The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, yesterday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and governors of the 36 states of the federation to explore all available channels to protect the Fulani communities in the South.
The call came, apparently, against the backdrop of the order given by Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserves and ultimatum given the herders by Yoruba ‘’freedom fighter’’, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Igboho, to vacate Ibarapa community in Oyo State.
This came on a day Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, advised Ondo, Oyo and other states experiencing herdsmen crisis in the country to consider the enactment of anti-open grazing laws as was done in Benue State to stave off incessant farmers/herders’ clashes.
This is even as bandits again invaded Niger communities in Shiroro Local Government Area early yesterday morning, killing 21 persons and kidnapping 40.
Similarly, six masked bandits yesterday killed a yet-to-be-ascertained number of locals at Warsa Piti in Mariri District of Jere Local Government Area of Kaduna State, as herders’ settlement in Zangon Kataf was also invaded in reprisal attacks.
NEF tasks Buhari
Director, Publicity and Advocacy, NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who made the call in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, also insisted that no politician has the right to outsource the work of the police to local thugs and gangs.
According to him, the forum is worried by the reports of forced ejections and attacks on Fulani herders, their families and communities in some states of the South since January 31, 2021.
NEF contended that such targeted attacks represented a danger for all Nigerians, hence the need for those attacking Fulani communities in the South and setting the country on a dangerous path to be arrested and prosecuted.
The statement read: “Northern Elders Forum is deeply worried by reports of ejections under threats and attacks on Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the South.
“The Forum has received these reports since the night of Sunday, January 31, and had taken the responsible step by drawing the attention of authorities to the dangers which these attacks represent for all Nigerians.
“We have also advised law-abiding Fulani communities to seek protection where it is available, and have appealed to other Fulani to resist the temptation to take the law into their own hands.
“It is necessary to warn people who threaten law-abiding Fulani communities in all parts of Nigeria, but particularly in some parts of the South, to desist. Majority of the Fulani are law-abiding and have rights to live lawfully wherever they can find means of subsistence.
“Like all Nigerians who can be found in every inch of Nigeria, the rights of the Fulani will not be abridged by criminals hiding behind ethnic interests to exterminate them.
“Citizens and groups who play the role of police and other law-enforcement agencies are committing crimes, and they must be stopped by leaders who are sworn to protect the law and security of all Nigerians.
“The Forum reminds the nation that there are criminals in all ethnic groups, and the nation will be treading dangerous grounds if it continues to tolerate the demonization of entire groups over particular types of crimes.
“The Forum calls on President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors to take immediate and decisive steps to protect law-abiding members of Fulani communities from killers and criminals who apparently believe that Fulani have no rights in Nigeria.
“It demands the immediate arrest and prosecution of persons who are attacking Fulani and setting the country on a very dangerous path.
“The Forum repeats its earlier position: the Fulani will not be ejected from any Nigerian community only on the basis of being Fulani or herding cattle within the limits of laws and regulations.
“States which seek to limit criminal activities are perfectly entitled to do so, but they must follow due process, and avoid exposing innocent citizens to danger at all cost.”
“The Forum demands that the Nigeria Police must live up to its constitutional responsibility to detect crimes and arrest and prosecute criminals, whoever they are. No politician has the right to outsource the work of the police to local thugs and gangs.”
The Forum said if communities in parts of the country insisted that the Fulani was unwelcome, it would advise them to relocate to the North.
Continuing, NEF stated: “Northern governors should move urgently to prepare to receive Fulani communities being forcefully ejected.
“The Forum appeals again to all Nigerians to exercise restraint and not play into the hands of people who desire to achieve dubious political goals by pitching citizens against one another.”
According to the Northern elders, people who inflame passions by circulating targeted videos and other materials should also desist.
“The Forum hopes that Nigerians will see firm, fair and responsible leadership from all elected leaders without delay,” NEF added.
Bashir Tofa reacts
Also yesterday, former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC, Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa, called on President Buhari to, as a matter of urgency and without any more delay, wade into eviction notices served on herdsmen to vacate the southern part of the country before it degenerates.
He also said such eviction threats might lead to reprisal attacks in the north, if urgent action or step was not taken to deal with the situation.
Tofa, who said this in a statement issued in Kano, said: “The mayhem we see, almost everyday now, of killings and maiming of people of Northern extraction, especially the Fulani, in some other parts of the country, is totally unacceptable.
“There is clearly a nefarious plan by the enemies of this potentially great country to initiate violent crisis that may lead to its destruction.
“Tension is beginning to brew, and if revenge attacks on Southerners begin here in the North, it will be difficult to control.
“Our enemies from within and outside, some well-known by our security agencies, are more determined than ever to set us against each other, so that we may get to a point of no return when the conflagration begins.
“There is no part of this country that is at peace. Local and foreign terrorist are busy, fully ready to cause whatever damage they can inflict on our dear country.
“I, therefore, call on the President to take this insecurity and the tribal lynching happening very seriously, and put up urgent measures to deal with them without any more delays.
“I am sure there is concern at the Presidency and discussions are being held. But, urgent and decisive action is now necessary.
“If any Nigerian will not be allowed to live freely and conduct his life and businesses in any part of the country without being disturbed or molested or even killed, then no one should be allowed to settle and prosper anywhere else.
“If that were to be the case, then, we have no country. That is how serious it is. And that is what our enemies desire.
“We must not allow them by our inaction. Those foolish leaders and their stupid hirelings who encourage the expulsion of other Nigerians from their states, should remember that their own indigenes also live in other parts of the country. They must stop, or the law should stop them by all means necessary.”
Solution is anti-open grazing law— Abounu
In a related development, Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, yesterday advised Ondo, Oyo and other states experiencing herdsmen crisis in the country to follow the Benue example by enacting an anti-open grazing law.
Oyo and Ondo states have been in the eye of the storm lately over security challenges and the moves to check the activities of killer herdsmen.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State had said the state enacted an anti-open grazing law but said there are challenges in implementation of the law, adding that the cooperation of the police and other federal security forces is crucial to enforcing the law enacted to stop frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
However, the Benue deputy governor said the law had been working well in his state, and lauded the Benue State Police Command for doing an excellent job in enforcing the anti-open grazing law in the state.
Abounu, who spoke on a Channels TV programme, also said the state government seized 356 cows and apprehended six armed herdsmen recently, noting that the offenders were handed over to the police for prosecution.
“The police in Benue have done a beautiful job, especially in keeping our anti-open grazing law. A good number of offenders have been arrested in the past and they were given fair trials. Some of them have been sent to prison while others paid fines.
“As of today, we also have livestock guards that are all over the place to ensure that you only breed your cattle in ranches in Benue. Those who flouted the law have always been arrested and if they paid the fines, they were allowed to go.
‘Oyo, Ondo, should follow suit’
“So, the thing is working very well and I am surprised that it is taking such a long time for other states in the federation to borrow a leaf from Benue. What is happening in Oyo and Ondo states today would not be happening if they had come on board with us in 2016 or thereafter.
“This is a national issue. It should be looked at dispassionately by all sectors of Nigeria,’’ the deputy governor said.
He also noted that the state government is not against breeding of cows, adding that it constantly advises herdsmen in the state to embrace the ranching system.
“We’ve been preaching to them that Benue State has nothing against the breeding of cows but what we are saying is that the best international practice in breeding cows is ranching and a good number of them are buying the idea,” he said.
Bandits kill 21 in Niger, abduct 40
Again, bandits yesterday attacked communities in Shiroro Local Government area of Niger State, killing no fewer than 21 persons and kidnapping 40 others.
The attack was said to have been spontaneously carried out in four villages by the bandits.
About three hundred gunmen were said to have stormed the villages on motorcycles in the morning, shooting sporadically to scare the villagers.
The four villages invaded, according to sources in the area, include Kurege, Sabon Gida, Sararai and Rafin Kanya.
An eye-witness, who simply identified himself as Ahmadu, told journalists on phone that those mostly abducted were women and children.
“The gunmen caught everybody unaware as they invaded the communities around 11am and started shooting. Everybody ran helter-skelter for safety as many were eventually gunned down.
“Some women and children were trapped and kidnapped, while some were also felled by bullets,” the witness said.
He also revealed that many others sustained gunshot injuries.
Secretary to Niger State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, confirmed the attacks, adding that security personnel had been drafted to the affected areas.
“Reports reaching my office said about 21 people were killed but we are yet to confirm the exact number of people kidnapped.
“Those who suffered various degrees of injuries have been rushed to the hospital for treatment and the state government will surely pick their medical bills.
“Already, an Air Force helicopter has been drafted to the area to hover around the affected communities and get the bandits arrested and also set those kidnapped free,” the SSG remarked.
Alhaji Matane assured the people of the state of the renewed efforts by both the federal and state governments to wage total war against bandits in the entire Niger State.
Bandits have in the past few days, renewed their invasion of Niger State, killing scores of persons, abducting many and rustling cows, food stuffs and other valuables from villagers.
Attacks in Kaduna
Meanwhile, the military, under the auspices of Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, has reported an attack by armed bandits at Warsa Piti, in Mariri District of Lere Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Quoting an eyewitness, the military stated that six masked attackers, dressed in black, invaded the community late Monday night and began shooting sporadically.
Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs in Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan, who disclosed this yesterday, said the troops, on receiving a distress call, mobilized to the location and engaged the assailants who then fled into the forest.
He said two persons, identified as Sale Muhammad and Aguno Bawuro, had already been killed by the gunmen before the arrival of troops.
The state government also said it received reports of an attack on Randagi village in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area, adding that one Dantani Maifaskari was killed, while several others sustained injuries in the attack.
According to the commissioner, shops were also looted. He said the prompt response by the military in the air and on the ground helped immensely in knocking back the bandits.
Reprisal attacks in Zangon Kataf
In a separate incident, the Aruwan said the military also reported that unidentified youths attacked a herders’ settlement in Kurmin Bi village of Zangon Kataf Local Government Area.
According to the report, the attack was an apparent reprisal to the earlier attack on Wawan Rafi in the same local government in which one person was killed and several others were injured by armed bandits.
He said though the herders in the settlement escaped the attack, six cows were killed by the bandits, while a house within the settlement was razed.
Aruwan quoted Governor Nasir el-Rufai as expressing sadness at the reports, and prayed for the repose of the souls of those killed by the suspected robbers in Lere Local Government Area and bandits in Birnin Gwari.
The governor enjoined all residents to embrace recourse to the law, rather than launch perceived counter attacks, while also tasking security agencies to step up investigations and stabilize the area.