Reports last week on the killing of about 25 persons, mainly women and children, by suspected Fulani herdsmen at Yogbo village, in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, were sickening. Just as the news about Wednesday night’s murder of four people, who were burnt to death in a bus during an attack by suspected herdsmen in Dass local council of Bauchi State.
Such barbarisms are becoming something of a recurring decimal, especially in remote villages in the country. But the federal and state governments are doing nothing about the problem, which in practice, looks like a gathering storm that may soon degenerate into a pogrom of a scale the country might never have seen before.
The killings in Benue, reportedly, started on the night of Saturday, October 14, and continued till Sunday before security agents could get to the place.
In August, about two persons were killed at Nimbo, in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State when Fulani herdsmen attacked the farming community. The marauders, allegedly, vandalised farms and yam barns, raped women, and burnt houses before fleeing. All these followed attempts by the villagers to make the herders take their cattle off farmlands that had come under devastation, as crops were destroyed by the animals and people’s efforts and investments were being laid waste.
The people of Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State have also this year complained about what seemed like an invasion by Fulani herders.
Across the country, many have been killed in cold blood by cattle herders who perpetrate all manner of heinous activities in farming communities and take offence at the slightest attempt by locals to resist them. What is happening to the country is a disgrace, more so when it is considered that many of the roguish herders are not even Nigerian citizens.
Many are saddened by these barbaric killings. The government has done nothing but watch while the elasticity of endurance of the citizens is being stretched, especially for communities that have suffered the gruesome fate of murder by the herdsmen.
Before the people’s patience is pushed to the limit, the onus is on the federal government to lead efforts to curb the excesses of the herdsmen.
Some have flirted with the idea of creating grazing reserves for the herdsmen across the country. This suggestion is as absurd as it is pervasive and impracticable in the Nigerian circumstance. Here, citizenship is traditionally tied to nativity of communities that are themselves tied to land ownership. The question then arises, who would give up his own land for someone else to ply his private business?
Senate President David Mark has recommended the restriction of cattle rearers to their states of origin to limit the incessant bloody clashes between the herders and farmers. Speaking on October 4, during the consideration of the general principles of a bill sponsored by Senator Ita Enang to regulate the practice of animal health and husbandry through the establishment of an animal health and husbandry technologists registration board of Nigeria, Mark said, “In modern-day animal husbandry, the movement of cattle from North to South is simply outdated. Children are not going to school and you cannot get the best yields from the animals, and there is conflict all the time between cattle owners and host communities. There are so many other good reasons why we should begin to restrict those who rear cattle in this country to their own communities.”
The bill has passed second reading and has been forwarded to the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
The senate president’s suggestion is all right. But it seems sort of shifting the problem away from the national scene and trying to localise it. Nigeria must address the menace of herdsmen terrorism head-on.
In every civilised society, people acquire space for the location of their businesses and ply such in ways that do not endanger or disturb the rights of others. The Fulani herdsmen are doing the business of animal farming and they must provide space for their business in such a way that does not disturb the lives and businesses of other Nigerians. This is the standard across civilised humanity. Nigeria cannot afford to be a negative exception.
—Vincent Obia firstname.lastname@example.org