The Many Unpunished Crimes of the Fulani Herdsmen in Benue State

By Gwar T. Iorapu,  Abuja

​The Fulani stock, unlike other ethnic in Nigeria, is the most widespread in terms of the swath of land they occupy across Africa. Estimates of the number of Fulani vary. A major problem in reckoning the population is that the Fulanis are found in twenty nations in a wide swath of Africa from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. Only Liberia may not have any Fulani settlements. It seems reasonable to accept an estimate of 7 to 8 million nomadic Fulani and 16million settled Fulani. Hence, the Fulanis can be said to form the largest pastoral nomadic group in the world. This formation has over the years equipped the Fulanis with more knowledge about the geographies of many parts, paths and routes around many rural communities n Nigeria.Whilst this formation affords the Fulani network privilege knowledge about other climes, cultures, ethnics and the routes to reach them, it is not being utilized for the general good of many communities in Nigeria. The knowledge is more or less about an establishment of a garrison command centres for launching and coordinating attacks on innocent Nigerians. Described as the fourth deadliest terrorist group and network in the world, the group operates mainly in the Middlebelt of Nigeria, parts of the South-south and Southwestern Nigeria, Central African Republic and West Africa. In 2013, the Fulani network according to Thetrentonline killed about 847 people across five states – but by the 2014 the group had killed 1,229 people. This figure nearly equals the amount of people killed by Boko Haram insurgence that same year. Yet, little or no attention has been given to the atrocities of the group either by the federal government or by the media.
As much as 92 per cent of Fulani attacks target private citizens, reflecting the group’s primary concern over the ownership of farmland irrespective of wherever they found themselves. Each attack claims an average 14 lives, with the largest known in March 2016 killing as many as 500 lives in Agatu, Benue State Nigeria.

The atrocity of Fulani herdsmen in communities in Benue state poses an existential threat to the Nigerian humanity. If one looks at the United Nations description of genocide, the attacks of the Fulani herdsmen fall within the description. The killings in Agatu on Saturday 5 March 2016 and other places in Guma carry the features of ethnic cleansing.

Before now, Fulani herdsmen and many communities have coexisted peacefully. However, attacks and counter attacks from both end has intensified. Vanguard newspapers of Monday 27 April 2015 reported that tension started in 2013 in Guma where local farmers clashed with Fulani herdsmen over the destruction of their crops by grazing cattle. Since then, attacks and reprisal attacks have claimed the lives of over 109 people in two years in Guma Local government area. The killing of 2470 people in Benue state in 2014 and 2015 throws up questions concerning the worth of the lives of every Nigerian. The attacks in Mbadwem district in Guma, for example, sparked off as a result of the killing of two strayed cattle grazing on the farmland of a local boy farmer named Iguma Enofe. Irate locals whose farmland had also been trampled upon marched on to seize the cattle and killed them. Since this event, clashes between Fulani herdsmen and host communities have escalated as the whereabouts of the local boy farmer cannot be ascertain due to fear of his live.

The Benue State Caucus in the House of Representatives reports stated on Wednesday March 16 that over 1,000 lives have been taken by interethnic clashes involving Fulani herdsmen and the natives of Benue State. With these figure surmounting the amount of casualties in some civil wars, it is pertinent to inquire how the crimes and many atrocities of the Fulani herdsmen go unpunished in this country. With all the several panels of investigation created to look into these killings no single report concerning the masterminds of these clashes has been submitted or killer apprehended. The ineptitudeand body language of the Nigerian government seems to support the genocide that is taking place in Benue State. Many communities in the State have been sacked with their houses razed down, farmlands seized and properties looted. Many families have lost their limbs and the surviving ones are relentlessly being pursued by the unrepentant Fulani herdsmen and the Nigerian authorities sits and do nothing?

Gwar T. Iorapuu is a doctoral student of Development Communication at the Centre of Excellence on Development Communication, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Nigeria

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