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RIGHTSView: AGATU, ANOTHER FULANI MASSACRE: A CALL FOR ACTION

By Emmanuel Onwubiko on 21/03/2015

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As someone with considerable emotional and intellectual attachment to journalism in Nigeria, having practised the profession for two decades and still counting, it pains me that poor editorial judgement has beclouded most media outlets, especially the print genre, in the choice of graphic photographs and headlines for their daily cover stories.

In the last three years, most readers of Nigerian print media must have experienced tumultuous emotional trauma, which comes from the frequent use of blood-cuddling imageries and sensationally hyped stories about wanton destruction of precious lives and property of citizens that happen almost on daily basis. At least, the editors should not help to elevate these criminals to the status of front page news makers. Instead, they should find ways and means to report these sad stories without necessarily glorifying the blood-cuddling details on their front pages, the most attractive place in the print media.

The latest round of emotional breakdown for most consumers of media products in Nigeria is the bloody violence that tore through the sleepy Agatu community in Benue State, which left about 100 villagers dead, in a coordinated attack by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.

The frequent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers across the country has assumed frightening dimension, particularly because no concrete measure has been implemented to check the menace. The legal statutes that stipulate stiffer sanctions for the war crimes of mass murder have not been enforced by the relevant governmental institutions at the state and federal levels, thereby encouraging a regime of impunity and mindless mass murder.

Most newspapers of March 16, 2015 - being Monday morning - splashed pathetic and emotionally traumatising photographs and graphics of many precious lives of people of Agatu community wantonly mutilated in the massacre unleashed by armed Fulani marauders.

Reporters on ground in Benue State recounted that suspected Fulani herdsmen had invaded the Egba village in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State, around the wee hours of Sunday morning, and unleashed bloody devastating violence on unarmed and sleeping villagers, resulting in the killing of over 100 people.

Even the Nigeria Police that are usually economical with casualty figures was quoted as confirming that about 84 bodies had so far been recovered from the killing field in Agatu, as a result of the invasion by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.

A reporter of the Daily Sun newspaper wrote: “Commissioner of Police in the state, Hyacinth Dagala, who spoke on phone with newsmen on Monday March 16, 2015 afternoon, said 82 bodies had so far been recovered.”

The reporter added: “Dagala, who disclosed that he was just returning from the crisis area, maintained that more armed policemen had been deployed to the area to maintain peace and order.

“However, some of the villagers, who were taking refuge in Obagaji, the council headquarters and Ogbalu, said the death toll was well over 100, as the herdsmen had taken then unawares. We were still sleeping when they entered our village and started shooting sporadically, killing every human and animal in sight. They also set many houses ablaze. We only managed to escape into the bush and trekked many kilometres before getting to Obagaji.”

Suspected Fulani herdsmen have been on killing spree across the country for many years, even as suggestions on how to resolve these range of killings have been offered by many persons and groups, including the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), in the last eight years. But there is total absence of political will to implement radical measures to restrict the roving and rampaging Fulani cattle rearers from roaming the farms of villagers across the country, and unleashing phenomenal destruction of farms of poor villagers, which usually sparks off crises between the farmers and the cattle breeders. The issue of establishing ranches in some states so as to limit the movement of cattle breeders and their cattle has been severally suggested.

It is, indeed, a thing of shock, consternation and sadness that both the national and sub-national governmental agencies seem to have resigned to the unfortunate fate of allowing the frequent cross-fires between farmers and (armed) cattle breeders to continue, even as thousands of innocent lives are wasted without the culprits being brought to justice.

This is a clarion call to all stakeholders in Nigeria: to unanimously come together and begin the pragmatic enforcement of law-based measures to bring to an end these bloody killings by Fulani herdsmen. Let the state governments put security measures in place – using their (respective) State Assemblies – to set up vigilantes to protect their communities from attacks.

The issue of setting up functional state and local police must be enforced – even as ownership of arms should be liberalised – so communities are armed to protect their people from genocidal attacks in the short run, since the Federal Government is not in a hurry to rein in the rampaging armed Fulani herdsmen.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 21/03/2015 8:17:50 PM

 

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