Audacity of ‘Foreign’ herdsmen By Emmanuel Onwubiko

PROJECTS

It started like a crude joke which later became a regular rhetoric amongst some officials of the current government. 
What is that crude joke? You may want to apprehend. 
This joke so crude as it is and so puerile as it sounds has gained notorious currency amongst men of political power in Nigeria and it confounds the wise why such abnormality in reasoning has assumed a regular trend.
This joke is the perception and claims in official quarters that substantial percentage of the armed Fulani herdsmen on rampage in most parts of Nigeria are foreign nationals from Niger, Chad and even Cameroon.
The setting for this non-plausible and indeed outlandish affirmations was built when a certain Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service and his counterpart in the Nigerian Customs asserted that there are limitless numbers of entry points in our international borders especially from the Northern Nigerian flanks from which all sorts of smuggling activities take place undetected. 
Some of these illegal trafficking of aliens are most times accompanied by the flooding of the Nigerian space with illicit small arms and weapons. 
This kind of argument as adduced by these unpatriotic customs and immigration officials laid the groundwork for some politicians to cling on to it to blame the incessant attacks of farming communities by armed Fulani herdsmen to the activities of infiltrators who migrate from neighboring countries under the auspices of the revised travel Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Sadly,  this time around these herdsmen are armed to their teeth with sophisticated state of the art weapons which are deployed to sack indigenous owners of farm lands to enable the occupation by these marauding attackers. 
The argument that foreign herdsmen are the perpetrators of these violent attacks has gained traction within the circles of some governors belonging to the ruling national party of All Progressives Congress. 
The President,  Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Major General in the Army, is a Fulani by origin from Daura in Katsina state which is a doorway from Niger Republic. 
Amongst the ranks of these politicians making this inflammable and non-rational claims are the Kaduna and Edo states governors and some federal cabinet members have also caught the political bug. 
Relatedly, the Kaduna state governor Malam Nassir El-Ruffai was reported as telling bewildered journalists that the majority of the armed Fulani herdsmen who unleashed devastating violence reminiscent of a coordinated pogrom in Southern Kaduna state were mostly from the neighboring nations to Northern section of Nigeria.
As soon as this pathetic tale from the Kaduna state governor hit the newsstand, Agriculture minister of state and his boss- the minister of Agriculture –the Idoma, Benue state born Mr. Audu Ogbe reechoed this same tenor of acclamation that the killer Fulani herdsmen are indeed foreigners. 
Mind you, one local government area of Benue state were destroyed by armed Fulani terrorists. Tivland has virtually become battle fields and killing fields no thanks to the dare devil activities of armed killer Fulani herdsmen. 
Audu Ogbe is from the same senatorial zone as those Idoma farmers sacked from their ancestral homeland by the invading armed Fulani terrorists. 
Recall also that Benue state government it must be stated has taken the bull by the horn by legislating against open grazing of cattle.  
Certain persons masquerading as national officials of Nigerian cattle rearers roared in anger against the lawfully passed anti- open grazing law in Benue state thus indirectly faulting the weird claim that foreign herdsmen were the violent species unleashing ceaseless attacks. 
This revelation hasn’t deterred the spread of this hypothesis that foreigners are the killer herdsmen. 
Of recent, the Edo state governor Mr. Godwin Obaseki has just enlisted into the camp of those politicians selling the dummy that foreign armed Fulani herdsmen are behind the violence that have characterized the activities of herdsmen all around Nigeria.
I will return  to debate the logicality or otherwise of the Nigerian government at every level  becoming helpless in the face of massive invasions of the so called armed Fulani herdsmen from across the borders of Northern Nigeria, killing and maiming the citizenry undeterred.
But First, let’s look at the claim as made by the Kaduna state governor and then we can put it side -by -side with the reported affirmation made by Kaduna state chairman of cattle rearers also known as Miyetti Allah association.
Whereas the Fulani – born Kaduna state governor moved the blame for the genocide of Christians in Southern Kaduna to foreign armed Fulani herdsmen, the leader of the Fulani herdsmen operating in Kaduna state was reported as stating that the killings in Southern Kaduna are reprisal for the killing of a Fulani Chief somewhere in Godogodo near Gidan Waya of Jama’a Local government area of Kaduna state. 
Who is fooling who?
The Kaduna state governor went a step further by reportedly claiming that he had to pay the Fulani herdsmen to stop further attacks of Southern Kaduna Christian communities. 
Farcically, even the national leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association headed by Alhaji A.B Mahmoud visited the devastated Sothern Kaduna communities in what is seen as face saving propaganda for the Kaduna state government.
Before we proceed to the larger issue of the Nation-wide rampage of armed Fulani herdsmen, let us conclude the first stage of our syllogism by affirming that the rule of law has collapsed in Kaduna state.
 This is because of the clear fact that even the governor who had subscribed to a binding oath to defend the Nigerian constitution was reported as admitting to have paid  Fulani herdsmen to stop attacks of Southern Kaduna communities. 
I therefore ask, which  sabotage and  travesty of justice can be higher than this? 
Were it not for the corruption-ridden and crime infested section 308 (1) of the constitution on immunity that covers ElRuffai for four year tenure, it would have been fair and right to arrest and prosecute him for aiding and abetting this lawless violence.
Prove me wrong if you can!
Apart from the failure of the Kaduna state government to bring suspected perpetrators of the violence in Southern Kaduna to justice, the Nassir El-Ruffai administration dramatically decided to punish the victimized people of Southern Kaduna by shutting down all the public administered educational institutions. 
This myopic policy is callous, wicked, unwarranted and unconstitutional. 
All public schools in Southern Kaduna should be re-opened immediately. 
Now let us return to the empty argument of the likes of ministers of Agriculture and the Edo state governor Mr. Godwin Obaseki that the armed Fulani killing our farmers in their ancestral lands are mostly from the neighboring nations.
This submission is vexations; tendentious, unsubstantiated, lazy, tepid and irrational because it is only in a failed state would government officials simply give up the protection of their people on such superficial claims whose veracity is at best remote and laughable. 
What did Article 59 of the revised treaty of 1993 of the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS) say on the provisions for migration?
These provisions stated as follows:  Citizens of the community shall have the right of entry, residence and establishment and Member States undertake to recognize these rights of Community citizens in their territories in accordance with the provisions of the Protocols relating thereto.
It says that Member States undertake to adopt all appropriate measures to ensure that Community citizens enjoy fully the rights referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article, and Member ‘ States undertake to adopt, at national level, all measures necessary for the effective implementation of this article.
Assuming that the ECOWAS treaty on free passage of persons permits the movements of herdsmen from across the borders into our country, are we then saying that Nigeria has abandon its sovereign rights to national security? 
Not at all.
Indeed, the essence of the sovereignty of any political entity is the capacity to defend the geopolitics from external aggression by such armed hoodlums in the guise of Fulani herdsmen.
In his book; “Issues in the mobilization of public support for military operations in Nigeria”, Major General Chris Olukolade said the strategic purpose of the military is the deployment of soldiers  to deter external aggression, and respond to such aggression whenever it occurs, with the goal of subduing the aggressor. 
General Olukolade who quoted from several global military authorities in his scholarly book isn’t too far from what the Nigerian law says about the legal functions of the Nigerian armed forces. 
Section 1(1) of the constitution of the Federation Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) provides that: “This constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Section 14 (2) (b) clearly provides that: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
If we move a little inside the constitution to view those provisions that enable the establishment of military institutions, we will see clearly that defending the nation’s territorial integrity is at the core of such agencies.
Section 217 (1) (2) from subsection (a) to (d) state as follows: “ (1) There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly”.
(2) The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of; (a) Defending Nigeria from external aggression;(b) Maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air; © suppression of insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the president, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and (d) Performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
So if it is right to say that the Nigerian government has indeed failed to defend Nigeria and Nigerians from these incessant attacks of farming communities which have been attributed to the activities of mostly foreign born Fulani herdsmen, it therefore goes to show that this government has failed in its primary duty to the citizens. 
We can then state without equivocation that from the Kaduna and Edo state governments up to the Federal Ministries of Agriculture, there is a subsisting indictment of the men and officials of the armed Forces and police since they have failed to bring these foreign armed Fulani herdsmen to justice for the killing of thousands of Nigerians and for unleashing unquantifiable devastation to the farmlands all across Nigeria.
Why have military and policing agencies allowed these herdsmen to continue on their nation-wide episodes of devastations, killings and destruction of farmlands?
Nigeria is littered with sad tales of the sudden takeover of farmlands of private individuals and state government institutions by Fulani herdsmen. 
Even the Nigerian liquefied National Gas Company in Port Harcourt Rivers State has reportedly been overrun by Fulani herdsmen. 
Only on Wednesday the Rector of the Imo state Polytechnics in Owerri along the PortHarcourt express Rev. Fr. Wenceslaus Madu (CMF) bitterly lamented that Fulani herdsmen have destroyed the crops in the farm owned by the school which the management was able to establish with the technical assistance of some international agricultural research institutes. 
The Imo state government has also failed to erect formidable fence to shield the school from such unwarranted invasions.
 The Federal University of Agriculture Umudike Umuahia in Abia state was recently invaded by Fulani herdsmen even as a primary school in Edo state was taken over by cows and the pupils were displaced. 
Few days later some Fulani herdsmen raped and beheaded a woman near Benin. And all that the governor can say is to blame foreign killer herdsmen.  
This is shameful and animalistic. 
In Delta state the attacks of Fulani herdsmen who are now worse than terrorists are becoming regular even as a police deputy commissioner in Delta was reportedly killed by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.  
The Nigerian Government must enforce the law to stop these attacks and invasions of farmlands. There has to be a policy framework and an effective and efficacious  legal regime to prevent these sorts of violence against the citizens. 
Let the states make law to only allow advance and modern forms of rearing of cattle in ranches. 
The people must resist any subterranean plot by some persons to force Nigerian families to give up their lands for use as grazing fields.
 Any governor that decides to set up grazing field without the popular acceptance and agreements of the majority of their people through transparently conducted public hearings must be impeached. 
We must take back our Country and check this audacious invasion of our ancestral communities by these so-called foreign herdsmen who are bent on  exterminating our species from the face of the earth.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA ) and blogs@ www.emmanuelonwubiko. comwww.huriwa@blogspot.com.

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