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.
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.