I have been reluctant about commenting on the latest massacre in Benue, Taraba and Adamawa States allegedly by herdsmen. Indeed, what is there to be said about the incessant brutal attack by these marauders that have not been said several times?
For instance, when Agatu , Benue State was attacked in 2016 which led to the death of over 200 people and the razing down of seven villages, there was a loud outcry. People called on government to check the excesses of herdsmen. The same thing happened when innocent people of Nimbo Town in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State were brutally killed by the blood thirsty nomads and other similar cases.
Incidentally, those in authority preferred to be indifferent and looked the other way while the lives of the citizens were being wasted. Of course, investigations were ordered for almost all the cases but what were the outcomes of these series of investigations? Is it on record that anybody or group was apprehended and made to face the consequences of their actions?
However, one cannot continue to remain silence in the face of some disturbing developments on the latest Benue issue.
According to news report, a Cattle Breeders Association, Miyetti Allah, held a press conference a few days ago during which they insisted that open grazing must continue in Benue State and the entire country. They claimed that Nigeria’s climate cannot sustain cattle ranching and vowed to resist states like Ekiti, Benue and Taraba which made laws to ban open grazing.
Indeed, this is very worrisome. Cattle ranching is the in-thing all over the world, including African countries like Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Swaziland. Why should Nigeria’s climate not be suitable for ranching?
Again, does this group or any group or individual whatsoever has the right to defy state laws recognized by the Nigerian constitution? From all indications, these laws are intended to build a harmonious relationship between cattle herders, farmers and other citizens. Is the herders’ attitude not an invitation to more conflicts, mayhem, deaths, injuries and economic losses?
And disappointedly, instead of the Federal Government handling the matter with all the seriousness it deservers, the herdsmen are treated as sacred cows, the untouchables. Agreed the government seemed to have woken up from slumber by ordering the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris , to relocate to Benue to restore law and order and prevent further loss of lives but did they have to wait for over 70 people to be massacred before taking such action?
Again will the IGP’s presence and the whole lot of policemen and mobile policemen with him bring a permanent solution to herdsmen menace in Benue State and other parts of the country? Of course, the answer is No. It is only a palliative measure. A permanent solution will come when those in cattle rearing business start keeping their animals in ranches and stop destroying other people’s source of livelihood with their animals.
A lasting solution will be seen when the arms bearing herdsmen are treated as criminals that they have become. From a group of stick – wielding pastoralists, living essentially nomadic life, the Fulani herdsmen have metamorphosed into arms bearing fighting force. Yet, we are in a country that criminalizes illegal possession of arms. Why both past and current governments had allowed this barbaric act to continue is still a puzzle to many.
No doubt, the failure to address this problem all these past years has emboldened the herdsmen to carry on with the unbridled trampling on the rights of other Nigerians.
So, as many distinguished Nigerians have suggested, it is high time the Federal government took a decisive action to put an end to the atrocities being committed by the herdsmen. Nobody should be above the law no matter their social class, religious or ethnic leaning.
There is no way we can prevent the reoccurrence of the inhuman acts if the marauders are not arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the law. Already, there are various dangerous interpretations to government’s inability to tackle the problem and this is the time for Buhari to dispel all doubts about his position in the matter by taking all necessary steps to ensure the carnage does not happen again. This includes making sure that the murderers are fished out and made to face the consequences of their actions.
Government should give the citizens reasons to believe that their lives are valued and must be protected.
Similarly, the Federal Government should check the proliferation of arms around the country and retrieve them. The country is already facing a big security challenges, no thanks to Boko Haram insurgency, militancy and secessionist group. Therefore, to continue to bear arms at will and use them to terrorize others surely portends serious danger for the country.
Most importantly, Nigeria should tow the line of the developed countries who keep their animals in ranches. In no advanced country can you see cattle roaming freely on the properties of other people and causing problem for their countries. Both federal, State and local governments, even cattle owners who make money from this business, can join hands in establishing ranches and grazing reserves across the country and adopt other strategies to enable herdsmen settle to modern system of livestock farming.
At this critical time when people are being encouraged to go into farming to ensure availability of food in the country and to curtail food importation, herdsmen should not be allowed to empty their cattle into cultivated farmlands and destroy crops and farmlands.
Most importantly, peaceful co-existence must be encouraged and promoted among farmers and herdsmen and people of all tribes and religions as we obviously need each other.