31st March, 2014
In the past, many communities across Nigeria tolerated and lived peacefully with Fulani herdsmen as their cattle grazed across the country, especially in the southsouth, southeast and the southwest. Apart from skirmishes resulting from the destruction of their hosts’ crops by the cattle, there were no serious, armed confrontation between the herdsmen and communities where their cattle grazed. But these days, the herdsmen have even become more brazen in their attacks with sophisticated weapons unlike in the past when they wielded only bows and arrows.
The herdsmen took this heinous crime to the extreme on 10 March when a convoy of Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, was attacked at Tee-Akanyi village in Guma Local Government Area of the state. The governor narrowly escaped death as his convoy was ambushed by some gunmen suspected to be Fulani mercenaries who engaged Suswam and his security aides in exchange of gunfire. The herdsmen had earlier sacked Uikpam-Mbabai community in the state.
Also, over 150 people were reportedly killed recently by Fulani herdsmen during their attack on Ungwanr Sankwai, Ungwan Gata and Chenshyi, in Kaduna State. The killing was similar to what they did to people in Berom in Plateau State.
The herdsmen have equally been accused of raping women in the farms they invade and use weapons to harass them whenever they complain that their cows were destroying their crops. At least over 80,000 people were reported to have been displaced in the outbreak of these serial attacks.
The attackers have spread terror across the country, with the Niger State government sending at least 200 Fulani herdsmen packing from the state
The fact that they are now armed with AK47 rifles gives cause for serious concern and the earlier security agencies rein them in, the better it would be for the safety of Nigerians. Or else they could transmute into a full-blown terrorist group, if the herdsmen have not been coopted already.
In the past disagreement with host communities over grazing land was the cause of the skirmishes but now nobody knows why the herdsmen raid villages, kill people, rape women and burn down houses.
Grazing lands or ranches should be created for the hersdmen in the northern part of the country. Such lands should be irrigated so that grass could grow there for their cattle all year round. In other parts of the world, ranches are created for cattle and it is even in the ranches that they are slaughtered for distribution to supermarkets and other sales outlets.
Why should herdsmen be taking their cattle across the country and destroying farmlands all the way and turning round to kill owners of the farms? Let us break from this primitive past.