Another carnage by Fulani herdsmen took place on Sunday, June 24 in three local government areas of Plateau State where the most conservative estimate put the number of those killed at 200. Scores of houses were burnt, and thousands of people displaced. In a midnight raid by gunmen in Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South local government areas, by all credible reports, the killing of children, women and men went on for at least seven hours, and defenceless farmers and their families got no help from security agencies.
This latest killing adds to a rather long catalogue of similar ones which seem now to have become regular in the Middle Belt states of Benue, Zamfara, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna and Nasarawa. The bloodbath in Plateau has attracted worldwide attention partly because Nigeria and the world are sick of the endless killings and frustrated by the endless excuses offered by the government and the endless orgy by the herdsmen. It is obvious the herdsmen have elevated the value of their cows over and beyond human life. The government plays impotence and ignorance. But Nigerians know abdication when they see it.
The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has declared that by failing to hold the murderers to account, the Federal Government is encouraging impunity and thereby fueling the insecurity in the country. We completely agree with him. We are not alone. Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka has shouted himself hoarse, appealing to the government to seek external help if it feels not up to the task. Many eminent Nigerians who know that the persistent killings are an ill wind pregnant with unforeseen consequences have made suggestions. But the government insists on its own conspiracy theories, much of it inventions, for which it has provided no proofs whatsoever.
If the UN Secretary General’s observation about impunity is apt, the findings of Amnesty International go to the heart of the matter. It stated: “in all cases Amnesty International investigated, the attackers, usually arriving in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappeared without trace.” Amnesty then posed pertinent questions: “who are these attackers, where do they come from, where do they go after attacks, who arms them, why is security forces’ response time very slow?”
The Plateau bloodbath received a generous mention in the British House of Lords where questions like those mentioned above were also posed. How long the Federal Government would continue to keep Nigerians and the international community in the dark, and sustain its silence and inaction, about the killings is going to be difficult because the figures are too grim to be overlooked by the world. By the Amnesty International’s computing, which we consider quite conservative, since January 2018, “at least 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states, which is double the 894 people killed in 2017.”
Nigeria is not the only country in the world in which people get killed. But all over the world, when a human being is killed, efforts are made to find out who the killer is and to hold him to account. In the United States, when one person is killed, it would seem everything comes to a halt until the killer is found and held. In Nigeria, thousands have been killed, yet not one person is being held to account. This is what makes Nigeria unique in the world today, the total absence of accountability. That is what keeps fueling the killings.
The Nigerian military’s Operation Safe Haven claims to have in custody 28 persons, 14 of them arrested at the scene of a protest against the killings. Those men should be handed over to the prosecutorial authority and charged to court. This is not the first of this kind of claim which often turns out to be diversionary. We hope, this time, it is real.