• Says killings, a time bomb •Urges presidency to disarm all criminal herdsmen
By Paul Obi in Abuja
Following the incessant cases of clashes between herdsmen and locals in Tiv land across the middle belt, the Tiv Diaspora Forum (TDF) from Benue State has written to President Muhammadu Buhari demanding that the presidency take proactive measures and interrogate the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, (MACBAN) over the attacks.
In the letter signed by Prof. Joseph T. Zume (United States), Lord M. Uva (US), Son Kai Gyoh (United Kingdom and Ireland) and Mathew Atim (US), the group bemoaned the dilly-dally approach by the Buhari’s government in tackling the menace.
They said: “We, the Tiv Diaspora Forum, an amalgamation of Tiv sons and daughters residing outside Benue State, have decided to join voices with our kith and kin, and indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians, to condemn the recurring savage assaults on farming communities across Nigeria by well-armed Fulani herdsmen and their accomplices, described by the Buhari government as foreign criminal groups.
“We have become particularly disturbed by the frequency, the geographic scope, and the sophistication of these violent operations.
“We observe that if the Buhari government does not effectively tackle the herdsmen problem, Nigeria could well be sitting on a timed bomb with potential for a catastrophic regional humanitarian crisis. If not quickly addressed, the herdsmen situation is bound to result to a proliferation of arms among communities with dangerous and long term consequences.
“How is it that the herdsmen have become so emboldened, waging their attacks freely and with military grade assault rifles yet not one herdsman has been arrested let alone prosecuted?”
According to the forum, “Curiously, for every alleged action of the herdsmen, their representative trade association, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), responds directly in the affirmative, yet no one summons the group to explain or account for the activities of its tradesmen.
“We are deeply saddened by the unprecedented silence of the Buhari government, while the herdsmen continue their atrocities on Tiv communities in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States.
“To this day, we are yet to read a direct statement from the Buhari administration condemning the violent activities of these herdsmen.
“When the president did issue a statement around March 21, it rather addressed the Zaki-Biam market square shooting, an act thought to have been committed by suspected local criminal gangs, some of who have publicly confessed to operating and planning attacks with Fulani herdsmen.”
They accused the president of double standard given the way and manner he pays attention to the crisis.
“We are curious that the incident that drew the president’s attention occurred only two weeks after a deadly attack on Buruku communities by herdsmen; the same event that led to the state governor’s desperate call for armed herdsmen to leave his state.
“Unfortunately, President Buhari’s response failed to equally acknowledge and condemn the more contentious herdsmen attacks in the state, even after a highly publicised public demonstration in Abuja and Makurdi by Tiv youths.
“This choice to respond to a local criminal gang activity, but not to the sustained killings by Fulani herdsmen feeds into a conspired narrative that appears to single out local criminal groups as the cause of the problem in Benue State in spite of frequent media reports about similar herdsmen attacks in other states.
“Whether by omission or commission, we strongly object to any attempt to minimise the intractable problem of armed to herdsmen that threaten farming communities and the attempt to focus and limit security operations to the activities of local criminal gangs.”
They added that “as patriotic Nigerians, we feel a sense of duty to advise the Buhari government to as a matter of national security, disarm the criminal herdsmen and their accomplices.
“In the short term, deploy appropriate and adequate security personnel to affected communities with clear mandates to secure and protect the local communities.”
They also demanded that the presidency “address with urgency, the humanitarian crisis that has been created by the invasion and destruction of communities in the Benue valley, including those of the Tiv in Taraba, Nasarawa and Benue States, that have been the greatest victims of herdsmen atrocities and provide financial compensation to victims of the herdsmen’s gruesome campaigns.”
“The government owes all Nigerians the assurance of peaceful livelihoods devoid of intimidation and harassment.”