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- Victims accuse security agencies of aiding genocide
Billy Graham Abel, Yola
Last Saturday was a black day for the beleaguered people of Bwatiye in Adamawa State. They were in sackcloths as they held a funeral service in Numan, for two retired soldiers and a mother of six murdered by suspected Fulani gunmen on Sunday, January 20 in Kikan.
Like other communities in the belt under the siege of the murderous gunmen such as Taraba,Nassarawa, Benue, Plateau and Kogi states, the deceased trio are only the latest in the huge number of their people ruthlessly dispatched to their early grave by the gun-totting herders, whose nefarious and violent activities have drawn outrage and umbrage across the nation and indeed outside the Nigerian shores.
The mood in Numan and its environs is almost the same with that of millions of Nigerians, it is that of total despondency, dismay and near absolute loss of faith in the state and federal government to protect or secure lives and property from the hands of murderous attackers, whom, locals said, were on an ethnic cleansing campaigns as state, federal governments and the international community keep mum.
But, even in the midst of the communal mourning, the people found voice to reveal the numerous atrocities and horrors they had been subjected to by the marauding herdsmen.
According to them, they had been victims of a merciless and mindless orgy of killings and bloodletting by Fulani herdsmen, who, they alleged, are supported by national security agencies. They alleged, for instance, that the military, particularly the Air Force, expected to protect them has carried out several attacks and air bombardments in which many of them were killed.
Catalogue of woes
Mr. Hezron Fada, National President of the Bwatiye Development Association, (BDA), a socio-cultural association of the Bwatiye people, who catalogued the series of carnage said combined forces of Fulani terrorist attacks and multiple aerial bombardments by the Nigerian Air Force between November last year and January this year resulted in the death of about 103 women, men and children in Numan, Demsa and Lamurde, while coordinated attacks by Fulani herdsmen on the entire Bwatiye community in Girei, Demsa, Numan and Lamurde, since 2016 alone had left about 214 people dead.
The ordeal of the Bwatiye people began earlier in January 2016 and June 2017, when Bwatiye autochthones in Girei Local Government Area were stormed.
The towns of Koh, Tambongo, among several other villages were invaded and burnt down and 66 men, women and children were brutally murdered including the Divisional Police Officer of Vunokulang in Girei Local Government Area.
The marauders again descended on Kodomun in Demsa Local Government Area on August 1, 2016 and 39 men, women and children were killed. On January 7, 2017, it was the turn of Kwayine, Gidan Dadi and Sabon Layi in the same Demsa Local Government Area where nine people were brutally massacred including six policemen.
“In all these attacks, countless people sustained gunshot injuries while hundreds were displaced in all the communities. Since then any reprisal attacks by victims were given headlines in government controlled media and the leadership of the given communities were immediately targeted and painted black and accused of sponsoring violence”, said Fada, in a speech at the memorial event.
He remarked: “It is important to put on record that the combined forces of Fulani terrorist attacks and multiple aerial bombings which were rained on 10 towns and villages in Numan, Lamurde and Demsa Local Government areas in December 2017 and January 2018 alone claimed over 105 lives including seven policemen and two soldiers,” maintaining that: “The Nigerian state and its security agencies cannot exonerate themselves from complicity in the attacks on our people and communities.”
He observed that the attacks in this case followed the same pattern with interests expressed by powerful people from beyond the borders of Adamawa State, regretting that: “It is the first time in the history of Nigeria that the Nigerian Air Force drones, helicopters and fighter jets were used to kill, maim and destroy property on behalf of a terror group.
“The bombings of December 4, 2017, he said, massively destroyed buildings and property in Dong, Lawaru, Shaforon, Kodomti, Baya, Pulum and Nzoruwe.
“Again, if we add the 66, 39 and 9 people killed by the Fulani terrorists, in the Bwatiye towns of Koh, Kodomun and Kwayine, respectively, you will find out that the number of people killed has increased to 211 people as a result of Fulani terrorist attacks.”
Fada described the killings as the implementation of a systematic genocide in a long-term plan to annihilate and subjugate the Bwatiye nation.
He declared: “This pogrom is being systematically executed with the Fulani terrorists who were sponsored under the smokescreen of Fulani/herdsmen who have been invading Bwatiye settlements across the length and breadth of Adamawa State with tacit support and backing of some powerful groups both outside and inside the corridors of power of Adamawa State and federal governments.
The random killings by herdsmen using advance military hardware including AK 47, sub-machine guns, rocket propelled grenades have been on the increase, indicative that it involves a conspiracy of high level plan by highly trained executioners that are perpetrating the terrorist acts in different parts of the country.
The community leader condemned what he called the Federal Government’s laissez-faire political attitude, which, he said, had created a conducive atmosphere for the prosecution of the group’s “terror and genocidal war against not just our people but other citizens across the country.”
Accusing the Fulani of having established what he described as a “Renegade Fulani Terrorist Network” (RFTN), Fada said the group had begun a campaign aimed at provoking farmers in order to create avenues to wage war to secure grazing lands, expand Fulani political, economic and cultural influence in communities across the federation. The other agenda, he said was to ensure that, in the event Nigeria became unsustainable and disintegration was inevitable, “Bwatiye lands would have been completely taken over by the Fulani genocidal war of creating deaths, hunger and economic deprivation.”
The tragedy of the victims in Adamawa, however, is that while the reported cases in Benue, Taraba and other states have attracted sympathy (even though with teeth in the tongue in some cases), those in Adamawa, wherein Bwatiye settlements in Girei, Demsa, Numan and Lamurde Local Government areas had particularly been the casualty, had apparently gone without being given adequate attention for solution.
Fada blamed this on the reports having been “heavily twisted and given some colorations of some sorts.”
The leader of BDA decried the ways the narratives of the killings in Bwatiye land were being told, saying the attacks were negatively branded and packaged differently in government circles in an attempt to rationalize the irrationality of terrorist war against people of Bwatiye land.
Fada faulted what he called the, “general narrative in the country that the crisis is that of farmers and herders conflicts.” He explained that the campaigns were designed to seize lands, “With the aim of establishing the 21st century “colonies” in Bwatiye land for the emerging interest of the Fulani.
“They have systematically organized increased migration of Fulani herders into Adamawa State in preparation for the forceful occupation of lands” Fada alerted, explaining that, that was the reason Bwatiye traditional rulers were increasingly being targeted.”
It was learnt that the marauders also hired mercenaries, foreign allies, mostly Fulani from Senegal, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Libya, Mauritania and Mali, members of Al-Qaida and Nigerian returnees from ISIL, as well as members of the sleeper cells of Boko Haram who relocated into Adamawa and neighbouring states.
Condemning perceived official complicity, Fada remarked that: “It is worthy to note that it cost N15m to fuel a fighter jet per day and given the hundreds of ‘troops’ that were deployed to attack the Bwatiye community it is obvious that the sponsors of this very costly attack is way above the capacity of some local cattle breeders or even their Renegade Fulani Terrorist Network.”
Corroborating the general suspicion of official connivance, an indigene of Kikan Evangelist Hindumo Kade, said, “I was in Kikan last Sunday when the Fulanis attacked, I immediately made a distress call to Numan to contact the military. The Fulanis came in at some minutes to one and left around 2 am but the military could not catch up with them.
“I met one of the soldiers and asked him whether they met the herdsmen when they came, he said they didn’t, so, I told him that if I trek from Numan to Kikan, it would not take me up to an hour to get there and the Fulanis operated in the village for more than an hour and yet the military with their vehicles could not apprehend them. I think the message is clear, they know something about it.”
Fada said the recent killings of Baba Dauda Yaro, Baba Clerkson Gandu who had served Nigeria well before retiring to their homes and the gruesome Killing of Mrs Elizabeth Michael, a mother five boys and a girl increased the death toll of Fulani terrorism in Bwatiye land to 214, thus establishing that there is an ongoing genocidal and ethnic cleansing war against the Bwatiyes than how these attacks looked on the surface.
He said: “The Fulanis, supported by numerous local and international Islamic bodies with access to foreign funding, are using the machinery of state power to turn victims into the aggressors.
The community leader described “The unfortunate incident in Opalo which resulted in the proposed relocation of the Brigade Commander’s office to Numan as capable of helping to stop Fulani terrorist attacks against his people, but warned with a tinge of cynicism: “It is our prayers that it would not be converted into an army of occupation to protect Fulani interest.”
He slammed the state government’s apparent indifference to the plight of the Numan community, stressing that they had little or no confidence in the on-going investigation of the incident by its panel, considering that the report of previous panel had not been made public and its recommendations implemented.
Blaming government for complacency in the ongoing mayhem, the people said: “The Girei, Kodomun and Kwayine massacres were followed by an administrative panel of inquiry whose report and recommendations were still on the bookshelves of Adamawa State Government House or thrown into the dustbin. No white paper was made public and, therefore, no sanctions against the perpetrators of the massacres.
“This position is predicated on the fact the attacks on our communities by the Fulani terrorists has not stopped even as the second investigation panel is still sitting.”
Fada called on the media to continue to inform the world about their plight and also invited the international community and human rights activists to wade into the issue and commence investigations, “because the Nigerian state is directly involved in causing the conditions they find ourselves.”
He commended Governor Samuel Ortom for standing with his people against what he called ‘criminality against Benue State’, a stance that, he said, has led to wider publicity and national attention, which may set a course for peace.
Professor Wonotazankan Nzeda, a native of Bwatiye land told Saturday Sun that, “There is nothing like farmers/herdsmen clashes but a calculated, premeditated campaigns of murder by the Fulanis. The crisis between famer and Fulanis has always been, but it has never taken this dimension before.
“There has never been a scenario in this country where when there is an ethnic clash that the Nigerian Air Force uses fighter jets to kill much more than the herdsmen did, so it is clear that the government is complicit in it, this is a situation where government has failed to secure the lives and property of its citizens.
“Two days after the Inspector General of Police deployed units of police to this place, seven policemen were killed, so the killings have been going on.
“In my opinion, even the lives of military and police men are being sacrificed for the interest of the Fulanis.”
Another indigene of Numan, Professor Hycenth Nahummaro, who spoke to Saturday Sun on the security situation in Numan, said, the idea of cattle colonies was at best wicked and a way to colonise the people through the back door. He said, “If Nigeria is serious about agricultural revolution, ranching is the most sensible thing to do, the Numan community rejects the idea of cattle colony and will continue to stand against it.”
About 20 Bwatiye communities have been attacked so far and in each of these attacks on the unsuspecting farming communities, the combined military detachment sent to deal with the incursion and the five units of mobile police forces deployed by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to stem the tide of this carnage have not been able to prevent any single bloodbath from happening or arrest the marauding assailants after they have had their fill of blood.