Two wrongs do not make a right, argues Sonnie Ekwowusi

Penultimate week, President Buhari declared that all AK-47-wielding Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, burglars, bandits and other gun-toting men in Nigeria are criminals and therefore should be shot on sight. In the same vein two weeks ago, the Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano declared that all AK-47-toting Fulani herdsmen operating in Anambra State are criminals and consequently should be arrested and brought to justice. Governor Obiano was compelled to issue this said statement after the Anambra traditional rulers had complained to him that under the guise of rearing cattle the AK-47-carying Fulani herdsmen were raping Anambra women as well as forcibly taking over the farm lands of the people of the state.

For six years the AK-47-carrying Fulani herdsmen had persistently and pathologically been murdering, maiming, kidnapping and raping their victims, taking women and children hostages as well as confiscating the farmlands of farmers across the country. Overwhelmed in their forlorn frustration and anguish in the face of the aforesaid crimes, the people had pleaded with the man in Aso Villa to declare that the AK-47-wielding Fulani herdsmen are terrorists especially upon considering that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), whose members neither carry AK-47 rifle nor carry any gun at all let alone kill or rape their victims, had hastily been declared a terrorist organization and proscribed by the government.

Unfortunately all the pleadings fell on deaf ears. Instead of declaring that the AK-47-carrying Fulani pastoralists were terrorists as well as order their arrest and prosecution, the man in Aso Villa simply continues to look away. For example, in the aftermath of the massacre of about 200 villagers in Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South local government areas of Plateau State in June 2018, Miyetti Allah quickly issued a statement accepting responsibility for the massacre. It admitted that it carried out the massacre in retaliation for alleged Fulani herdsmen who were killed in the area. According to the Chairman of the North Central zone of Miyetti Allah Danladi Ciroma, “These attacks are retaliatory …Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks — 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youth in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youth. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled and the criminals disappeared with them to Mangu [Local Government]… Since these cows were not found, no one should expect peace in the areas”. Did the man in Aso Villa dispatch the DSS to arrest or interrogate Ciroma after the inflammable statement? No. Was Miyetti Allah declared a terrorist organization for committing treasonable felony or for inciting the public to wage war or fanning the embers of disunity in Nigeria? No. Instead, President Buhari looked the other way as the Miyetti Allah and Fulani herdsmen continued to commit their crimes.

Aside the murderous Fulani herdsmen, in the last six years all manner of kidnappers, arsonists, abductors, hired assassins, bandits and other gun-toting men have increasingly been laying siege to the length and breadth of Nigeria – killing or kidnapping their victims. What we are witnessing in Nigeria today is probably the worst insecurity challenge confronting Nigeria since the Nigerian civil war. Nowadays it is suicidal to travel the Lagos-Ore-Onitsha Expressway, and, of course the dreadful Benin bypass. Why? Because dare-devil Fulani herders, kidnappers and gunmen have encumbered all the side bushes along the expressway waiting for passengers to devour. For example, in February 2021, some gunmen intercepted a hearse at the Benin bypass in Edo State. The hearse was conveying the corpse of a man from Lagos to Enugu State for burial. When the hearse got to the bypass some gunmen emerged from the nearby bush and started raining bullets on the hearse. Consequently the hearse was forced to stop abruptly. Thereafter, the gunmen abducted the younger brother of the deceased. The dead body was conveyed to another mortuary along the Benin-Auchi road. Can you imagine? Kidnappers kidnapping a hearse carrying a dead body! Even our villages and country sides which hitherto were considered safe havens for resting one’s tired bones are no longer safe. A friend and a fairly wealthy man tells me that each time he travels to his village in Anambra State he spends nothing less than a gargantuan N6 million on police escort and other security apparatuses alone. So we now live in complete fear; fear of COVID-19; fear of kidnappers and gunmen; fear of our shadows: fear of our village homes; fear, fear everywhere. Our lives are ruled by fear. What a life! What a country!

Therefore we must rid Nigeria of murderous Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, and other criminals. But the pertinent question remains: why the shoot-on-sight directive? Some argue that the president issued the shoot-on-sight directive simply because gun running is no longer the monopoly of the Fulani herdsmen. Guns are now virtually all over the place in Nigeria. Some ethnic warriors such as Sunday Igboho and others are fully armed and ready to battle with any group of people coming to destroy their farmlands. So the shoot-on-sight directive is probably aimed at disabling the aforesaid ethnic warriors who are battle-ready.

Anyway whatever might have informed the issuing of the directive, it is a wrong approach to the insecurity challenges in Nigeria at the moment. Why? Because many innocent people would be killed on mere suspicion. Besides, if our security personnel are so effective in going to the South-East and capturing IPOB suspects and jailing them, why can’t they employ the same efficiency in capturing the gun-toting Fulani herdsmen killing people along the Lagos-Ore-Benin Expressway? After all the AK-47-carrying Fulani herdsmen are not invincible. We see them. If our security personnel are keen on arresting them they can arrest them and bring them to justice. So away with jungle justice. The end does not justify the means. You cannot do wrong in order to right a wrong. You cannot use illegality to achieve a lawful end. In other words, President Buhari cannot approve jungle justice in order to track down the herders, kidnappers, and others. Besides, a directive is not a law. In our present civilian dispensation, we are governed by the rule of law not rule by directives or by naked force or arbitrary exercise of power. The rule of law ought to prevail against any arbitrary exercise of power. If we are bereft of the rule of law we are heading for anarchy. Therefore no matter the ugly situation, jungle justice or a descent into the abyss can never be rationalized by any rational society.

As a veritable third arm of government essentially charged with the dispensation of justice, the judiciary plays an indispensable pivotal role in the sustenance of democratic governance in Nigeria. The judiciary occupies a unique place to safeguard the rights and liberty of the citizenry. Such rights and regard for the rule of law are the bedrock upon which the society lays its claim to civilization.

Related Articles