kano State. The director-general of the DSS, Lawal Daura, is also an ethnic Fulani from the President’s home state of Katsina. This very sectional composition of Nigeria’s important and sensitive security architecture has impacted negatively on the defence policy of the Buhari administration.
The ethno-geographic orientation of these principal elements in the defence and internal security policy formulation is quite discernable in their approach to the activities of the marauding killer herdsmen. In apparent solidarity, these elements appear to sympathise with their Fulani kinsmen in their determination to transform the entire green space within Nigeria to an uncontrolled grazing land for their cattle, including cultivated farmlands, to the detriment of farmers. Therefore, the many incidents of violent activities on the grounds of reprisal attacks by killer herdsmen, which appear to enjoy attributive legitimacy, if not pride, among ethnic Fulani people, have led to a downgrading of the potent security threat posed by killer herdsmen in the eyes of Nigeria’s Fulani-dominated security forces. The federal government has refused to declare and threat killer Fulani herdsmen as terrorists, despite the fact their murderous activities have claimed more Nigerians across a broader geographic spread than the Boko Haram insurgency. Rather, the violent activities of killer herdsmen are considered by security agencies as “clashes” between farmers and herders, thereby putting the blame equally on both parties while urging them to “try” and live peacefully together. Nigeria’s borders are thrown wide open to armed, mercenary Fulani herdsmen, who descend on farming communities on the invitation of their brethren to help in combat. Eyewitness reports always suggest a free reign of terror without any security agents’ efforts to confront the situation whenever Fulani herdsmen are carrying out their bloody attacks. Again, after each cycle of bloodletting, nobody is brought to justice, as usual.
That President Buhari has not visited Benue State in all these tragedies or condemned the latest killings in Benue, neither has he stepped up security measures to contain the fast-deteriorating situation is an indictment on his nationalist credentials. That Buhari took the extra step of visiting the Fulani enclave of Zamfara State, where he launched a military operation against cattle rustling, an act of economic sabotage that affects his ethnic Fulani cattle breeders, but failed to do same in non-Fulani Benue State that is ravaged by killer Fulani herdsmen clearly illustrates that he places a higher premium on cattle lives that human lives.