By Ugochukwu Ikeakor
The Fulani herdsmen rampage is a major security concern for Nigerians. Since the inception of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in May 2015, thousands have been killed and many more have been displaced from their homes across various communities in Nigeria, and the administration of Buhari has decided not to treat the issue with the urgency it requires.
The Security Challenge from Fulani Herdsmen
Nigeria is grappling with different internal security challenges and the murderous activities of the Fulani Herdsmen has adversely affected the security structure of the country.
For years there have been an increasing number of incidents of violent pastoral conflict led by the Fulani Herdsmen in different parts of Nigeria. With the devastating destruction of Boko Haram activities in the North still ongoing despite the few successes recorded thus far, the murderous activities of the Fulani herdsmen that is dominating the headlines all over Nigeria has exposed the porosity of our internal security architecture and the inability of the security agencies to protect citizens.
In Search of Green Pastures
The effect of climate change across the Sahara has caused dry pastures and this has made it difficult for nomadic herdsmen to locate suitable pasture for their cows. The nomadic herdsmen in their search for green pastures, move from community to community. The roving herds of cattle trample and eat up crops and destroy the produce of farm owners in these communities leading to clashes.
These clashes have resulted in thousands of deaths across the country with Middle Belt states like Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue and Taraba, the worst hit.
New Year, New Attacks
According to media reports residents of six communities in two local government areas of Benue State began the New Year of 2018 on a sad note when about 70 persons were cruelly murdered in cold blood by Fulani herdsmen. Casualties included women, children and some members of the Live Stock Guards who were assigned to enforce the anti-open grazing law.
Many people were seriously injured and were receiving treatment at the State University Teaching hospital in Makurdi. The affected communities are Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo and Turan all in Logo Local Government Area as well as Umenger, Tse-Akor and Tomatar near Tse-Abi in Nongov District of Guma Local government area.
It was reported that the herdsmen invaded, Gaambe-Tiev, Ayilamo, and Turan around 10:00 am on new year day at the time the people were returning from New year morning service. This attack and more that has occurred in the past in Agatu, Nimbo, Etomgi and other communities bear the mark of Fulani Herdsmen deadly attacks.
The Silence of Buhari
The Fulani Herdsmen are ranked number four on the Global Terrorism Index. Some have argued that the kids gloves which the Buhari administration has used in addressing the murderous activities of the Fulani Herdsmen have given them the momentum to wreak more havoc on different communities and stretch their scourge.
They have succeeded in sacking communities, displaced locals, rendered many homeless, destroyed properties and lives.
It is important to note that Buhari’s silence and inability to tackle the issue of Fulani Herdsmen as he did with the IPOB issue in South East could be because of his bias and soft spot for the Fulani herdsmen as he led a team to the governor’s office in Ibadan in late 2000 to protest the alleged killings of Fulani cattle rearers in Saki, Oke Ogun Area in Oyo State.
Now, he is president and father of all. It is expected that with the crisis still brewing, he steps in decisively and finds a permanent solution to this menace.
How to address the Fulani Herdsmen issue?
Different arguments abound on the approach to fix the issue of pastoral conflict and stop the murderous activities of Fulani Herdsmen. It is also important to note that nomadic herdsmen and their herds will continue to embark on seasonal migration in search of pastures to feed their cattle.
Government must move to protect the communities and act decisively in arresting and prosecuting those who are found guilty for killings and destruction in various communities.
Argentina, Brazil and Spain which have larger stocks of cattle do not have any issue with pastoral conflict. It behooves on the administration of President Buhari to embark on far reaching reforms that will modernize the activities of nomadic herdsmen.
Leaving herdsmen to roam communities, highways and forcefully graze privately owned lands only serve to inflame tensions and strengthen the web of conflict.
A situation whereby herdsmen bear arms and ammunitions to protect their cows from possible rustling and use it to cause untold destruction on communities is barbaric.
Nigeria has Argentina, Brazil and Spain as model on how to build a modern pastoral business as allowing herdsmen to walk freely in communities is no longer sustainable.
It is an anomaly that cows are more important than human lives in Nigeria and as the 2019 election draws nearer one hopes that pastoral conflict will be one of the issues that will dominate discussions leading to the election. We can’t continue to sacrifice humans lives for cows. Maybe it is time for us to boycott cows.
– Ugochukwu Ikeakor is a Writer and Communication Strategist.