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Forgotten victims of herders’ violence

By News Express on 02/02/2019

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Aside the fact that Nigeria is generally viewed as a paradox of a nation – because of her inability to deploy the enormous natural and human resources to scale up the deteriorating standard of living and better the society for the benefit of all – it is also seen as such because of the dangerous collective amnesia that afflicts majority of the citizenry.

Few years back, a scholar was quoted as saying that most Nigerians, when pushed to the wall – rather than fight back – would drill a hole through the wall and escape. Most Nigerians seem to like persons who lack the courage of conviction to fight, since it is generally assumed in Nigeria that only the living can fight a second time. This unfortunate mindset has led many Nigerians to allow the society to go to the dogs and the institutions of state are now headed by persons who lack the necessary competences and skills to facilitate Nigeria's arrival at the doorstep of 21st century compliant, fast-moving computer age. Nigeria is stocked in the pre-Medieval or Stone Age mentality of survival of the fittest: whereby even those elected into public office believe and practice the theory that Might Is Right. 

This metaphor of Nigeria as a functional paradox simply means that millions of Nigerians are docile to a fault; to an extent that the population has the uncanny character to tolerate the worst forms of depraved and criminal leadership in the body politic.

The docility of the ordinary Nigerian, which is virulent, is the cause of the gross underdevelopment of the country by successive administrations that have ruled her since independence. The predatory political class has become prolific because the people are docile: sleeping on their rights as human beings endowed with the faculties of rationality and resilience.  

The docility and lack of assertiveness of the average Nigerian is also the reason why there is virtually no good governance at every level of government. It is for this intolerable form of docility that governance, even at the most rudimentary level, has disappeared. 

Perhaps, the area that this groundswell of lack of will to demand accountability from leaders has been more noticeable is the persistent cases of violent attacks that take place in different parts of Nigeria by a diverse class of armed freelance killers and gangsters. Yet, there is no certainty that those who commit those atrocities and their sponsors responsible for thousands of fatalities can be brought to justice.

Aside the ugly fact that the wheel of justice moves dangerously slow, even slower than tortoise, there is usually the failure of most government officials to deliberately activate legal, judicial and law enforcement mechanisms that would decisively bring these violators of the Nigerian law to justice, even when section 33 (1) of the Constitution absolutely outlaws murder and extra judicial killings.

One issue in which this vexatious docility and collective amnesia has become ubiquitous are the various cases of organised killings by armed Fulani herdsmen who, incidentally, are rated highly as one of the most vicious terror groups globally.

There have been cocktails of organised and properly choreographed attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen, targeting mostly Christian farming communities in the North-central region of Nigeria and Enugu State in South-east Nigeria in the last three years; but even when over 10,000 casualties have been recorded from these dastardly attacks, not one of these killers is behind bars. The annoying thing is that some persons close to the current administration, including the Defence Minister and immediate past Inspector-General of Police, have rationalised these armed Fulani killings. 

Benue and Plateau states and Southern Kaduna have become the killing-fields of these armed Fulani attackers with back up from their trade association known as Miyetti Allah Cattle-owners Association.

One sad reality about these dastardly crimes is that the platform that speaks for these suspected mass killers is seen as one of the most vociferous supporters of the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Miyetti Allah Cattle-owners Association – which is the body that had often spoken in the media before and after suspected armed Fulani attacks in Christian-dominated northern communities - was among the first group that visited President Muhammadu Buhari to endorse his re-election aspiration, even when strident calls have been made for it to be classified as a terror organisation.

However, the international community is not relenting in its rational approach towards exposing those they branded as dreaded terrorist groups which, incidentally, includes Miyetti Allah Cattle-owners Association.

Mind you, president Buhari quickly declared the peaceful agitators for self-rule in Igbo land known as IPOB as a terrorist organisation whereas Miyetti – which is the body that protects armed Fulani herdsmen that are responsible for some of the worst cases of mass genocides – is flirting politically with Nigerian President, including Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, even as his state faced armed Fulani herdsmen’s attacks twice in two communities, killing scores of persons and unleashing devastation and destruction of property worth billions of naira. 

Last week, Miyetti Allah endorsed Ugwuanyi’s second term bid. It would be recalled that two years ago when an Enugu community was attacked mercilessly by armed Fulani herdsmen, leaving devastation and dozens of deaths, Ugwuanyi was captured in the media shedding tears. But, after that, he did nothing to prosecute the killers. Indeed, it was crocodile tears. 

Before analyzing the template of attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen in the last three years, in which President Buhari did nothing to stop the bloodshed nor prosecuted the suspected mass killers, I will revisit the global rating of terrorism where armed Fulani herdsmen featured prominently.

On December 5, 2018, www.forbes.com published a piece entitled “The Deadliest Terrorist Groups in the World Today”: The authors reported that of the 18,814 deaths caused by terrorists around the world last year, well over half were due to the actions of just four groups: Islamic State, the Taliban, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.

Quoting Global Terrorism Index 2018, compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the authors said these four organisations were responsible for 10,632 deaths in 2017. Their actions contribute to the instability of what are some of the most dangerous countries in the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. Over the past decade, they have accounted for 44 per cent of all terrorist deaths.

On Boko Haram, they wrote that the Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram (also known as Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad) was once the world’s deadliest terror group. But, it has been in decline since 2014 and has recently started to splinter into different factions, the largest of which is the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP).

Since it emerged in the North-east of the country in 2002, it has spread out to other nearby countries, including Chad, Cameroon and Niger, and the group has sworn allegiance to Islamic State.

The fall in terrorist deaths in Nigeria in the last years – the number of deaths is down 83 per cent from the 2014 peak – indicates that the region’s security forces, assisted by international allies, are having an impact on groups such as Boko Haram, Forbes stated. 

“The battle is far from won, though. Boko Haram carried out 40 per cent more attacks and was responsible for 15 per cent more deaths in 2017 than in the year before.

“Most of the group's attacks last year were carried out in Nigeria – particularly in Borno State – with smaller numbers in Cameroon and Niger. The group has gained notoriety for mass hostage-takings and the extensive use of children and women as suicide bombers.”

On other terrorist groups, the authors said that beyond these four deadly organisations, myriad other terrorist groups are active around the world. Last year, a total of 169 groups were responsible for at least one death, but more than 130 others also carried out attacks.

The authors specifically mentioned armed Fulani killers as some of the worst kinds of terrorists in the following words: “Other less well-known groups are becoming more prominent, including the Fulani in Nigeria which was responsible for 321 deaths and 72 attacks in 2017.”

While those numbers represented a fall from its activities in 2016, IEP said that there has been a significant increase in violence by the group in 2018.

Here are the armed Fulani killing templates:

No fewer than 20 persons in Ukpabi Nimbo, an agrarian community in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, were killed during an attack by Fulani herdsmen on Monday, April 25, 2016.

It was learnt that scores of armed cattle rearers, reportedly numbering more than 100, stormed the sleepy community in the early hours of Monday.

A national newspaper had reported then that the herdsmen had recruited scores of gunmen from Nasarawa State for the impending attack on the Enugu community.

Sources in the community said sporadic gunshots were heard as the rampaging herdsmen moved to sack villagers from their homes.

It was gathered that the invading cattle rearers carried guns, bows, arrows, machetes and swords to execute their mission.

The invaders also set a Catholic church in the area on fire.

Many of the villagers were said to have escaped to neighbouring communities in the Uzo-Uwani area, but it was gathered that people in the nearby towns were also worried about possible attacks from the herdsmen.

A police source told our correspondent that as of the time of filing this report, the corpses of five persons, who died in the attack, had been recovered.

It was also learnt that the corpses, which were deposited at the morgue in Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, were recovered from farmlands.

There were indications that more bodies would be recovered as a combined team of police and military personnel, who moved into the community to quell the attack, had yet to reach all the affected areas.

On April 23, 2018 the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi confirmed the killing of two of its priests – Rev Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha – in an early hour attack on St Ignatius Quasi Parish, Ukpor, Mbalom in Gwer West Local Government Council of Benue.

A statement by its Director of Communications, Rev Fr Moses Iorapuu, said that the attacks were perpetrated by herdsmen who stormed the Mbalom community and killed the two priests during the morning Mass at the church.

The diocese expressed regret at the nonchalant attitude of the security agencies in containing the killings.

It said the herdsmen, who stormed the community, burnt down houses, destroyed crops and killed people. The church, therefore, urged the relevant authorities to stop the killings in the Benue valley.

Iorapuu said the diocese had been active in providing food and relief materials to internally displaced persons (IDPs) since the onset of hostilities in the state and wondered why it could be marked as a target of attacks.

“The attack on the priests is an attack on everything that we ever stood for and believed in.”

Plateau State, perhaps, has witnessed some of the worst cases of attacks.

On June 23, 2018, several people were allegedly killed in Gashish and Ropp districts of Plateau State on a Sunday, during attacks that were carried out on about 11 communities by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

Subsequently the Plateau State Government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South local government areas.

Although there were rumours that some soldiers might be missing, the Commander of the Special Military Taskforce code-named “Operation Safe Haven,” Maj-Gen Anthony Atolagbe, said: “It’s not true, no soldier died and no soldier is missing.”

The decision, according to the government, was to avert further breakdown of law and order.

A terse statement issued on Sunday by the Secretary to the State Government, Rufus Bature, said the movement was restricted from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, except for those on essential duties.”

The attack was said to have been launched at Xland, Gindin Akwati, Ruku, Nghar, Kura Falls and Kakuruk, all in Gashish District. The communities were completely sacked by the assailants, reports said.

Other areas affected by the attack included Rakok, Kok and Razat, all in Ropp District.

The Chairman, Public Accounts and Petition Committee in Plateau State House of Assembly, representing Barkin Ladi, Peter Gyendeng, in an interview with The Punch on Sunday, said the attack was “a declaration of war” on his constituency.

He claimed that “mercenaries” have been hired to come and kill people in Barkin Ladi LGA.

Southern Kaduna has come under incessant attacks, but the government has done nothing. The Federal Government under the Fulani-born President is rather planning to reward these killers by using public fund to set up grazing colonies for the cow-owners, but not one killer is punished. And, of course, politicians, including Miyetti Allah Cattle-owners that sponsors armed Fulani attacks are also on the campaign train of the All Progressives Congress (APC), even as the thousands of victims of these genocides are forgotten by the power-hungry elite. 

The campaigns are ongoing and the victims are totally forgotten, while the group which supports much of these attacks is busy playing politics.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), 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 02/02/2019 10:36:51 AM

 

 

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