In recent times, these herdsmen have become a veritable menace to peace in many parts of Nigeria, as they revel in launching unprovoked attacks, killing and maiming of mostly farmers on whose crops their cattle feed.
Besides the recent killings in Benue State, other parts of the country, notably the South-West, South-East and South-South, have not been spared the brutal attacks of the Fulani cattle rearers. Apart from killing men and raping women, the herdsmen have also been reported to be engaged in kidnapping and high profile murders.
The kidnap of Afenifere chieftain and politician, Chief Olu Falae in Ondo State and the murder of the late Obi Akaeze Edward Ofolue III of Ubulu-Uku Kingdom in Delta State, sometime ago, by suspected Fulani herdsmen, are other instances of the herdsmen’s reported involvement in these hideous activities. Apart from wanton killings, these herdsmen also destroy homes and properties of farming communities that they attack.
The unbridled trampling of these herdsman on the rights of other Nigerians to peaceful living in their communities, is expectedly drawing outrage in many parts of the country. The question on the lips of many Nigerians today is when the Federal Government will act to stop the barbaric attacks of the cattle rearers.
It is disturbing that since the herdsmen began their unconscionable attacks on farming communities across the country several years ago, there has been no serious attempt to bring them to book. It is, indeed, doubtful if any herdsman has ever been prosecuted and punished for the incessant killings of innocent Nigerians. Yet, the casualties from the attacks over the years run into hundreds, if not thousands.
Benue has borne much of the brunt of many of these attacks. It is based on this fact that a coalition of civil society groups from the state staged a protest against the mayhem at the National Assembly, Abuja, and called for deployment of security men to the area.
Speaking to the protesters on behalf of the Senate, the Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, assured them that the Senate would look into the matter.
The Senate should do this with all sense of purpose and sincerity. President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the massacre in the Agatu Local Government to get at the root causes of the matter. He should do more than that. The time has come for him to take a holistic view of herdsmen’s incessant attacks on people in different parts of the country with a view to stopping them. His failure, as well as those of other past administrations, to address the problem, is already being subjected to various dangerous interpretations.
We strongly condemn these unbridled killings and destruction of property by suspected Fulani herdsmen in different parts of the country. No doubt, the killing is related to the issue of grazing land for cattle.
Ordinarily, the rearing of animals for commercial purposes should not constitute a problem of this magnitude if such agricultural occupation is carried out in ranches as is the case in the advanced countries of Europe and America.
Even cattle farmers in Asia have ranches for their cattle. They do not roam freely on the properties of other persons and constitute a problem for their country.
Cattle rearing, it must be said, is a business and those engaged in it should not ride roughshod over the rights of farming communities by allowing their cattle to destroy their crops. They should invest in ranches within their geo-political zones and not become a danger to the entire country. Cattle rearing in Nigeria should not continue to be a source of friction and bloodletting between farming communities and nomadic herdsmen.
Let the government stop the unconscionable grazing of cattle on other people’s farmlands by herdsmen. Their practice of moving cattle from one part of the country to another through other people’s farmlands should be stopped.
Beyond the probe of the latest attack in Benue State, it has become necessary for the president to call the herdsmen to order. This is necessary to avoid a major tribal confrontation that could have dire consequences for unity and peaceful co-existence in the country. We hope the meeting of the herdsmen with the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, will provide part of the solution to this problem.
The herdsmen menace is, indeed, a big problem that requires an urgent solution. The federal government cannot fold its hand while a few individuals hold the nation to ransom. The high casualty figure of the Agatu killings underscores the enormity of the problem. There is no way we can continue with this mindless killing of people and make progress. It is necessary to bring those who flout the nation’s laws to justice.
We call on the security agents to rise to the challenge and stem this ugly development.
Apart from bringing to book those behind these dastardly killings, let government work hard to secure lives and property, as this is its primary function. There should be no sacred cow in the investigation of the Agatu killings.
Ultimately, the governors of the Northern states have a big role to play in the efforts to end the herdsmen’s brutality. They should support the building of massive ranches for the cattle farmers to end their grazing on the crops of other farmers.
The provision of modern ranches with everything that the herdsmen need, including animal feed, water, clinics, vet doctors, modest living quarters, abattoirs and refrigeration facilities will go a long way in keeping the herdsmen out of farmlands and help to solve the problem. That is one sure way to reduce the incessant conflicts between herdsmen and crop farmers in different parts of the country.