By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”- Elie Wiesel.
“My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain…There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory.” – Chief Seattle, The Chief Seattle’s Speech (1854).
The emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari a Fulani-born former infantry Major General of the Nigeria Army to the office of the Nigerian President in 2015 has, without a doubt, precipitated an upsurge in the organised, carefully choreographed and massively executed civil war of the Fulani pastoralists against native farmers in many villages, towns and cities all across the nation State.
This war has birthed in the South, the North, the East and the West and this well-coordinated serial bloodbath has led to thousands of casualties and has left at least three million internally displaced citizens in Southern Kaduna State and Benue State. These killings have made hundreds of thousands of Nigerians orphans.
In this piece which is an addendum to a previous article I did assert that indeed Nigeria has a ‘Fulani Problem’, I will systematically list out, not in any particular order, the execution of these wars launched by killer herdsmen against everyone that owns a farm just as we must begin by stating emphatically that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has aided and abetted these attacks by failing to take decisive steps to stop it, arrest the culprits and deliver justice to the mass killers.
But crudely, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has actively done two things- attempting to change the narrative of aggression against the perpetrators of these wanton killings by dismissing these wars as a mere conflict between herders and farmers. Secondly, the President has tried to justify the Fulani aggression by blaming States that tried to take legislative positions to control the open grazing of cows which is the most immediate trigger for these massive killings by Fulani pastoralists just as the current administration due to the selfish ethnic agenda of advancing the parochial interest of the pastoralists, has illegally funded different agricultural settlement schemes to benefit only the pastoralists including the attempt to settle the Fulani pastoralists in strange lands all over the geopolitical zones of Nigeria using public fund.
Despite the stiff resistance of Nigerians in their millions, President Buhari’s government has continued to implement these unconstitutional measures which are stoking further killings of citizens by even some alleged imported Fulani pastoralists from the Central African Republic, Niger and Cameroon.
I will first and foremost remind the readers about the recent media statement made on the aforementioned thematic issue of unwarranted but large-scale killings released to the media by the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and then we will methodically reel out the different incidents of attacks against farmers launched by Fulani pastoralists since 2015 till date but in no particular order.
As aforementioned, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, on Wednesday, described as wicked and insensitive, the branding as mere conflict, the aggression and killings of southern farmers by Fulani herders.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, said the matter is not a conflict and urged the Federal Government to curb the criminality of herders who are now on rampage in the country, kidnapping residents for lump ransom and taking over farmlands of aboriginal dwellers.
The group said emphatically that nomadic Fulani herdsmen are the aggressors and not the peacefully accommodating host farmers.
Recall that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, recently indicated in a memo to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, that the Federal Government would launch a ranching programme to address the “clashes” between herders and farmers in Abia, Delta and Kwara States.
But reacting in a statement, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “It is hypocritical and wickedly insensitive for the government to brand as ‘clashes’, the intentional killings of innocent farmers by aggressive farm-grabbers known as Fulani herders.
“There is a need to correct the misrepresentation of the apparent terrorism of nomadic Fulani herders against farmers in North Central and Southern Nigeria. The situation is not a conflict at all, but an ongoing carnage.
“For instance, criminal herdsmen have killed over 4,000 farmers in the South-West alone in the last six years, according to statistics by the Agbekoya Farmers Association.
“The South-South and the South-East are not in any way immune from the onslaught by criminal Fulani herdsmen who have increased their presence in Southern Nigeria through commercial motorcycling and pastoralism. Hundreds of farmers in the South-South and South-East have been mauled, raped and kidnapped by the invaders yet the silence of the government has been conspicuous.
“A report funded by the United States Agency for International Development in 2019 said an estimated 7,000 Nigerians including farmers were killed by violent, AK-47-wielding pastoralists in the middle belt states of Benue and Nasarawa.
“About a thousand farmers have since been killed in the North Central from 2019 till date. In fact, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who has been one of the most vocal against herdsmen aggression, was once targeted for assassination on his farm in Benue.
“The development has worsened the food crisis in the country as hundreds of farmers in Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Ebonyi, Enugu, Oyo, and other places known as the food baskets of the country have been killed by aggressive Fulani herders on a land-grabbing mission.
“Yet, the Buhari government continues to turn a blind eye to the sacrilege. It has even gone ahead to introduce the controversial water bill to give more power to Fulani herders in the well-watered and lushed southern part of the country.
“The Buhari regime had also introduced the National Livestock Transformation Programme and pumped money into it. Buhari also once told the Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to retrace some eccentric and mundane grazing routes to be reclaimed by herders.
“Of note, it is strange and an act of injustice, the attempt by the Federal Government to impose Fulani settlements in strange lands by the use of government funds and the attempt to seize water resources to give to herders.
“These two plots which are been repackaged and to some extent using foreign-funded programmes to mask these plots to hijack native people’s lands to donate to Fulani herders could result in war.
“The attempt to sell the dummy that there is a conflict between farmers and herders is a fallacy because a conflict is between two armed groups but in Nigeria AK-47 wielding herders are killing harmless farmers yet there is an alleged conspiratorial silence from security agencies and the Federal Government.”
HURIWA understandably is unhappy that the Federal Government due to its ethnic agenda in favour of the ethnicity of the President and so many of those who hold the top positions in all internal security institutions who are all without exception Fulani. The government is attempting to sell the dummy and the contrived story that the Fulani pastoralists are not the aggressors but are simply one side of a two-sided war between herders and farmers.
This wicked fallacy which the government has consistently sponsored in the media should be resisted, rubbished and debunked as has just been done by the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and to try to package falsehood and promote in news pages as news is, to put it mildly, a fraud of monumental proportion which the media need to be made aware of and to stop spreading fake news that there is a clash between farmers and Fulani bandits under the guise of pastoralists.
There is no such thing as that. What there is, is a war of Fulani herdsmen against the rest of Nigerians in their blind pursuit for territorial capture of native people’s lands for the benefit of their cows and this Federal government under Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is actively turning blind eyes to these schemes of the devil and the slaughter of farmers. In Southern Kaduna alone, more than 100 communities belonging to Christians have so far been captured by Fulani herders allegedly backed by the top echelons of the armed forces. So it is doubtful if President Muhammadu Buhari could change his mindset and stop the ever-expanding wars of Fulani herdsmen against other Nigerian communities of farmers. In some states, the operatives of the Nigeria Army have severally been accused of promoting the interests of Fulani herders and their cows whilst they openly disrespect the law of those states against open grazing. Should this allegation be correct, it will be the lowest that the brand name of the hitherto prestigious national Army has been rubbished by a government with so much self-centred programmes for the ethnicity of the Commander-In-Chief.
The sad truth is that since Muhammadu Buhari assumed power, the Fulani pastoralists have launched wars to take lands of other communities even far away from the deep North. On the 21st of September 2021 the Paramount Ruler of Atyap Chiefdom, also known as ‘Agwatyap’, Sir Dominic Yahaya, raised the alarm over sustained Fulani attacks which have claimed over 50 lives of villagers under his domain which include Zango-Kataf in Southern Kaduna within a month.
The killings, the monarch said, included heavily pregnant women and children, claiming also that 254 houses and seven churches were destroyed by the herdsmen during the sustained attacks
Around 5th August 2021 the Evangelical Church Winning All also known as ECWA expressed disappointment over the killings and destruction of houses, including its churches in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State.
Recall that around May 6, 2018, a village in Southern Kaduna reportedly was still reeling from the impact of Fulani herdsmen militia attack which occurred in the village of Gwaska in Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area on Saturday, May 5, 2018.
In a statement- e-mailed to The Trent by PR Nigeria on Sunday, May 6, 2018, the community’s vigilante group, BIRNIN-GWARI VANGUARDS FOR SECURITY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE. indicated that over 45 bodies of the victims of the invasion have been recovered. June 1st 2021 saw the attack that was revealed by a community group. The Irigwe Development Association and the Irigwe Youth Movement of Miango District in Bassa LGA of Plateau State disclosed that suspected Fulani herdsmen have killed 41 of its people in repeated attacks in several communities between February and May 2021. The groups also said the deaths have resulted in creating many orphans and widows in the affected communities.
They disclosed that 25 houses were burnt down and farms with crops were also destroyed in 12 villages during the period under review. On July 14th 2021, another attack was recorded in Southern Kaduna with 33 residents killed and properties worth billions destroyed by Fulani herders.
A statement issued by Luka Binniyat, the spokesperson of Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, said about four churches were burnt and 215 homes razed down in the attacks over the past six days. These herders in their quest to conquer territories spread across the Country ventured into Ebonyi State in the South East of Nigeria where seven persons were killed on June 1st 2021.
As reported, this attack carried out by suspected herdsmen in the boundary area of Ebonyi/Benue last Sunday affected seven villages of Ndigwe, Ataloga, Odokem, Ekile, Nduobasi and Ekpufu.
The attack led to the death of over 30 indigenes of Ebonyi while some survivors are still receiving treatment at the Alex-Ekweme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki. Fast forward to March 29th 2022, a Deeper Life Church Pastor, John Ajav and three others were reportedly killed in separate attacks on communities in Guma Local Government Area, LGA, of Benue state by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.
It was reliably gathered that the Pastor was shot and killed in the morning at Waku village by the marauders while on his way to Gbajimba the LGA Headquarters for a church programme.
The Church in Kaduna State says more than 27,000 people have been displaced from their homes since the renewed attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen against natives of the southern part of Kaduna State.
Around April 12th 2022 Fulani herdsmen reportedly killed 23 people in Benue State in a fresh attack on two communities, Mbadwem and Tiortyu.
The State Governor, Samuel Ortom disclosed then that the attack took place in the night just as around March 14th 2018, a Catholic Church Catechist, and two others were killed by herdsmen in Benue.
According to the source, “the both of them were going for early morning Mass when they ran into the ambushed but his in-law managed to escape alive.
From Taraba came the story in 2021 around May 29th that no fewer than 56 persons were murdered in separate attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in several local government areas of Benue and Taraba states between Thursday and Friday.
In Benue State, 42 persons were reportedly killed in attacks by the assailants in two local government areas, while 14 others were killed on Thursday in Gassol and Bali local government areas of Taraba State.
The affected local governments in Benue State, according to the locals, are Katsina-Ala and Gwer West. Residents of Shikaan, Mbagena and Kpav in Shitile, the affected communities in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area, said that the attackers invaded their communities in the early hours of Thursday and embarked on a killing spree. The same year 2018 around April 24th gunmen stormed Benue church and killed 15 worshippers.
The attack occurred in Ayar-Mbalom, a community in Gwer East Local Government Area. Recall too that in 2015 precisely on March 18th came the media reports of tears, and outrage that trailed the Agatu killings.
The killings in the Agatu local government area of Benue State, between Fula, led to the sacking of more than 28 riverine villages in the area, and it got to a head on the aforementioned date with the sacking of the Egba community and killing of over 100 persons in one fell swoop. The casualty figure in the latest crisis, which is the heaviest in the history of the unending skirmishes, has elicited shock and angry reactions across the country. The reason for this may not be far-fetched considering that most of the casualties were women and children who were either shot or hacked by the marauding herdsmen.
Around 30 suspected herdsmen attacked Mbalom community in the volatile region killing the worshippers and the two priests, said Benue state police commissioner Fatai Owoseni in the state capital of Makurdi. Earlier on May 15th, 2016 herdsmen attacked another Benue village, killing twelve in that invasion.
As reported, just when Benue farmers were enjoying some respite from the activities of dare-devil Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the state, no fewer than 12 persons were late Friday night reportedly killed by suspected herdsmen at Tarfi village, Binnev Ward, in Buruku local government area. These killers also struck in Plateau State killing a pastor, his wife, and their three children as reported around August 30th 2018.
In that attack, over eight persons were killed when suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked churches and houses in Barkin Ladi Local Government area of Plateau State. December 25th is a traditional joyful time in Christendom but the killers went to work in Anambra killing a farmer. And so tension mounted in the sleepy community of Anaku in Ayamelum local government area of Anambra State, following the reported killing of a farmer in the area by herdsmen.
In 2021 September 21st one person was killed, and others injured as gunmen attacked a church in Kaduna.
Aside from those killed, several others sustained various injuries in an attack at Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, Gabaciwa in Kachia Local Government Area, LGA of Kaduna State.
On 13th March 2018 in Plateau State, 25 persons were killed, and 11 houses razed in fresh attacks as guests flee Plateau mass burial.
Recall that the mass burial of victims killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in several communities in Bassa Local Government of Plateau State was disrupted by a fresh attack which left 25 persons dead.
In Adamawa State, on January 21st 2018, four people were feared dead following midnight herdsmen attack on Kikon, a village in Numan Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
The suspected herdsmen are said to have stormed the Numan community around 1 am Sunday, burning down the entire village and killing two men and two women.
The Adamawa state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Othman Abubakar, confirmed the attack on Kikon and Dowaya, explaining that four people were killed in the incident.
On November 1st 2021, two worshippers were feared killed by gunmen at the Baptist Church, Kakau Daji, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna state.
The worshippers were attacked during the church’s Sunday service. They were said to have surrounded the church before they started shooting.
Armed Fulani herdsmen armed carried out many attacks in Edo state. On March 18th 2018, they struck and killed an undergraduate, four others and several were hospitalised as herdsmen attacked two communities.
The report says five persons including a first-year student of the Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, Edo state, Collins Ojeriakhi, were reportedly killed in two separate attacks by suspected herdsmen in Ugboha, Esan South East Local, and Odiguete Ovia North East Local Government Areas of Edo state.
On March 16th 2016, Fulani herdsmen attacked and killed 32 people in communities in Dekina and Omala Local Government Areas of Kogi State.
The assailants arrived by boat on Wednesday, opened fire on the people and burnt down homes. An eyewitness said they wore military fatigue and wielded AK 47 assault rifles. Many of the residents who fled for their lives remain unaccounted for.
A source claimed the attackers, burnt down over 20 houses, killed anyone in sight and shot at those who tried to escape into the bushes.
April 16th 2020. Suspected Fulani herdsmen allegedly invaded a village in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State killing scores of farmers and some residents.
The herdsmen reportedly invaded the communities simultaneously in the early hours of Thursday (today) shooting sporadically at every object in sight while some of the lucky residents fled with gunshot injuries, as reported.
Again, suspected herdsmen returned to Mgbuji farm in Enugu.
Eight persons, including a personnel of a local vigilante group, identified as Emmanuel Ogbodo, lost their lives following attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen both in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State.
In conclusion, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has a legal obligation to arrest these killers but he hasn’t done that and unfortunately the states in which these massacres have happened couldn’t take much action to stave off these attacks because of the misunderstanding of their functions as a branch of government and the assumption that since President Muhammadu Buhari who is Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria hadn’t asked these armed security operatives to stop these killings, the state governments are handicapped.
But these States are wrong. As a government, the Constitution imposes on you the legal duty to protect the lives and property of Nigerians under your territory and a state government needs to do everything conventional or unconventional to forestall attacks and arrest terrorists who Invade their states and deal decisively with them by taking quick actions to execute decisions of the courts.
Such killings are despicable and reprehensible and it is in the self-enlightened interest of President Muhammadu Buhari that his administration stop these alleged Fulani wars on Nigerians.
The time to do this is now and there should be a TRUTH AND JUSTICE COMMISSION to compile damages to be paid out to the victims of this unwarranted aggression.
If President Muhammadu Buhari pretends that there is no such thing as Fulani war against all other communities in Nigeria and therefore fails to stop these ongoing attacks, he would have carried out the greatest disservice to Nigeria and generations in the next hundreds of years won’t pardon his deliberate indiscretions conspiratorial silence in this instance.
Victims of these attacks need to also approach the International Criminal Court in the Hague Netherlands if this government continues to pamper and support these armed Fulani terrorists who disguise themselves as herdsmen.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.