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”.