RingTrue BY Yemi Adebowale Email: email@example.com
In the last few days, Fulani militias dominant in the North openly confirmed that they are the much-talked about bandits ravaging the entire country. They are truly Fulani militias as I have persistently identified them in my write ups. The expeditions of cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi to the strongholds of the militias in the North-west further brought this to the fore. Now, I guess nobody is in doubt about who the bandits are. They are the militias that brutally intervene on behalf of Fulani herders when chased out by farmers. They also kill, maim and kidnap for ransom to sustain their gory operations. This has been on for almost six years of the Buhari government.
The headquarters of the Fulani militias in Zamfara State is in the forests of Tubali and Makkai in Shinkafi Local Government Area. From here, they wreak havoc across the state, giving support to other wings in virtually all the local governments in Zamfara. When Sheikh Gumi visited Tubali and Makkai last week, the quantity of arms and ammunitions displayed by the outlaws was frightening. Close to 750 militias were seen with AK47 assault rifles and RPG in the two camps. They were also fully dressed in military camouflage. Yes, military camouflage. They mount roads blocks and carry out operations with military camouflage. How did the Fulani militias acquire military camouflage? How did they acquire the quantity of arms and ammunitions displayed? The forests of Tubali and Makkai are about 3,000 hectares all under absolute control of these Fulani militias. How come they are running the show in this vast empire unhindered? Nigeria is in a big mess. This insurgence is happening in a country with a legitimate government. So, why can’t this government assert itself? Very simple. It has a soft spot for the lawless Fulani militias.
What are the complaints of the Fulani militias? Why are they shedding blood of innocent Nigerians? Why are they abducting for ransom. They told Sheikh Gumi largely lies, damn lies; that Hausa farmers have been killing Fulani herders with their militias called Yan Sakai; that the Nigerian state has been unfair to them. They also talked about frequent killings of their loved ones by security agents, cattle rustling that have denied most of them and their parents their legitimate means of livelihood and failed promises of governments to support them after losing cattle to rustlers.
Criminals are complaining about being killed by security agents. So, security agents should not go after killers? Are security agents supposed to pamper lawless people? This is preposterous and obviously not a legitimate complaint. Militias that have killed hundreds across the country are complaining about being killed by security agents and someone says it’s a legitimate grievance. It can only happen in Nigeria. Yes, it is very painful that governments, over the years, have failed to deal with cattle rustling; it is also depressing that government has failed to fully support victims of cattle rustling. However, responding to this by taking up arms and killing thousands of innocent Nigerians is not justifiable. So, the Fulani militias are unable to stop cattle rustling with all their AK47? These arms and ammunitions are evidently not exclusively for stopping cattle rustling. The Fulani militias are simply criminals that must be dealt with, using the full force of the law.
Yan Sakai is a response to the murderous activities of the Fulani militias who have been going about killing and appropriating lands of farmers in a desperate search for more grazing land for herders. They became emboldened under the Buhari government. If justice had been served to the killers in the first place, there would probably be no Yan Sakai. The story is the same from Katsina, to Zamfara, to Niger, to Kaduna, to Sokoto and further across the country i.e. Fulani militias fight for herders that want unfettered access to farm lands. Herders often call them when they suffer in the hands of farmers. Frustrated Hausa farmers had to set up their militias called Yan Sakai. Now, Yan Sakai retaliates for Hausa farmers when their farm lands are destroyed and farmers killed. Fulani militias sustain their bloody operations with ransom from abductions. This is the tragedy of the country called Nigeria with a legitimate government.
Sheikh Gumi went in search of peace. He met with the Fulani militias and appealed to them to embrace peace. Gumi spent time preaching the words of Allah to them, speaking about the sanctity of preserving human life, how Islam forbids any act of revenge, adultery, fornication and kidnappings. He encouraged them to always seek knowledge of their religion, how to worship Allah and to avoid taking laws into their own hands. Gumi also pleaded for their understanding and urged them to cease all hostilities and allow him to reach out to the President to see how their legitimate grievances will be addressed immediately.
Unfortunately, Gumi has simply been wasting his time. Unfettered access to farm lands for herders remains the major agenda of Fulani militias. They persistently kill to actualise this agenda. These militias are also making huge money from kidnappings. Recently, they made a big kill from abducting the Kankara boys. These guys can’t stop tasting blood. So, no one can preach to them to put their guns down and accept peace.
For me, Fulani militias have persisted with their murderous activities because the Buhari government has failed to perform its constitutional duty of protecting lives and property. The only way to end the madness of these militias is by force. The Nigerian state must take them out. The Buhari government can end Fulani militia’s killings within a month, if it so desires. Let our President give honest/clear instructions with deadlines and see if the military will not destroy the militias in a matter of days. What is lacking is the political will on the part of the President to take out Fulani militias. This is the truth.
Our security agents know the locations of the Fulani militias across the country. As was seen from the visit of Gumi to Zamfara, there are military outposts bordering Tubali and Makkai forests. Even the Divisional Police Officer of Shinkafi, Abdullahi Ahmad, accompanied Gumi to the forests. In Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Niger states, security agents know the precise locations of these Fulani militias. In Kaduna State, it is an open secret that they reside in Birnin Gwari forest. So, what are we talking about? Buhari evidently lacks the political will to order the military to take out these blood-thirsty militias.
For how long will the state allow these militias to continue killing innocent Nigerians? These bad guys spent the last few days killing and maiming in five local governments in Kaduna State – Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru. In just 10 days, 55 people were slaughtered in Kaduna State. In Katsina State, local government areas like Jibia, Safana, Tsafe, Batsari, Dutsinma, Faskari, and Dandume have been turned to killing fields. The Fulani militias have cells all over Katsina State. Many will never forget how scores of people were killed in Tsauwa and Dankar villages (Batsari Local Government) last year. Back in February 2020, 21 persons were killed in Gurbi, in Kankara Local Government Area.
Gumi thinks Fulani militias can be encouraged to drop their guns by providing them with means of livelihood, including jobs, working capital, entrepreneurship training, clinics and schools. He must be joking. Is this cleric not aware of how much the governors of Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna have spent on these Fulani militias without result? The solution is beyond providing money and jobs. They have been exposed to the kind of money that would not encourage them to leave the business. Of course, their other motive of securing more grazing lands for their kinsmen is also there. Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, and his Niger State counterpart, Sanni Bello, were apt when they said the efforts of Gumi to woo the militias to lay down arms and embrace peace was an exercise in futility.
El-Rufai noted: “My administration is at war with the bandits and so we cannot negotiate. Eliminating them is the only solution to banditry. I never believed that a Fulani herdsman who ventured into banditry and is collecting millions of naira as ransom will repent. I spoke to Dr. Gumi, who is my friend. I explained that majority of these bandits don’t believe in the religion. That is why they kill mercilessly. Anybody who thinks a Fulani herdsman that was used to only getting N100,000 in a year after selling a cow, but now is getting millions through kidnapping for ransom will stop, is only wasting his time.”
The Kaduna State Governor adds that it would be difficult to succeed in the fight against banditry if states in the region don’t come together to ask the federal government to provide them with soldiers and police to enter the bush and kill all the bandits.
I agree with El-rufai. Let the governors compel Buhari to act like the President of the whole country. I am also challenging our president to do the needful and end the killings by Fulani militias. Buhari can do this in a matter of days if he truly wants to do it. The herders looking for unfettered access to farm lands must also be firmly told that this is intolerable. As for the governors in the North, they should provide technical and financial support to the herders, so that they can settle in ranches. This is the only way forward for Nigeria.
The Guzamala Debacle
Guzamala Local Government Area in Borno State remains one of the strongholds of Boko Haram in Nigeria. As I pen this piece, the terrorists roam freely in this LG, while virtually all the natives have deserted the place. The locals are mainly refugees in other parts of the state. In Guzamala today, Boko Haram runs a “government” of terrorists. Instead of facing this fact and mapping out strategies to end the dominance of Boko Haram in this LG, those who should do the needful go about telling lies that no Nigerian territory is under the control of Boko Haram. It was so disgraceful that the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, was few days back, parroting this false claim at the pulling out parade of retired service chiefs.
A few influential people in Borno State have chosen to speak out and punch holes in the lies of Olonisakin. The Speaker of Borno State House of Assembly, Abdulkareem Lawan, is one of them. Lawan made my day last week when he provided facts and figures to show that Guzamala remains under the firm control of Boko Haram. This man, as the Speaker, has been unable to step into Guzamala in the last three years because it is fully occupied by the terrorists. If Lawan dares it, he won’t come out alive.
The Borno Speaker states that there is no single civilian living in the entire territory that defines his local government area called Guzamala and that it was unfair to the displaced people of Borno State to keep hearing lies that no territory is under the control of the terrorists.
Lawan said: “In all the 10 local government areas that form the Northern Borno senatorial district, none is completely free of Boko Haram. My local government is completely under the control of Boko Haram for the past three years. Sadly, there is also no single military presence or soldier in my local government.
“This worries me because I know there are 774 local government areas in Nigeria and my local government Guzamala is one of them. I don’t know if the federal government has reduced the number of local government areas in Nigeria to 773, by saying that no single LGA is under the control of Boko Haram.
“What about my local government, Guzamala, which is a no-go-area for both military and civilians? Are we not part of the Nigerian state? Have we been cut off from the Nigerian geographical space? If that is the case, we need the federal government to tell us in clear terms.
“The Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, has been visiting all the local government areas and making efforts to return IDPs to their liberated local government headquarters. But Guzamala was never visited because it is a no-go-area.”
I sincerely hope that the new service chiefs will end the lies about territories not controlled by Boko Haram and face the realities in the North-east.