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Agatu massacre: Need to restore its stolen land heritage

Historically, the Agatu people are very peaceful and hospitable, geographically bordered by Nasarawa State to the North-West across Loko. Currently, headquartered at Obagaji-Agatu; some of these communities have been devastated by recent attacks by the Fulani Herdsmen, presumably, over rights to grazing lands and mainstay.
Fundamentally, the Nigerian Constitution 1999 as amended clearly upholds in Chapter 4 – right to life. It is, therefore, expedient that all relevant Government authorities should proactively determine measures geared towards the protection of the lives and properties of its citizenry.

Recent narratives at classifying the Fulani Herdsmen into indigenous and migrant Fulanis’ is by all means an attempt to undermine the level of devastation that took place in the Agatu Communities and, how the Government of Benue State has erroneously attempted to broker peace in the affected communities by ceding Agatu land to the Fulani Herdsmen.  

What would have been more important at this stage in this quagmire is how to put in place concrete measures at ameliorating the sufferings of these devastated communities. 

Let the truth be told, it is not very clear what this agreement was set out to achieve by ceding parts of Agatu land to the Fulani Herdsmen whereas the devastated communities and, the consequent loss of live and properties is yet to be sufficiently addressed or the culprits prosecuted, save for a mere pledge of a paltry N30Million Naira announced at the point of signing this agreement. 

The story of the destruction of communities and their agro-economic activities is not restricted to the Agatu people of Benue State alone, which bring us to the question of why was portions of land not ceded in other parts of Benue State where similar attacks had taken place and, the devastated communities are yet to recover from the loss of loved ones, forced famine and, the wanton destruction of properties.

Recently, the Federal Government in its wisdom commissioned the VICTIM SUPPORT Fund, supposedly, to alleviate the untold hardship occasioned by the devastating effect of the Boko Haram Insurgency in the North-East. This Fund, amongst others, has specific mandate of ensuring that the communities are re-built to allow for the return of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) to their community life.

The Governor of Benue State, perhaps, through the State Emergency Management Agency should have included in the 2017 Appropriation Budget to the Benue State House of Assembly, for a special Fund to be set aside for the same purpose as with the Victims Support Fund.

 This will pave way for proper reconciliation and, more importantly, the re-construction of the communities devastated by the Fulani Herdsmen in Benue State.
The Rule of Law is a very strategic component of Democratic Governance and, the Legislature since the return to democratic rule in 1999 has, undoubtedly, played key roles in the sustenance of our nascent democracy.

 In doing so, the Benue State House of Assembly should have discussed the issue exhaustively and, a collective decision reached to allow for an all inclusive participation and, or contribution of representatives, especially, of these communities.

 Also, time ought to have been given for constructive engagement with stakeholders, by their representatives (both Federal and State Houses of Assemblies) in a forum convened at these communities to discuss any issue(s) of such magnitude.

The history of the struggle for Land is as old as mankind and, it has been exhaustively highlighted in selected literature. 

From the foregoing, it is clearly evident that the people of Agatu have been shortchanged by this agreement which was drafted on a mere sheet of paper and, rejected by the majority of the people. The attempt to cede a part of land of the good people of Agatu and, to consequently deprive them of their heritage is totally unacceptable and, therefore, declared null and void.

The Government of Benue State must, therefore, recognized that the wrong introduced into the re-allocation of the Agatu heritage will constitute a betrayal of the Agatu people whose mandate the Governor currently enjoys as Agatu Local Government is part of Benue State for which the Governor sworn an oath to protect. 

Your Excellency, I have written all of this with only one aim in mind; for posterity, to intimate you very honourably of the disappointments arising from your action in Agatu land and, the immediate necessity to restore the gradually declining popularity of this decision.

 I believe very strongly that these imperatives bear urgency today and, to further pray that Your Excellency will direct as most appropriate and, to allow for the gradual and systematic re-building of these communities in Benue State, particularly, Agatu land.

It is, therefore, my expectation Mr. Governor, that Your Excellency will select to side with the majority of the good people of Agatu and be remember fairly by history, rather than satisfy the immediate and clandestine aspiration of the negligent Fulani Herdsmen to grazing land for their cattles and, to immediately initiate plans at rebuilding the communities in Benue State devastated by the activities of these marauding Fulani Herdsmen. 

Recently, the rejection of the Grazing Bills by the Benue State House of Assembly clearly indicates the obvious. The time to act is now….!!!.

Rt. Hon. Adamu Entonu represents Apa/Agatu Federal Constituency.

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