Armed Fulani Herdsmen; Fallen Compatriots And Government’s Shadow Chasing
That Nigeria is seen by a lot of concerned critical thinkers as a failing or failed political entity is a notorious fact. The element that marks a sovereign state as stable and secured is the ability and capacity of the legitimate governmental institutions to permanently secure the nation state and the citizens from all external aggressors and internally organized violent criminals.
Nigeria has for over a decade failed in the critical indexes of a stable and secured nation to such a ridiculous extent that impunity has almost assumed an official recognition. The ugly state of instability in Nigeria reached a crescendo when some ragtag armed Boko Haram terrorists took territories as large as France and declared an independent caliphate in the three states making up the North East of Nigeria.
For 20 months the armed Boko Haram terrorists controlled these large swamp of arid lands not until the international assisted the Nigerian military with logistics and training and the then Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan employed the services of foreign mercenaries from South Africa before over 95 percent of the captured areas were recaptured.
President Muhammadu Buhari has so far recaptured the remaining areas held by Boko Haram terrorists including the once dreaded Sambisa forests in Borno State. But the emergenceof armed Fulani herdsmen in the scene and their ability to turn many hitherto peaceful farming communities across Nigeria into killing fields and the government stand by and do nothing but empty rhetoric is mystifying to put it diplomatically.
Nigeria is at a stage whereby both the operatives of the armed security forces and a range of armed freelance hoodlums have perpetrated mass killings but not a single offender who have committed these crimes have been arrested let alone made to face effective and professionally competent prosecution.
Thousands of examples of gruesome mass killings abound whereby the various security forces set up by statutes and the constitution to prevent these crimes and effectively enforce laws against crimes of mass murders have stood by and watched as innocent citizens of all ethno-religious affiliations are slaughtered.
Of recent, the phenomenon of coordinated attacks of farming communities by armed Fulani herdsmen have assumed dangerous but frequent dimension but rather than take decisive legal measures to arrest and prosecute offenders the Presidency has engaged itself in meaningless rigmarole of debating the location from where these mass killers came.
Whereas the real victims of these dastardly criminal acts of mass murders have precisely and concisely located the killers as their neighbors who are Fulani herdsmen the political office holders including President Muhammadu Buhari who is a Fulani by ethnic origin and who is known to have herds of cattle in his ranch in Katsina State are now embarking on some annoying debates seeking to blame foreign mercenaries for these atrocities. Again not one security chiefs in those affected states have been dismissed and prosecuted for culpable negligence resulting in mass murders. The failure to punish failed security officers on whose territories crimes of mass murder and genocide are committed is itself a crime against humanity.
We will return to these specific examples but let us look at the various laws to determine the precise roles of security forces in the prevention of crimes such as these incessant cases of mass killings.
Section 14(2) (a) and (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended ) provides thus: “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority; and significantly, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
In the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended) Sections 214;215;216;217;219 and 220 are some of the fundamental constitutional provisions that established the Nigerian police force and other security forces such as the Army; Navy and Air force.
The primary constitutional role of all these organs of the armed forces and police is to enforce the laws against unlawful killings of citizens.
Similarly, the administration of criminal justice Act of 2015, there are a deluge of provisions that spell out clearly the important roles of the law enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of crimes.
Section 50 (1) of the administration of criminal justice Act of 2015 provides that “a police officer may intervene for the purpose of preventing, and shall, to the best of his ability, prevent the commission of an offence.”
In the police Act of 1943 in section (4) the police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulation with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within and without Nigeria as maybe required by them by or under the authority of, this or other Act.”
Section 215 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution however shifts the responsibility of direct command of the police on matters of securing lives and property of Nigerians on the door steps of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That specific section states as follows; “The president or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as he may authorize in that behalf may give to the Inspector-General of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Inspector-General of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.”
The Nigerian legal system frowns strongly at cases of culpable homicide which is why it is a capital offence. From the scholarly website of www.researchfaculty.com we read as follows: "Homicide means the killing of a person in a manner not justified by law. In the olden days, the law was so strict that it did not matter or not whether you foresaw or intended the death which occurred but would be punished directly if death occurred from your act.
The offence of Homicide is unique because it is something much more than personal injury. It is a violation of the sanctity of human life.
It is often said that beause of the damnable nature of the acts, the law in Nigeria, through the Criminal code Act Chapter 77 Laws of the federation of 1990 particularly in sections 319 thereof, has prescribed death as a penalty for the act of homicide. The reason for making homicide an offence punishable by death in our law is predicated on the principle of fair deserts as a theory of punishment.
In modern terms however, resort is often used for the physical element (guilty acts or actus reus) and the mental element (guilty mind or mens rea) in order to determine the degree of liability of the offender and this has gone to modify it as it used to be and as our fore bearers used to know it."
But instances abound like in Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani local government area council of Enugu State and Agatu in Benue State whereby all the respective armed forces stood by and failed to prevent the mass slaughter of civilians.. In the case of the Enugu massacre, the then police commissioner Mr. Nwodigbo Ezechukwu reported to the State governor Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi about the impending attack by armed Fulani Herdsmen but after the police was purportedly moblised with monetary logistics they did nothing to stop the mass killings 24 hours later.
Annoyingly, whilst hundreds of families in Benue, Plateau, Enugu, Taraba and Delta and indeed all across Nigeria including the Southern Kaduna State were mourning the tragic killings by armed Fulani herdsmen of their loved ones, the Nigerian government did not just fail to stop these killings nor arrest the suspected killers, but the politicians at the Federal and Northern States levels have engaged in the theatrics of debating whether the killers are indeed Nigerians or foreigners.
President Muhammadu Buhari on whose shoulders lies the direct responsibility to prevent these genocide is quoted as saying that these herders who have killed Nigerians are foreigners from Libya. His words: “Ghadaffi during his 43 year regime trained some people from the Sahel military. When his regime was overthrown those people were dispatched to their countries. They found themselves in the Boko Haram and others.”
President Buhari also suggested thus: “it is a major regional and virtually African problem now. There is one called Al queda, there is Boko Haram and so on. It is a governmental project now to trace them, disarm them, try them and discipline them.”
“Herdsmen culturally do not stay in one place: they move with the season. Normally, harvest is complete much early in the north. They have to go southwards for greener pasture. Initially there was what they call cattle routes and grazing areas. They were marked. Infrastructures were put in terms of dams and veterinary clinics. Later, the big Ogas that came took over these places and turned them to farms…”
Like a Nollywood movie, the minister of State for Agriculture Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri re-echoed the voice of his pay master by blaming foreigners for the atrocities committed by armed Fulani herdsmen.
Earlier the retiring police Inspector General Mr. Solomon Arase who has no science and forensic based evidence, jumped into the political fray by blaming foreigners for these mass killings.
What all these dramatic clever-by-half but obviously fallacious conclusions by these political actors points to is that there is no political will at the top to arrest all the perpetrators and bring them before the competent courts of law for prosecution and punishment with death penalty for those gruesome acts of mass murders.
Apart from the Enugu massacre in which there are first hand information that Nigerian Fulani herdsmen perpetrated the attacks because of minor disagreement over grazing areas, the peoples of Agatu in Benue State have also made profound revelations on where these armed Fulani herdsmen are coming from with a lot of fingers pointing towards Nasarawa State. Agatu people even alleged that they saw helicopter during the attacks by Fulani herdsmen which dropped weapons to the alleged killers.
The question now is assuming without conceding that some armed mercenaries are involved, where were the immigration, customs and other armed Forces when these So-called foreign fighters infiltrated and invaded Nigeria or did they drop from above?
Then why has the Nigerian Police not being able to arrest the masterminds of all these killings and why is the Inspector General of police making political statement blaming foreigners for the killings even before his field operatives had arrested a single suspect?
Why the sudden upsurge of this blame shifting from Buhari and Ministers?
To put a big lie to all these weird conspiracy theory of shitting blame to foreigners, the residents of Korum, Orawua and Gidan Bature villages in Gassol Local Government Council of Taraba State accused traditional rulers of complicity.
The Guardian reporter who captured the opinions of some victims of suspected armed Fulani attacks st the weekend in Taraba State wrote that: "People of Tiv extraction also seem to have borne a bitterer share of the troubles. Many have been killed. Many more have been forced to flee their homes, their farmlands taken over by the rampaging herdsmen, while security agencies and the government appear powerless to stop the menace."
At the IDP camp in Gossol Local Government Council, a worried President-General of the Tiv Cultural and Social Association (TCSA), Goodman Dan Dahida, called on President Buhari to establish a special fund for victims of attacks by herdsmen.
Community leader, Zaki Daniel Mbatere, in Bali, one of the affected councils, blamed the brazen attacks on alleged support the herdsmen have been receiving from unscrupulous traditional rulers.
He said: “There is a carefully designed agenda to dispossess the Tiv people of their ancestral lands. Local chiefs sold our land in the wake of the crisis to the Fulani, and now that Governor Ishaku wants everybody to return to his land, they are killing us, in order to scare us away. Look at all these homeless people here. There is little hope they can return to their farms this planting season, unless something urgent is done to address the problem.”
He added: “Government should call the local chiefs and those claiming ownership of the land and ask them where they were before we, the original inhabitants, were chased away by the herdsmen.”
Commenting on the fresh attack on Korum, Orawua and Gidan Bature villages, a Tiv traditional ruler, Emmanuel Chia, said: “The attack would not have happened if the monarch (name withheld) had responded to security threats in the area.”
One victim, Terver Akporogh, also alleged:
“The monarch, a Fulani, does not show any concern, even when cows eat our crops and we report the matter to him. His inaction led to the attack on our community and the killing of over six people.”
Another victim, whose wife and two children were killed, and whose house was also razed, accused the police of not making good use of “intelligence reports we have been supplying to them.”
There are a plethora of newspaper reports indicting Nigerian Fulani herdsmen as the real mass killers so why this deceptive game of blame shifting and dancing in the graves of our fallen compatriots even when no effort is made transparently to arrest and punish these mass killers.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.emmanuelonwubiko.com.