Daji Sani writes on the killing of over 70 people by suspected herdsmen in villages in Adamawa State
The attacks on Dong and Lawaru villages of Numan Local Government Area in Adamawa State at the beginning of the year left 79 persons killed, with several people injured and churches, houses and shops burnt down completely by suspected herdsmen. Still, no arrest has been made and the suspected herdsmen have carried on with impunity, ravaging other villages in the state.
Most of the residents in the villages of Numan, Demsa, and Girei Local Government Areas of the state said they ended last year and began this year with sorrows and pains due to series of attacks meted out on them by herdsmen without any resistance. The affected residents believe the herdsmen are being sponsored by top officials in government to actualise political, religious and primordial sentiments.
The villagers said they were more pained following the nonchalant attitude of the state government regarding these killings as if those killed do not matter, alleging government ignored the reports of an Administrative Panel of Enquiry set to bring the crisis to an end
The Administrative Panel of Enquiry was set up by the state government in 2016 as an outcome from a series of dialogue between farmers and herdsmen. The panel was saddled with the responsibility of suggesting modalities to end the crises across the state.
Before the latest killings, the panel had finished and submitted its report to the state government. The government’s inability to implement the recommendations supposedly gave impetus to herdsmen to continue their rampage on these villages.
Since 2016 till date over 2000 people have lost their lives while more than 6000 people have been displaced and properties worth billions of naira destroyed in the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the state.
The victims of the attacks on the two villages have said that the attackers came with the motives of annihilating all of them following the kind of sophisticated weapons they were carrying. They maintained that the herdsmen cannot afford the kind of weapons they brought to fight them.
The attacks have caused serious fears in the minds of residents of the two affected communities with very tense atmosphere. The residents are now suspicious of any strange face or vehicle that comes in and out of the communities because of the fear that their killers might come back as they promised.
Over 4000 residents have fled the villages to take refuge in Numan, and Gombe State while a handful were seen evacuating the debris of the attacked buildings trying to start life as their houses, shops, vehicles, food items and other valuables were destroyed completely by the merciless herdsmen.
However, a river, which is their main source of drinking water separates the two villages of Lawaru and Dong, as they are predominantly farmers belonging to Bwaite tribes popularly known as Bachama and few Muslim who came from other states purposely to do business had fled the villages even before the arrival of the attackers.
“With what transpired in Dong and Lawaru villages lately, we have come to the conclusion that some top Nigerian government officials are supporting the herdsmen to perpetrate their nefarious activities on targeted villages to gain some political, religious and primordial sentiments.”
These were the exact words from a retired Area Court Judge from Adamawa State Judiciary, Mr. Dawson K. Tufano, who is resident in Dong Village. He accused the government and Nigerian Air Force of conspiracy against the Bwaite tribes popularly known as the Bachamas.
Tufano, while narrating the December 4, 2017 attack on his village, said before the arrival of a large number of well-armed Fulani herdsmen to launch an attack on their villages, they had gotten earlier information of their plans and immediately they alerted the security authorities.
He said the security authorities responded by sending mobile police to man the area but before the arrival of the attackers the mobile police had been withdrawn from the areas for no reason.
“As a result of the development, we had no options than to prepare for war against the herdsmen so as to defend our father’s land and valuables from being destroyed.
The retired Judge said while they were in a fierce battle with the herdsmen, three aircraft came from nowhere and started throwing bombs on their own side, supporting the herdsmen to kill several people while many were injured as houses and properties were completely razed down due to the Air Force bombings.
“The whole thing was a calculated attempt to destroy us, if not why is it that the Air Force was only bombarding our people while leaving the large number of well-armed herdsmen who were twice the number of our population.
“Secondly, the herdsmen were chanting “Allahaukabar” in Arabic language commonly used by Muslims and thanking Mr. President for giving them support to win the war; and they promised to come back to wipe-out the remaining people still alive.”
Tufano, who was in tears, further said: “From where l was hiding during the attack l saw the herdsmen carrying sophisticated weapons which l believed these herdsmen cannot afford those heavy weapons l saw.”
“We are now living in fear. At every loud sound our people will start running thinking that the herdsmen have returned to fill their promise,” he said
He said 58 dead bodies were recovered and buried in Dong Village while some people are still missing, noting he cannot give the casualty figures in other neighbouring villages affected by the crises.
Tufano further explained that they had formally presented their complaints to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, when he visited the affected areas.
The State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop Stephen Dami Mamza, condemned the act in totality while donating relief materials from Adamawa CAN to victims of the clash in Dong Village. He called on Christians to pray and fast.
He said CAN was making frantic effort to talk with the state government to stop the future occurrence and put an end to these crises bedeviling mostly Christians in the North-east.
Also, he enjoined Christians not to be afraid, adding that CAN is on the neck of the government to stop those perpetrating such evil act in the name of herdsmen.
The Village Head of Dong, Mr. Jared Hanya also said 58 people were killed while others are still missing with several people injured.
He lamented that the village was completely burnt down including churches and food and non-food items, paralysing the economic strength of his people.
However the church leader of the Lutheran Church of Christ (LCCN) in Lawaru Village, Mr. Denis Andrawus, revealed that 21 people were killed in his area.
According to him, the herdsmen attempted to burn down the church but could not “so they destroyed the furniture and several items inside the church.”
Andrawus also revealed that the son of the pastor of an Apostolic Church in Lawaru was among those killed while the wife of the pastor was seriously injured and his house razed down completely by the herdsmen.
Mrs. Happy Yawa, who hails from Dong Village, said the weapons the herdsmen came with, an individual would not have used his money to buy them adding that some of them cannot operate the weapons.
Also speaking, the church secretary of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria in Dong Village, Mr. Leron Matahhula. who spoke on behalf of his pastor, Rev. Promise Bappah said the herdsmen attempted to burn the church so they destroyed the interior of the church and its windows and doors.
He further explained that the incident started when the Fulani herdsmen encroached into the farms of some farmers in Tambo Village with their cows and when the farmers accosted them they started shooting at the farmers, killing one and injuring four persons.
According to him, the development attracted many farmers in the neighbouring villages who teamed up to chase the herdsmen in fierce battle out of their farms. They later returned to bury their dead and took the injured persons for treatment in Specialist Hospital in Yola, the state capital.