Herdsmen Massacre: Will Rain Of Justice Ever Fall?

By Edikan Ekanem

Random gunshots have replaced early morning cockcrows that wake people up from sleep. Mourning, lamentation, and overflow of tears have become the order of the day. Communities and villages have become practical arenas for massacre; “temple run” has become the only way of saving one’s life.

Children have become orphans overnight. Wives have turned to widows; young widowers are groping for their wives but they are nowhere to be found, they’ve been butchered. Nursing mothers have turned to barren women in a broad day light, parents are burying their kids on daily basis, all hopes are battered, shattered and scattered.

Schools have become a continental shelf for herdsmen’s exploration and exploitation; Churches are turned to terrestrial field of exploitation with its leaders and members as preys to their human predators in the people of “Fulani herdsmen”. Walking on the streets now is risky but sleeping at home seems to be a greater risk, comfort of human residence is a thing of the past.

Mass burial is sluggishly becoming a new normal, the use of coffin for burials is seemingly fading away, digging of individual graves is scantly obtainable, animals’ lives seem to have more value than the lives of humans, and people do no longer sleep two eyes closed because of herdsmen. This is quite sickening and pathetic.

Fellow Nigerians, are the above situations not obtainable in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba and most recently Plateau states of this country? Or will it be far from the truth if it is asserted that the present conditions in these areas may even be worse than alleged? Or do we still need specific references to point out such developments? If so, few examples will suffice.

On 22nd May 2018 as reported by an online media (thenigerianlawyer), two Catholic priests, Rev. Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha and 17 others killed by herdsmen got a mass burial. The two Catholic priests and 17 other worshippers were killed by suspected herdsmen in Gwer local government area of Benue state. They were killed on the altar during a mass alongside with 17 worshippers when the attackers invaded St. Ignatius Quasi Parish Ukpor-Mbalom in Ayar-Mbalom community of Gwer East Local Government Area on Tuesday April 24, 2018.

Later that same month, on May 28, 2018, it was reported that herdsmen invaded a Catholic seminary in Jalingo, Taraba State shot priest at about 12.30am, just less than one week after the Catholic Church across Nigeria led marches to protest against the bloody attacks by Fulani herders.

According to a statement by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Atsue, the Rector of Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, Jalingo, he said: “I had a meeting with the officials of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the bishop has equally approved one week break for the seminarians to enable them manage trauma for a while and to show themselves to their parents that they were safe”.

Just yesterday, reports with horrible and gory pictures permeated the social media space, narrating how herdsmen attacked 11 Plateau villages on Sunday, killed more than 120 (though residents insisted on about 200) persons, torched 50 houses and number of vehicles. This civil unrest and upheaval led to placing three Local Government Areas under curfew. These are not the only infraction ensuing from herdsmen attacks in recent times as others go unreported.

From the forgoing, a reasonable man is forced to ask: will the rain of justice ever fall on the issue of these herdsmen massacre? If so, when will that be? Why is our government so tardy on taking decisive action to curb this menace?

Lest we forget, section 14 (2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has clearly and unequivocally stated that the security and welfare of people shall be the primary purpose of having government as an institution and a machinery for the people. But unfortunately today, this provision of the law is seemingly becoming a sword against the weak and a shied to the strong.

About a week ago, it was reported that a High Court sitting in Yola sentenced five persons to death by hanging for the murder of “a herdsman” and injuring of several cows in Demsa Local Government of Adamawa state, thus contravening section 96(1) and section 221of the Penal Code. Justice was done in that regard.

Without justifying the killing of the herdsman, what makes ‘this single killing’ so spectacular that action was instituted in court to secure the conviction of the perpetrators when lives of hundreds of Nigerians are gone as a result of herdsmen attacks? If these herdsmen enter court and stand at the dock for trial, will heaven fall? Will the court room experience Earthquake?

In as much as we are respect his Lordship’s Judgement and also appreciating the diligent work of the persecution, we wonder whether these same laws are not extant at the phase of this massacre and mass burials that are being conducted in the country? Are the courts not in places for these herdsmen to be tried? Where are the prosecuting authorities when the mass burials ensuing from herdsmen attacks are conducted? Can justice be one-sided? Will it be true that justice was done, seen, said to be done, and heard to have been done?

Without being biased, when IPOP agitation escalated, several attempts were made for it to be proscribed and it was. It troubles the minds of many as to what further actions of terror that the Fulani herdsmen are yet to exhibit for them to be proscribed as a terrorist group. What feature is left for them to display under the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 thus withholding their proscription?

Before we allow ethnicity, political interests and religious indoctrinations to becloud our thoughts, let’s remember that the creator will ask for these innocent bloods, let’s live lives with consciences, let’s have soft spot for others, let us remember they are humans like us with blood and flesh, deserving to live as we do.

May this piece of lamentation alongside with cries of others serve as an alarm of redress to the President of the Federation, the Chief of Army Staff, the Inspector General of Police, the Governors of the affected states and other concerned citizens of Nigeria, to suggest and device means in combating this menace. Right to life under the constitution is inalienable.

Let the rain of justice fall, injury to one is injury to all.

Edikan Ekanem is a contemporary writer and a columnist. He can be reached at [email protected] .