Chronicle of Fulani Herdsmen Attacks, History of Indifference by Security Agencies

On April 18, 2016, one Captain Bashir Jajira, the Assistant Direc­tor of Public Rela­tions of the Nigerian Army an­nounced that 36 heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen were arrested at a military checkpoint between the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Nasarawa State. He also mentioned the arrest of another batch of 56 herdsmen whom he said were arrested around Danta­ta Construction Company facili­ty near Giri flyover, along Abuja Airport Road. Upon getting the information, Nigerians thought that the nation’s security apara­ti were about cracking the lid to halting the menace of Fulani cat­tle herdsmen killings.

He added: “A group of 36 herdsmen in a Dyna Truck and Toyota Camry car with the regis­tration number Abu Kuje 994 FC and Niger SUL 541 XA respective­ly, were intercepted and arrested at 177 Guards Battalion’s location by the Keffi checkpoint. Soldiers at the check-point recovered sev­eral weapons from the suspects, including one pump action gun, 19 Dane guns, and 118 cartridg­es of ammo. Assorted charms and hard drugs were also confiscated from them. They would be hand­ed over to the police”.

Unfortunately, up till the time of filing this report, there is no Information/charge filed against these ammunition-wielding herdsmen. It is not unlikely they may have been let off the hook pe­harps, with a pat on the back and apologies, for obstructing their movement. These and several  other unfortunate stories have become the refrain, not mind­ing the level of carnage Fulani herdsmen have wrecked main­ly in the Middle-Belt and South­ern parts of the country.

Investigations have revealed that majority of these rampag­ing herdsmen are not Nigeri­ans. They are either from Niger, Mali or Sudan. They do not pos­sess any document, valid inter­national passport or permit for them to remain in Nigeria. Yet, they remained above the law. It is not in doubt that these herds­men kill, main, destroy, butch­er people anyhow and harvest mature and growing farm crops and use these even to feed their animals and their victims re­main helpless.

One cannot recount the plethora of woes of how ag­grieved people who rushed to nearby police stations to tender complains against the nefarious activities of herdsmen returned home frustrated, thus fueling the bravado and charging the effrontery of these brigands to maim and kill. Due to the seem­ing tacit support, it is no longer fashionable for the herdsmen to restrain their cattle and sheep to the outskirt of any community. They have been take their herds to right into peoples’ door posts and backyard, eating up vegeta­ble and other behind-the-house farm produce, to the chagrin but seeming helplessness of the community people.

Even as several people have complained about the destruc­tive activities of these herds­men, the police, which is the lead public institution in inter­nal security, would be the first to deny such claims and mount vehement denial regarding such attacks.

Public frustrations arising as a result of such attitude are even more disturbing. This is because these herdsmen wield AK-47 as­sault rifles, primed herdsmen-sticks and well-sharpened ma­chetes. At least, it is common knowledge that herdsmen have killed several people in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Enu­gu, Anambra, Abia, Imo, Eb­onyi, Cross River, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Del­ta and Edo states. Just last week, they attacked Attakwu, Akegbe Ugwu community Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enu­gu State, slaughtering a seminar­ian, Bro. Lazarus Nwafor, that visited his parents the previous day. They also left in their trail four other persons who are said to still be struggling between life and death.

Some villagers said that the herdsmen’s attack on the Ogbo­do Nwarum family compound of Ndiagu Attakwu was pro­voked by some uncomplimenta­ry remarks which the pregnant wife of the landlord allegedly made when the herdsmen and their cows marched through their compound the previous day. It was learnt that the ma­rauders cut open the ceiling of the living room of Nwafor to gain access to their targets.

Unfortunately, Nwafor, who returned from his apostol­ic work the previous day, was their first victim. He reported­ly died instantly from the ma­chete cuts inflicted on him by the attackers. Thereafter, the herdsmen proceeded to attack the rest of the occupants of the building, who were fast asleep.

According to residents of the area, it was the alarm raised by one of the victims that at­tracted the attention of other members of the community. Mr. Ogbodo Nwarum, the land­lord, was said to have re-ceived several machete cuts, just as his pregnant wife, aged mother and daughter were not spared.

Members of the communi­ty, who came to their rescue, it was gathered, rushed them to the hospital for treatment. Un­fortunately, the seminarian was confirmed dead on arrival by the doctors. Ogbodo, his preg­nant wife, who received a deep cut on her stomach and other members of the family, are said to be recuperating at the Moth­er of Christ Specialist Hospi­tal, Ogui, Enugu. We cannot confirm if they have been dis­charged or not.

Reacting to the develop­ment, an elder statesman and a former secretary in the old Anambra State government, Mr. Nduka Eya, described the situation as very horrible and blamed the incessant attacks on communities by Fulani mi­litiamen on the recalcitrant atti­tude and negligence of President Muhammadu Buhari in taking drastic measures to redress the matter.

He wondered if the people of the South East zone, whom their farm crops are being de­stroyed by Fulani herdsmen, are still Nigerians.

Similarly, the Deputy Sen­ate President, Senator Ike Ekw­eremadu condemned the dawn attack on Attakwu, Akagbe Ugwu community. He called on the Federal Government to take decisive steps to stop the ugly trend.

Precisely on Monday, April 25, Fulani herdsmen had gone on rampage at Ukpabi Nim­bo community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area in the same Enugu State, killing more than 57 people in a single night’s raid. In that attack, which at­tracted condemnations beyond the shores of Nigeria, apart from killing scores of innocent resi­dents their houses and church­es burnt down by the herdsmen.

Just few weeks after the Nimbo attacks, confusion reigned supreme in Umuchig­bo, another community in Enugu State following reports that Fulani herdsmen have launched a fresh attack in the area. Umuchigbo is very close to the popular Nike Lake Re­sort Hotel in Enugu East Local Government Area of the State.

Equally, some months ago, the Niger State government disclosed that rampaging Fula­ni herdsmen killed 37 villagers in some communities in the Ni­ger East Senatorial District. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Niger East Matters, Mr. Pius Wakili, disclosed that contra­ry to police report, the armed herdsmen had a field day dur­ing the killing which took place Allawa, Galadima Kogo, Erena and other villages in the area. Wakili said the Fulani herds­men were still on the prowl in several villages in the Niger East Senatorial District with danger­ous weapons several days after the initial attack when he briefed journalists.

Wakili, a former member of the State House of Assembly, said that it was not true that the police have been able to curb the movement of the Fulani herds­men or chase them away from the various forests where they launched the first attack early this year.

He said: “We have reports from most villages that these cattle rustlers carrying AK-47 rifles are moving freely in for­ests in Allawa, Galadima Kogo, Erena and other villages.

“About 37 people were re­ported to have been killed in several attacks on these villag­es by these herdsmen while sev­eral properties were destroyed”.

The governor’s aide there­fore called on the Joint Se-curi­ty Task Force on Cattle Rustling “to intensify surveillance patrol in villages across Zone B Sena­torial District of Niger State as these armed herdsmen suspect­ed to be rustlers have begun to hibernate in the areas months after they were dislodged.”

He commended the Joint Task Force for curtailing the ac­tivities of cattle rustlers but not­ed that the reappearance of the “thieves” had become a source of concern to the villagers who can no longer go to their farms. “There is the need for securi­ty men to intensify patrols of the areas because our people have been noticing movements of armed men, some without cows parading the villages with sophisticated weapons,” Waki­li said.

When contacted, the State Command Police Public Rela­tions Officer, DSP Bala Elikana, said that the authorities were just hearing of the report and “we will investi gate it and act appropriately”. The outcome of the investigation is between Elikana and his bosses as they never made any further disclo­sures on the matter.

In another development, members of the Umunze com­munity in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State blamed the government of Chief Willie Obiano for their present predicament in the hands of rampaging Fulani cat­tle herdsmen. They claimed that these herdsmen have descend­ed on their farms and crops and have laid waste the entire labour of the community this year.

Distraught members of the community la­mented that they have become helpless because of “the waves after waves of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle that have been grazing on their crops for weeks now”.

According to them, the last time, two years ago, that they had challenged the herdsmen destroying their crops, during which three of the herdsmen’s cows were killed, the state gov­ernment and the police had ar­rested members of the com­munity and made them pay compensation to the herds­men. According to one of the distraught community lead­ers in Umunze, “the communi­ty was forced to pay more than N300,000 and forced to return the bows, arrows and daggers recovered from the herdsmen, in addition to the huge losses we suffered through our destroyed crops”. He said that they were seriously warned by the state and the police in Awka never to bother the herdsmen any longer.

Showing our correspond­ents pictures of their devastat­ed farmlands, the community spokesman stressed that since that humiliating incident, the community had become cowed and incapacitated. This accord­ing to him, “gave the herds­men the impetus and boldness to rampage” their farms un­challenged, to the extent that the community members have been shedding tears over what they claim were “unprecedent­ed influx of herdsmen and their cattle since the last two weeks”.

A teary member of the com­munity reported how herds of cattle continually descend­ed on Obagu farms near Unyo River at Agu Agbiligba Lomu in Umunze, the headquarters of Orumba South LGA, destroying all the crops, stressing that the worst devastation was reported since the 4th of August, when the herdsmen were reported­ly moving their herds from the Unyo-Eziama road indiscrimi­nately into different farmlands in the area that is regarded as one of the food baskets of the state.

“It is obvious that the cow herders are aware that the vil­lagers are feeling intimidated so, the size and the number of the herds keep increasing on a daily basis, while they operate with unparallel impunity,” our sources stressed warning that, “if nothing is done by the au­thority to stop the destruction of people’s livelihood, the out­come might be disastrous”.

According to him, each time angry youths wanted to respond, they were reminded of the warning from the police at Awka and equally warned of the consequences of engaging the herdsmen who are usually armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

In Adamawa State, the Bwatiye people had appealed to the Federal Government and the Inspector-General of Po­lice (IGP) to disarm the Fula­ni herdsmen in their locality so as to safeguard the lives of the members of the remaining eth­nic groups.

Bwatiye people who are predominantly found in Nu­man, Demsa and Lamurde Lo­cal Government Areas in South­ern Adamawa, and Girei LGA in Ad-amawa Central, said they made the appeal in view of in­cessant attacks on the ethnic groups by heavily-armed Fu­lani herdsmen who had killed over 100 of their people in the last seven months in their com­munities.

In a press statement signed by the National President of Pene Da Bwatiye, Prince Hez­ron Fada, and made available to newsmen in Jos, they alleged that “armed Fulani herdsmen have attacked more than 10 vil­lages in the locality between Jan­uary and July 2016”.

He stated: “It is with heavy heart that the Bwatiye Commu­nity represented by our umbrel­la organisation, Pene Da Bwati­ye wish to draw the attention of Nigerians to the massive de­struction of the rural town of Kodomun in Demsa Local Gov­ernment Area of Adamawa State and the brutal cold-blooded murder of 25 persons compris­ing our revered elders, young and middle aged men and chil­dren. The attacks have left a pop­ulation of over 2,500 inhabitants now homeless and scattered in towns and villages as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

“Please recall that from Jan­uary to July this year, similar mass killings took place in the Bwatiye villages of Koh, Goron, Ndikajam, Tabongo, No-Ine Fawaire and Jimoh in Girei Lo­cal Government Area of Ad­amawa State, where 72 deaths were recorded, including the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Vunoklang, a suburb of the Jimeta metropolis.

A teenage housewife iden­tified as Bello Aisha in Iwa vil­lage, Gurara under Suleja Emir­ate Council, Niger State was abducted at the weekend and gang-raped by two Fulani herds­men in the bush. The suspects were however apprehended.

The incident happened at midnight on the fateful day when the herdsmen identified as Hussei­ni Isah and Adamu Shade She­hu, stormed the victim’s house and abducted her. When her father attempted to stop them, they hit him with a stick and took the girl away.

The teenager’s father, who identified himself as Alhaji Bel­lo, said his daughter came for the Sallah break and was pre­paring to return to her base when the men struck and took her away. Bello added that the following morning, the herds­men set her free and asked her to collect N1 million from him to avoid further molestation and elimination of the whole family.

Relieving her ordeal, Ai­sha disclosed after the two men had raped her, they released her to collect N1 million from her father, failing which the whole family would be elim­inated. When asked how she led the Fulani vigilantes to the camp where the suspects were caught and brought to the Po­lice Area Command office, Ai­sha explained that she was not blindfolded when they took her to their hut in the outskirts.

In another development, two women were also said to have been abducted and raped in the bush in the area. One of the victims left her eight-month-old baby at home when she was abducted. Adamawa Police Command sources dis­closed that the nursing mother rushed out of her home to get something for the family when she was abducted.

A resident of the communi­ty disclosed that the vigilantes had been seeing traces of Fulani footprints along the bush path which they followed to track the suspects. The chairman of the vigilante group, Barau Samai’ila, who was said to have gone on a recce mission after the suspect­ing herdsmen, was allegedly shot dead.

Also in Ogun State, suspect­ed Fulani herdsmen have re­portedly attacked Ilewo-Orile community in the state and murdered three persons. A re­liable source in the community revealed that two of the victims of the attack, included Amosun Ogunronbi and his brother, Owolabi Ogunronbi, while the third victim was simply known as Philip.

“Philip was killed that Fri­day night after the suspected herdsmen accosted him and snatched his motorcycle, mobile

phone and some money. Philip was an Egun man. He went to work on Friday but didn’t re­turn. When his wife was going to the market in Ibara-Orile that weekend, she saw the dead body of her husband by the road side,” the sources explained. The case was reported at the Lafenwa Po-lice Station, Abeokuta and equal­ly at the state police headquar­ters, Eleweran, Abeokuta.

In Benue State, six bodies were penultimate week re-cov­ered by a search team in Ugon­do community in Logo Lo­cal Government Area of Benue State where suspected Fulani herdsmen had struck Saturday. The next day, Sunday, 15 corps­es were found on the scene of the attacks. The invasion forced the residents and those in the neighbouring towns to flee their homes.

The herders, according to eyewitness, in the early hours of Saturday stormed Ugondo, Tyo­genda in Iornov Council Ward of Logo LGA, killed 15 persons and burnt several buildings. The AU­THORITY on Saturday learned that the marauders on chasing out the original inhabitants had now taken over the invaded vil­lages. There is no sign that nor­malcy had been restored.

A fleeing member of the at­tacked community, Mr Joseph Gbamwuan aged 46, lamented thus: “As I speak with you, the people are shooting sporadical­ly and the villagers are fleeing including myself and members of my family, for fear of being killed.

Similarly, people suspected to be herdsmen, yesterday, at­tacked Coromo and two other villages in Gassol Local Govern­ment Area of Taraba State, killing about 12 persons and wounding about 18 others seriously. Local sources said those killed includ­ed seven men, two women and children, while 13 houses were burnt. It was gathered that the herdsmen launched the attack following a long standing land dispute over farm lands. The herdsmen reportedly stormed the town in the night and start­ed attacking Tivs who had come back to farm on their lands.

It was said that hundreds of the na­tives fled to neighbouring villag­es, while others ran to the Gassol B Police Divisional headquar­ters for their safety. Benue State Commissioner of Police, Bashir Dabup Makama, confirmed the incident, but explained that his men are on the trail of the killers.

To dispel rumors that he does not bother about the inces­sant killings of the Fulani herds­men, because he is a Fulani, President Muhammadu Buha­ri early in August, stated that his administration would no long­er tolerate the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers which have led to several deaths and internally displaced persons. He gave the warning at the grad­uation ceremony for Course 24 participants of the National De­fence College (NDC), in Abuja. Buhari said he had ordered secu­rity agencies to step in and deal decisively with those instigating or committing such crimes.

According to him: “On the matter of herdsmen/farmers clashes, I wish to state that this Administration will not tolerate or condone acts of banditry and criminality, under any guise. As such, our security agencies have been mandated to deal with such acts decisively”.