Columnist: Fulani herdsmen and the Adamawa Five

- in World News


Any lingering doubts that these are the best of times for Nigerian herdsmen of Fulani extraction become easily vitiated in the light of two recent developments in the country. The Federal Government has just released a bumper package of incentives of over N179 billion for their business.

The government is to use this amount to set up ranches for them in 10 states including Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.

Those who have dismissed as an idle boast their position that they cannot be denied access to any part of the country to graze their cattle may now be ruing their delusion.

But the government needs to be reminded that with Nigeria becoming a haven of herding, this budget would be doubled, even tripled in the days ahead.

Or how would this amount cater to the herding needs of other Fulani herdsmen in other parts of the world who would now bring their cattle here?

Now, other citizens’ businesses can collapse on account of the inept management of the economy by the government.

And the means of livelihood of the Ogoni and other people in the Niger Delta can remain obliterated as long as the government refuses to clean their oil-sullied environments.

But the business of the Fulani herdsmen is officially cocooned by taxpayers’ funds.

Again, the Fulani herdsmen enjoy official protection against the consequences of their crimes.

They can go on raping, maiming and killing but they would not be punished by the government.

The government and its security agents easily cast the Fulani herdsmen in the mould of ghosts that perpetually defy arrest and prosecution.

But if they are the victims of attacks, although hardly the case, the government would be quick to come to their aid. The suspected perpetrators would be swiftly arrested and prosecuted.

This is the case in Adamawa State now. Five Christian youths allegedly attacked three Fulani herdsmen and killed one of them.

This incident has brought us again to confront our Sisyphean affliction.

We are back to the precipice because we must not ignore the potential of the prosecution and sentencing stoking religious tension that would snowball into a major crisis with its reverberating tragic consequences all over the country.

The development has drawn our ire because justice is not about being served. Again, it reeks of cant and humbug.

It has lent force to the oft-repeated suspicion that Fulani herdsmen enjoy the support of government at the highest level and that is why they can foment all manner of criminality without being punished.

Despite the horrendous criminality of the Fulani herdsmen, government officials whose actions and pronouncements are supposed to be hallmarked by neutrality and credibility have become their spokespersons.

In this regard, we must take cognisance of the metamorphosis of Mansur Ali from the Minister of Defence into the defender-in-chief of the herdsmen.

At the height of the grief over the tragedies inflicted by the Fulani herdsmen in the early part of this year, it was Ali who blamed the killings in Benue on the state’s anti-grazing law.

Emboldened by the failure of the Buhari government to disavow his tragically complicit position, Ali again recently demanded a repeal of laws to curb the violence being unleashed by herdsmen.

Fulani herdsmen have been on the prowl, killing and destroying people’s farms and other means of livelihood.

Despite the obvious need to check their criminality that clearly borders on terrorism, the government has not reined them in.

Their attacks on communities that often leave on their trail blood and tears are often euphemised by government officials as communal feuds or clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen.

The leaders of the Fulani herdsmen, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, have not hidden their support for the killings.

They have insisted that until the laws checking their open grazing are abolished, Benue would not know peace. But they have not been arrested and prosecuted.

Even when President Muhammadu Buhari sent the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to Benue State, he did not go and the president did not punish him.

Yet the same police, whose congenital dilatoriness has not been exorcised under the leadership of Idris, has suddenly become so nimble-footed in the investigation of the Adamawa case.

Consequently, with unaccustomed speed, they arrested five Christian youths for allegedly attacking three Fulani herders and killing one of them, Adamu Buba.

A High Court presided over by Justice Abdul-Azeez Waziri has ruled that Alex Amos, Alheri Phanuel, Holy Boniface, Jerry Gideon and Jari Sabagi should die by hanging. The speed for justice is suspect.

The government has been denying that the Fulani herdsmen who are causing havoc are not Nigerians. But it is surprising that the same government has been able to establish so soon that the dead herdsman was a Nigerian of Fulani extraction.

If the government had been as fast as this, perhaps the crisis would have ended. Then there is the speed for the prosecution of the case.

The killing was allegedly done in January last year and by this month, the guilt of the five Christian youths has been established and a sentence has been passed.

Why is that when the law is to be deployed against non-Fulani it is always fast?

It is the same way that the Buhari government would send soldiers to kill pro-Biafra protesters and Niger Delta youths who are agitating for an equitable distribution of the oil resources from their region but when it comes to bringing Fulani herdsmen to justice, it dithers forever.

But the same speed and the need for justice have not been demonstrated in the cases of Madam Bridget Agbahime whose suspected killers were allegedly discharged by a court on the orders of the Kano State government.

Worse, those arrested as in the case of Mrs. Eunice Elisha Olawale in Abuja have been set free by the police.

Of course, no one makes the case that the guilty should not be punished.

Nor does one endorse the ludicrous position that the life of a Fulani herdsman is less important.

However, the narrative of culpability has not resolved the question about the actual circumstances of the alleged murder.

Did the five youths just attack the herdsmen without provocation? Or were they and their property attacked by the herdsmen and in an ensuing resistance the herdsman died?

Again, we must not forget the propensity of the Fulani herdsmen to attack unprovoked and even exact a toll on their victims for them to have access to their farms.

There is therefore the need not to be befuddled by the need for justice.

Rather, we must be alert to the fact that what is needed is beyond just a judicial pronouncement that would lead to the death of the five youths.

The government at the federal and the state levels must be cautious and intervene so that it would not provoke religious tension in the country.

What the country needs now is an enduring solution to the crisis. Killing the five Christian youths would not solve the problem. It would rather aggravate it.

The Adamawa State government must not immediately implement the court ruling.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other bodies that have shown interest in the case should appeal against it.

And as long as the government has not sentenced Fulani herdsmen who have killed thousands of innocent Nigerians to death, the government in Abuja and Yola must stop the killing of the Adamawa Five.

At least, this would mitigate the suspicion that the Fulani luxuriate in the notion that they are a privileged species in a manner that reminds us of Adolf Hitler’s obsession with Aryan superiority.

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