RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale
Families across Bakori and Kankara local government areas of Katsina State are still burying bodies of their loved ones 11 days after a clash between Fulani militias and Yan Sakai, a vigilante group set up by Hausa communities. The Hausa vigilantes are found in Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto states. Between Wednesday and Thursday last week, in several villages in the two local governments mentioned, the Fulani militias killed scores of people. So far, over 100 bodies have been picked up, largely Yan Sakai members. Yes, over 100 people, mainly Yan Sakai vigilante members, killed in two days. Dead bodies are still being picked. Just like in previous extra-judicial killings, none of the killers will ever be apprehended.
It is obvious that there will be no justice for the victims. I was not surprised when the Katsina State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Gambo Isah confirmed the killings and added that those killed were members of the “outlawed Yan Sakai (volunteers) group” from 11 villages in Bakori LGA. He did not talk about apprehending the killers. His emphasis was on the fact that Yan Sakai is an illegal vigilante group. Governors of Katsina, Zamfara and Kebbi states, apparently protecting their Fulani brothers, outlawed Yan Sakai.
All the security agencies in Katsina State know the Fulani militias wreaking havoc in this state. Kankara is home to terror leader Dogo Nahali, based in Yar Tsamiyar Jno village, Kankara LGA. He is one of the 19 terror leaders declared wanted by the military last year. Nothing concrete happened thereafter. The group led by Nahali is suspected to have carried out killings in Kankara and Bakori LGAs last week. Security agencies are clearly not interested in taking him out.
Other Fulani militia leaders operating unhindered in Katsina State are Isiya Garwa based in Kamfanin Daudawa village, Faskari LGA; Abu Radde in Varanda village, Batsari LGA; Dan-Da in Varanda village, Batsari LGA; Sani Gurgu in Varanda village, Batsari LGA and Mamudu Tainange in Varanda village, Batsari LGA.
Yan Sakai is a response to the murderous activities of Fulani militias who have been killing and appropriating lands of Hausa crop farmers in a desperate search for more grazing land for herders. They became emboldened under the Buhari government. Fulani militias fight for herders that want unfettered access to farm lands. Herders often call them when they suffer in the hands of distressed crop farmers. 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.
Fulani militias have 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 articles. The expeditions of cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi to the strongholds of the militias in the North-west, two years back, 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. Fulani militias are emboldened by the Buhari government that deliberately looks the other way while atrocities are being committed by them.
The headquarters of the Fulani militias in Zamfara State is in the forests of Tubali and Makkai in Shinkafi Local Government Area. When Sheikh Gumi visited Tubali and Makkai in February 2021, the quantity of arms and ammunition displayed by the outlaws was frightening. Close to 750 militias were seen with AK47 assault rifles and RPGs in the two camps. They mount road blocks and carry out operations fully dressed in military camouflage. How did the Fulani militias acquire military camouflage? How did they acquire the quantity of arms and ammunition 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 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 the blood of innocent Nigerians? Why are they abducting and collecting ransom? They told Sheikh Gumi largely lies, damn lies; that Hausa crop farmers have been killing Fulani herders with 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 is denying most of them and their parents their legitimate means of livelihood and failed promises of governments to support them after losing cattle to rustlers.
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 again 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 rifles? These arms and ammunition are evidently not exclusively for stopping cattle rustling.
Back then, 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 terrorism and revenge. He encouraged them to always seek knowledge of their religion, 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.
Gumi simply wasted 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. These guys can’t stop tasting blood. So, no one can preach to them to put their guns down and accept peace.
Our security agents know the locations of the Fulani militias across the country. As was seen from Gumi’s meetings with the militias, there are military outposts bordering Tubali and Makkai forests. Even the then 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 one of their residences is Birnin Gwari forest. So, what are we talking about? These bad guys have been killing and maiming largely in five local governments in Kaduna State – Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru.
In Katsina State, local government areas like Jibia, Safana, Tsafe, Batsari, Dutsinma, Faskari, and Dandume are strongholds of the Fulani militias. For how long will the Buhari government allow these militias to continue killing innocent Nigerians?
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.
Two years ago, 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.”
For me, Fulani militias have persisted with their murderous activities because the Buhari government has failed to perform its constitutional duty of protecting the lives and property of every Nigerian. The Buhari government can end killings by Fulani militias 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.
The herders looking for unfettered access to farm lands must be firmly told that this is intolerable. As for the governors in the North, they should establish mega ranches and compel herders to settle there. Nomadic cattle rearing must be stopped. This is the only way forward for Nigeria.
Agony of Muna Garage IDPs in Borno
The Muna Garage camp for Internally Displaced Persons on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno State, is home to thousands of distressed people, largely from the Northern part of the state. They had to flee their homes to avoid being killed by terrorists. Sadly, they can’t return home because Boko Haram and ISWAP still dominate their communities. In the Muna Garage camp, they are also persistently hounded by Borno State Government officials, determined to force them back home and into the hands of the terrorists. This is why this site is designated as “unofficial camp.” It is pertinent to note that the part of the Muna Garage IDPs camp designated as “official” has been forcibly shut by the Borno State Government.
There is hunger and disease in this “unofficial” Muna Garage camp, where IDPs struggle for a meal a day. There is also persistent fire outbreak in the camp. Last Monday, an early morning fire razed about 200 houses in this camp. Eyewitnesses, who could not ascertain the cause of the fire, said it flared up, sweeping across the all-thatched houses by 11am.
“I lost everything comprising all my three rooms, wearing apparels, beds and beddings, and one sack of guinea corn,” lamented Modu Maina, 70, who hails from Bale in Mafa Local Government Area, and has two wives and three children.
“My two rooms, beddings, and all food items were all burnt,” Gubo Lawan, 60, who has a wife and six children, mourned.
“My three rooms, two sacks of maize and two grinding machines were all lost to the fire,” Modu Malam Aja, 65, who has one wife and eight children, grieved. Aja estimated the cost of his property lost to the fire at N300,000, including the two grinding machines each of which he said cost N50,000.
While the fire was raging, because Muna Garage is an “unofficial” camp for IDPs, nobody came to the rescue of the traumatised people. The National Emergency Management Agency and other emergency responders refused to do their jobs. I guess the message to the IDPs in Muna Garage is that they must return home even if their communities are still controlled by Boko Haram. This is the height of man’s inhumanity to fellow human beings. Who will save Muna Garage IDPs? A tough question begging for an answer.