Fulani Herdsmen:Terrorist or ……?

By Stephen Ubanna

President Muhammadu Buhari  appears to be  under intense pressure  within and outside the country to declare the Fulani  herdsmen as a terrorist group. This is because   their operational strategies, according to security experts are not quite different from  the Islamic Fundamentalists, Boko Haram, in the north east geo-political region, which was declared a terrorist group  by the then  government of  former President Goodluck Jonathan .

The activities of the Fulani  herdsmen  in Communities invaded in different parts of the country, particular, Benue, taraba, Plateau and Zamfara, according to Bello Yakubu,  a businessman  was  not different as they had  renamed the occupied  Communities with Islamic  names as their own land  cattle breeding. It is not surprising why  many Communities in these states had lost their farming land  to the herdsmen.

A  most recent case was the occupation of   Mbatoho Community in Makurdi local government where the herdsmen were said to have sacked over 5,000 inhabitants in the vast Island .The invaders were said to have told  the locals to vacate their ancestral homes or be killed. The fallout was that  the farmers fled their homes after which  the well armed  herdsmen  razed  the makeshift homes  on the Island  and took over the Iand as the people turned to refuges.

President Muhammadu Buhari: Under Pressure To Declare herdsmen Terrorists
President Muhammadu Buhari: Under Pressure To Declare herdsmen Terrorists

Paul Hemba, a Lt.Colonel ,rtd,  confirmed that  that  there had been  infllux  of herdsmen  in Benue in the recent time  especially along  Agatu, Guma, Logo,, Katsina /Ala, local government Areas and Communities  bordering  Nasarawa state e.

The Magazine learnt that the armed herdsmen had succeeded in displacing many farmers from their ancestral  homes  in these local governments with  little or resistance.  The  message carried to the  conquered Communities is: we have come to take over our land

Many believe that  what the armed herdsmen are doing in the occupied  farming Communities in different parts of the country  are not different from the activities of Boko Haram insurgents in the  north east. The insurgents  had entered Borno without resistance and quickly  gained a foot -hold . They took  over    full control of  over 20 local government Areas in the state where it hoisted its flag after declaring it a Caliphate.

It took the intervention of  Tukur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff and his soldiers, at the instance of Buhari,  to reclaim the  occupied local governments but the insurgents have not been completely driven out from the state and the other states in the region as they have continued to strike, kill and go.

Security experts want Buratai to mobilise the soldiers to do exactly what the they did in the north east  to save the people from the grip of  bokoHaram  in to the people  in  the north  central states of Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba  from the continued harassment of Fulani herdsmen. The  President may have directed  , Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to arrest, any  herdsmen caught with arms, which security analysts  described  as inconsequential  as the killings by the herdsmen has continued in the country.

The international Community had expected   Buhari  after his last  visit to the United States  on the invitation of president Donald Trump to  read his body language  to the declare herdsmen as terrorists.  Trump had told him clearly that  the herdsmen  must  stop  the killing of Christians  in the country. He had stopped short of calling the group terrorists.

Between 2015 and now, the armed Fulani herdsmen  had killed thousands of farmers n different parts of the countryMany believe Buhari may be acting out the script of   Miyetti Allah  Cattle Breeders Association, the umbrella body  for herdsmen in the country.  The group had consistently warned those pressurising the Buhari government to declare  herdsmen terrorists  to stop  because they have not breached any section of the 199 Constitution as amended.

But Nnamdi Kanu, a Lawyer, and leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOD, was still languishing in detention for leading a defenseless group demanding for  a state of Biafra and which had unofficially been declared a terrorist Organisation   and  subsequently proscribed by the Buhari government.

In proscribing the Organisation by the Buhari government, Lai Muhammed, the minister of Information said the activities of the group  are ”similar  to those of other terrorists group that had been identified  in other parts of the world.

Muhammed may have given an insight to the proscription of the group  to a letter  allegedly written to some foreign nations  describing Nigeria  as  a country  where Muslims  persecute  Christians  and where genocide  is carried  out by the state.  He claimed that security report further shows that  the Organisation had set  a para-military organisation, a parallel military group, Biafra secret service and Biafra National  Guard which is a threat to the nation to justify the government action.

Ismaila Ibrahim Ribeji, Spokesman of Miyetti, said there was no basis for people to clamour  for the proscription of the Association or declaring it a terrorist group , because the Fulani herdsmen  have not done anything to” warrant  branding them terrorists”. He insists  that , ”Fulani herdsmen are not terrorists and should not be declared as such”.

An angry  Ribeji said  ”the  cattle breeders are not doing anything contrary  to the Constitution  or committing  crimes like BokoHaram and other international Organisations. He believes  that IPOD got what it deserves  because they were going to fight the government  and declare their own country. Ribeji statement  may have confirmed people’s impression that  Buhari  was acting out the script of Miyetti to deal with any group in the group.

The President had further showed that  he cared for the interest of the herdsmen when started soliciting  for the states to donate land  through Audu Ogbeh, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development  for the establishment of Cattle colonies  to accommodate the over 19,000 across the country in cattle  ranches.

The governors in the south west, south east and south south  may have read his lips clearly that they have refused to oblige his request.   The repeated killing of farmers in Benue and the cattle colony  policy of the Buhari Administration  may have forced Daniel Ortom, an All Progressive Congress, APC,  governor of Benue state to quit the party  for an undisclosed party to actualise his political ambition in the state.

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