Where Do Herdsmen Get Guns From?
There is no denying the fact that “Criminals will always get guns.” It is a common refrain among those that are against the ease with which criminals parade guns; AK47 for that matter, to the detriment of innocent Nigerians. The saying, no doubt, is eliciting a debate of sort, and it is worrisome because of its apparent actuality. In spite of the best efforts of police and policymakers, gun violence linked to herdsmen has been exacting heavy toll on Nigerians so much so that as you read this piece, Oyo and Ondo States have in the last few days being in the news as a result of the quit notices given to Fulani Herdsmen in both States.
In the face of these sobering facts, it is worth asking how herdsmen, who are seemingly poorer and less educated than most educated Nigerians, keep getting AK47 guns. Did I hear you say the question which is invariably the headline of this piece is embarrassing? To me, it is not in any way embarrassing. Until Nigerians know more about the sources of the guns which herdsmen openly wield, and intimidatingly left to rest on their shoulders, it will be difficult for the right answer to be provided to the question, and for the government to devise and build consensus for effective, targeted policies that could reduce unlawful access to firearms.
It would be recalled in this context that President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2020 while receiving President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso at the Presidential Villa in Abuja observed that the partial closure of Nigeria’s land borders helped to reduce the influx of illegal arms and ammunition used in banditry. The President explained to his guest that Nigeria’s decision to partially close the borders to goods from neighboring countries was purely to safeguard national security.
He said, “Our major problem is security — the inflow of weapons, ammunition and drugs. We have witnessed a decline in banditry using such weapons since the partial closure of the border. Analyzed from the foregoing perspective, can it then be deduced to arrive at the conclusion that Fulani herdsmen have been sourcing the guns they have been using to intimidate innocent Nigerians from neighboring countries?
In as much as this writer is in this context flying blind, can it now be said that herdsmen are primarily getting their guns from corrupt firearm dealers, politicians and big time livestock farmers who they work for? It is not an exaggeration to say that as long as security agencies have not been able to swoop on the gun market of herdsmen that not few Nigerians will eschew asking the question; where are herdsmen getting their guns from? Nigerians have always been guessing that big time livestock farmers who are the employers of herdsmen may be the brain behind the acquisitions of the AK47 been used by herdsmen but the hearsay is still imprecise.
There is no denying the fact that if we can determine the source through which herdsmen get their guns that it will go a long way in helping the police and lawmakers to design policies that would help in keeping weapons out of herdsmen’ hands.
It would be recalled that Samuel Ortom, Benue State Governor, in an interview with Leo Sobechi and Samson Yanor of the Guardian Newspaper published on 13 June, 2020 said, “My concern is just like that just like Boko Haram, the federal government must make deliberate effort to disarm these people. Why should they be carrying arms? And when you hear government officials at the federal level defending these people, saying they are protecting their cattle, it is laughable. Is a cattle more valuable than human life?
“Government must make deliberate efforts to disarm these people, because it is not right. I believe in the rule of law, otherwise by now, you would have heard a different story. Several people have suggested that we raise a militia, but I said no, that two wrongs couldn’t make a right.
“Thank God for the security agents, who have been supportive and cooperating. We have been fighting the herdsmen and other criminal activities going on in Benue State. I believe it is not just a war against Benue State, but also a war against Nigeria”.
In as much as the question, “Where Do Herdsmen Get Guns From?” may never be answered as it is shrouded in mystery, it is expedient to urge the federal government to handle this recurring issue of herdsmen by putting an end to the policy of appeasement. The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as Fulani herdsmen cannot and should not be preferentially treated from other Nigerians. As long as farming is concern, livestock sector where the Fulani Herdsmen hold sway shares similarities with peasant crop farming, fishing or poultry keeping.
At this juncture, it is not an exaggeration to say that much have been done by the federal government to control the situation except in the area of disarming the herdsmen. For instance, in 1989, the Federal Government established the National Commission for Nomadic Education in order to ensure that nomads had unfettered access to basic education. But in view of their violent disposition to host communities, the nomadic way of life has become a serious threat to Nigerians’ co-existence.
Nevertheless, much is still been expected from the government by ensuring that he herdsmen are disarmed, and in a similar effort ensure that herdsmen are not allowed to roam meadows of their hosts with AK47 hung on their shoulders. Again, the government should ensure if livestock is herded or grazed on another person’s property, the livestock owner is liable for all the damage.
Also for the government to initiate and implement as soon as possible is for it to ensure that global best practices in the multibillion dollar cattle business is entrenched in Nigeria by setting up ranches. Ranching is the practice in Brazil, Australia, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East even as Negligent livestock owners should be made to face the law. Therefore, cattle owners should be made to invest in ranches, not guns. The herders should be disarmed now.
It would be recalled that the immediate past Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim K. Idris on 21st February, 2018 directed the Commissioners of Police of all the State Commands of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and their Supervising Assistant Inspectors General of Police of the Twelve Zonal Commands in the Country; to immediately commence simultaneously throughout the Country, the disarmament and recovery of prohibited firearms, ammunition and weapons in the possession of all suspected Militias, Bandits, vigilante groups, Neighborhood watch and other groups or Individual(s) or Bodies bearing prohibited firearms and ammunition, illegal weapons and lethal devices whether locally fabricated, modified or otherwise fashioned to kill or that can cause harm or injury to persons or that can cause panic, fear, apprehension, security breach, breach of Peace or that can cause threat to law and order anywhere in the Country. If I may ask at this juncture, “Does the directive excludes the herdsmen, and is the directive no more in force?” This question is been asked today as it is an open secret that Fulani Herdsmen still move about with firearms without batting an eyelid even upon sighting policemen at the check point. As this writer is short of words, the question still remains to be answered, “Where Do Herdsmen Get Guns From?”