Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A coalition of pressure groups on Monday in Abuja has called on the Federal Government to proscribe and designate killer herdsmen as a terror group.
The coalition, protesting on the streets of Abuja, said that the proscription and designation of the killer herdsmen as a terror group will give the Federal Government greater leverage to seek better regional and international support to confront their menace.
In a protest letter addressed to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, under the auspices of civic organisations OurMumu DonDo, Concerned Nigerians, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy, Campaign for Democracy, and MAD Connect, urged Malami to invoke the provision of section 2(1)(c) of the Terrorism Prevention Act (TPA) 2011 against the rampaging herdsmen.
The section provides that “where two or more persons associate for the purpose of or where an organisation engages in participating or collaborating in an act of terrorism; promoting, encouraging or exhorting others to commit an act of terrorism; or setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the president; declare any entity to be a proscribed organisation and the notice should be published in official gazette.”
The protests come on the heels of a lawsuit asking the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to proscribe and designate criminal Fulani herdsmen and Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore as terrorist organizations.
In the suit, Makurdi-based legal practitioner Matthew Nyiutsa asked the court to compel President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General to move a court of competent jurisdiction to proscribe the group.
In addition, the plaintiff in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/499/18 is seeking the prohibition of all activities of Fulani herdsmen in Benue State that have resulted in the deliberate and intentional killings, massacres, and wanton destruction of both private and public properties, including residential and commercial houses, schools, hospitals and clinic, markets, water boreholes/reservoirs, invasion of ancestral lands of the inhabitants, as acts of terrorism under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 as amended.
The protest letter, read by Ariyo Atoye of the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy, said more than 900 lives have been lost so far in 2018 to the unprovoked, brutal attacks of the herdsmen in the middle-belt region of the country alone, according to available statistics.
The letter reads in part:
“We are extremely concerned that the survival of Nigeria is currently being threatened by the atrocities of killer herdsmen in the country. On a daily basis, innocent Nigerians are being slaughtered in different parts of the country.
“In 2018 alone, hundreds of innocent Nigerians have been cut down by this group, and hundreds of communities have been affected by wanton destruction of human lives and properties, so much so that President Muhamadu Buhari had to publicly declare, during his recent visits to the United Kingdom and the United States of America, that Nigeria is under the invasion of killer herdsmen from Libya. It is, however, instructive to admit, for effective action and intervention, that there cannot be infiltrations into the country by external forces without internal collaborators.”
While commending the recent decision by the Federal Government that “all animal farmers must ranch their cattle and livestock for better productivity,” as a significant step, the group said that such measures were not sufficient to stop the killings and destruction as the country has already been invaded by the herdsmen.
“The attacks by these killer herdsmen have affected innocent and peace-loving Nigerians in their thousands across the country, uprooted families, destroyed communities socio-economic activities and business, depriving them of their means of survival and the desecration of their cultural and ancestral heritage. These barbaric killings and mindless attacks undermine the laws of Nigeria and principles of the UN Charter concerning the protection of human life,” said the statement.
“We are aware that the Benue State government has, in a judicial process identified that a group known as Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore is responsible for the widespread killings and violence across 14 out of the 23 local councils in the state. This development has made it compelling for the government to quickly investigate the activities of the group in the interest of entrenching justice, safety, and peace in the state, and the entire country.”
The coalition urged the Attorney General to “to immediately take firm action towards getting President Muhammadu Buhari to proscribe and designate the killer herdsmen a terrorist group in Nigeria. By doing so, we believe that the Federal Government will be one step farther in ending this deadly group at the soonest time possible.”
In her response, Mrs Lola Uket, the Acting Director, General Services, Federal Ministry of Justice, who received the letter on behalf of the AGF, assured that it will be delivered through the Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr Dayo Akpata.
Those who led the groups include popular entertainer Charlie Boy Oputa, (Our Mumu Don Do), Nwazuruahu Shield of Leadership and Accountability Initiative, and Maryann Apollo.