BEVERLY HILLS, March 10, (THEWILL) – The perennial clash between Fulani herdsmen and farmers over grazing lands has assumed a frightening dimension across the country. While the herdsmen of old were known to carry bows and arrows to defend their cattle from rustlers and dangerous animals, the game has since changed, as they now wield AK 47 riffles and other weapons.
These herdsmen have become a threat to any unfortunate community that they enter. In the course of grazing, they destroy the farmers’ crops with impunity, killing and maiming any one who dared to challenge them. Often times, women of the host communities are raped, with houses burnt.
Before now, only few states in the North experienced this crisis. But the entire six geo-political zones are now vulnerable. The latest attacks on the Agatu communities in Benue State have revealed that these herdsmen are on what looks like a mission outside grazing rights. Several people were killed in the attacks; with no fewer than 7,000 people rendered homeless in their own lands.
THEWILL is worried about government’s seeming inability to curtail this crime, especially against the backdrop of the sophisticated weapons that these rampaging herdsmen carry. How did ordinary herdsmen acquire AK 47 guns? Why has government failed over the years to solve this problem? That this is happening in a country where there are security agencies is baffling. It goes to show that there are powerful people behind them. We therefore urge government to order independent inquiries into these attacks with a view to smoking out their sponsors.
It is intriguing to note that the situation has even gone beyond mere clash over grazing lands, to include kidnapping and other crimes. We recall the case of a former Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, who was kidnapped for ransom in his farm in Ondo State. Another is the gruesome murder of the Obi of Ubulu-uku, Akaeze Edward Ofulue, and the killing of a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and 30 others in Adamawa by these rampaging herdsmen.
Sometimes, they launch mid-night offensives on their targets in the mode of terrorism, killing and burning houses. The horrible story is the same; from Adamawa to Kaduna, Plateau to Taraba, Anambra to Ebonyi, Delta to Benue, Oyo to Ondo, among others.
THEWILL urges President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani man, who is also a cattle farmer in his private capacity, to declare an emergency in this regard. We recall his promise at a public forum to establish grazing lands as a temporary solution to the crisis. Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, had also assured that the frequent clashes would be solved in a matter of two years. According to him, government would create grazing lands for the herdsmen. “We will grow grass in the south to feed the cattle in the north, just as Saudi Arabia did,” Audu said.
We also call on the Department of State Services (DSS) to investigate the source of arms for these herdsmen and prosecute any indicted persons or groups. They should also be a step ahead of the marauders by being proactive in order to avert planned attacks.
In the interim, they must be prevailed upon to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace. They must respect the right to life and property of their host communities.
Beyond the establishment of grazing lands, we call on government to proffer a permanent solution by creating ranches across the country for the herdsmen. Two years, as estimated by Ogbe, is too far a time to halt these wanton destructions. The time to act is now!