“By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Not long ago when a global terrorists index was issued by international experts on terrorism and the threats terrorists pose to World’s peace, the Nigerian version of armed fulani herdsmen backed actively by a certain dangerous platform called Miyetti Allah cattle owners Association, was rated as the fourth most deadliest killer terror organisation in the whole wide World.
Sadly, as the international community of concerned experts are cracking their brains on how to get the relevant global leaders to act to stave off the grave consequences of not doing anything to stop all forms of terror attacks which directly threatens to wipe off humanity from the face of the earth, in Nigeria however, there is an awkward marriage of convenience and conspiracy of silence amongst the Presidency.
There appears to be an apparent pampering and protection of these dare devil armed fulani herdsmen because it is believed that the President Muhammadu Buhari who is Fulani by origin has not directly asked the armed forces to crush the armed fulani herdsmen. Secondly, these armed fulani herdsmen who have killed, maimed and destroyed over 10,000 citizens who are mostly owners of farming communities always, often find active support from their umbrella organisation- Miyetti Allah cattle owners.
This growing sense of abandonment of the rest of Nigerians by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari continued all through his first four years.
But as the wise saying goes, nothing can be hidden under the sun forever or rather let’s look at the other related saying that goes thus:”you can deceive some of the people some of the times but you can’t deceive all of the people all of the times”. It is perhaps in keeping with the truism established in these trends of thoughts as espoused in those wise sayings that each time in the last four years that farmers are attacked and their farm lands destroyed by armed Fulani herdsmen, these killings are immediately or even before they happened, are backed by a group identifying itself as Miyetti Allah cattle owners (MACBAN).
This group has the support of the President who refused to arrest their officials who go to the media to incite violence against farmers or who provide support for the atrocities committed by these armed Fulani herdsmen categorized as the third most deadliest terrorists group in the World.
The support of the presidency for Miyetti Allah cattle owners which by all intents and purposes is a terror network is no longer an open secret but is now a policy of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari Whose spokesman appeared alongside this writer on a television interview by Channels Television and defended the Miyetti Allah cattle owners.
Garba Shehu has always defended this group even when this same government against all common sense and rationality, proscribed an unarmed group known as Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) for their mere harmless agitation for self-determination which is permitted under international laws backed up by the International covenants on civil and political rights and the Universal declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Miyetti Allah cattle owners has however continued to terrorize Nigeria and Nigerians but because they are actively supported and protected by the Presidency and the security forces with an almost 95% all Hausa/Fulani Moslems hierarchies, they are now roaming about like sacred cows and are demanding openly to set up armed vigilantes in the Igbo heartland only because the people rejected the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s ill-advised plot to confiscate ancestral lands of indigenous people to use public fund to set up either cattle colonies or ranches or grazing lands.
But the below are some of the public utterances of Miyetti Allah cattle owners which goes to show them as nothing but a pure terror organization.
On June 25th 2018 at the heights of the attacks of farming communities in the Christian dominated middle belt region this group said the killings were retaliation for the theft of 300 cows.
Specifically, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) stated that the raid by suspected herdsmen on three local governments in Plateau State were a retaliation of the loss of cows in recent times.
More than 100 people were killed on Saturday night when suspected herdsmen attacked many villages in Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos south local government areas of the state.
Commenting on the tragedy in quotes first reported by The Nation, Danladi Ciroma, Chairman, North-Central zone of the cattle breeders’ association, said herdsmen in the state had lost “about 300 cows in the last few weeks”.
“These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human being, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission,” Ciroma said.
“There have been recent reports of cow rustling and destruction of farms between Berom farmers and Fulani herdsmen. The people carrying out these criminal activities are well-known to the communities but the communities are hiding them.
“Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks — 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youth in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youth. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled and the criminals disappeared with them to Mangu [Local Government].
“Since these cows were not found, no one should expect peace in the areas. Even soldiers that went after the criminals to recover the rustled cows were shot by the armed rustlers and eventually escaped with all the cows.
“The government of Governor Lalong has done a lot to restore peace, but the criminal elements hiding among their people are the ones frustrating these peace efforts.”
He urged security agencies to be fair to all parties, saying they should neglect any report presented by the Fulani “because such report can lead to attacks and deaths if not properly handled”.
“Criminals thrive a lot in Berom communities, but when the Fulani, who are always victims of their crime, react with attacks, they blame the government,” he added. On May 5th 2016, similar defence was made by this same group- the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigerian said Fulani herdsmen , which have allegedly been involved in serial killings in various communities in the country , kill their hosts in self – defence.
The leader of a delegation of MACBAN to the Defence Headquarters , Senator Dagiri Alkali, said the Fulani moved into new territories in the country because they had been forced out of their territories in the North .
He claimed that the Boko Haram insurgents attacked the Fulani in the North – East and other parts of the country and stole millions of cows from the breeders.
He added that the Fulani were also victims of the activities of cattle rustlers in Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue and parts of Kogi states with millions of cows taken away from them.
He wondered why people had not taken a look at the factors that had driven the Fulani to different parts of the country, asking where Nigerians expected the herdsmen to keep the over 20 million cows in the country.
He added , “ When the reserves and forest were gazetted and reserved for cattle breeders, this incident was not there; but the increase in population has now wiped out the entire grazing reserves in this country ; 400 and something of them all wiped out . And you have a population of about 20 million cows. Where do you keep them? And every one of us likes to eat meat.
“This is a venture that over 20 million people are engaged in. And nobody cares to know what the causes of this problem are. Presently, you know the case of Boko Haram. They attacked and decapitated the population of Fulani in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe and some parts of Taraba.
“The cattle rustlers have displaced the Fulani in Katsina, Zamfara , Kebbi , Kaduna, Nasarawa , Plateau and Benue and in some parts of Kogi . Millions of cattle have been taken from these herdsmen. So when somebody says a Fulani man killed somebody, I wonder why? How? It’s only a poor man that fights .
“But you, as the military people, you know self -defence is an art. In the military, if you are attacked you have to defend yourself. You have been squeezed; you have to find a way to survive. ”
He said when the Fulani were killed in the bush, nobody carried it in the media , admitting that it was not enough for anybody to kill innocent persons.
The Defence authorities have warned that the military would go after those behind the killing of innocent citizens and ensure that they were prosecuted in accordance with the directive of the President to deal with the situation .
Shockingly, rather than arrest and prosecute these persons for defending mass murders, the Director , Administration , at the Defence Headquarters , Maj . Gen . Fatai Ali , who represented the Chief of Defence Staff , Gen . Gabriel Olonisakin , said the CDS had set up a committee to interact with the stakeholders on the issue.
He warned those involved in violence to stop forthwith as the Federal Government would subject them to the full weight of the law .
According to him , the committee , led by Maj . Gen . Edward Nze , had just arrived in Abuja from Benue for such meetings with stakeholders .
He stated that the military was working hard to ensure that those who perpetrated the gruesome killings were apprehended.
“ The recent herdsmen and local community clashes in many parts of Nigeria are sources of serious concern. Many lives have been lost. The President has directed security agencies and indeed the military to handle the situation and ensure that no more lives are lost.
“ I want to assure you that the military, in conjunction with other security agencies , is doing everything possible to maintain peace and security in Nigeria in line with the directive of the Commander – in – Chief .
“I want to also assure you that whoever is involved in this killing will be brought to book and tried in line with the law of the land.
“We are calling on all other parties, who are interested in peace , to sheathe their swords and ensure that they do not cause unnecessary casualties or deaths ; otherwise , the Federal Government of Nigeria will bring the full weight of the force and law on them . ”
The same Miyetti Allah cattle owners in January 2018 defended armed fulani herdsmen who attacked Benue state communities and even slaughtered two catholic priests and worshippers at a Morming Mass. These persons were never arrested but the Presidency is protecting them. At that time, the Miyetti Allah, a coalition of Fulani herdsmen, had reacted to the recent killings in Benue, Taraba and other states.
Recall that dozens of people have been killed in violence unleashed by armed fulani herdsmen on farmers.
The most reported killing of over 70 people in Benue has been blamed by the state government on the Miyetti Allah. Miyetti Allah didn’t deny involvement but pontificated their time worn and dubious claim of killing in self defence which they even told the security forces categorically as aforementioned.
Hear them: ”We are however not denying the fact that, as any other community in the country, we are also battling with misguided and criminally motivated elements who indulge in social vices and criminal activities. However, these few miscreants do not represent the mainstream of herdsmen,” the group said.
It also said about 1,000 Fulanis have been killed in communal violence in the affected states. In a media conference the group stated thus: “Members of the general public are already aware of the burning national security challenges with violent hostilities affecting pastoralist community in different parts of the country.”
“These very unfortunate crises have since degenerated into dangerously intolerable level of killings, maiming and unprecedented destruction of property. More worrisome is the fact that the pastoralist community which has been the main target of the offensive is also deliberately been pointed as the attackers at the same time.”
“This horrible accusation in both intent and purpose is meant not only to smear the image of the herdsmen as a peace loving community, but to also allow further criminal justification to carry out total ethnic cleansing on our members, as witnessed in different parts of the country.”
“Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria as the premier pastoralist body in the country has remained in unimaginable pains on daily basis as we receive communication of gory details of attacks, maiming and destruction of our members across the country.”
“We are however not denying the fact that, as any other community in the country, we are also battling with misguided and criminally motivated elements who indulge in social vices and criminal activities. However, these few miscreants do not represent the mainstream of herdsmen.”
“In fact our case is worsen by long years of exclusion suffered by the Fulani herdsmen as the most neglected community in the country, thereby depriving us of so many things.”
Miyetti Allah again blamed others for the actions of armed fulani herdsmen when they stated that: “The current situation in our opinion is fuelled by the draconian laws put in place by some state governments with the singular aim of chasing our people out of the states simply for ethnic hatred. The anti-open-grazing law in Benue, Taraba and other states is nothing more than a symbol of intolerance and do not in any way intend to solve the farmers/grazers conflict as the livestock breeders interest is neither captured in the law nor in its implementation mechanism.”
“While as a body we are not against any law that can engender peace, create societal harmony and stability, we cannot oblige any self-centred regulation with primordial sentiments based on injustice, intolerance and infringement of people’s fundamental rights.”
“Only very recently we have lost over 1000 people including children, women and the aged and over 2 million cattle to this gang. We are more disturbed today as this state government hides under the self-created crises and blackmailing the Federal Government into releasing to them security operatives to achieve their illegal and wicked agenda on our people.”
What is still a compelling interrogation is what the motivating factor is for this Presidency to insist on not declaring Miyetti Allah cattle owners as a terror group even when empirical proofs exist to show how they actively encouraged and sponsors violence against farmers.