Are the Fulani Herdsmen above the Law?

By Julius Oweh

A lot of things have been said and written about the menace of the Fulani herdsmen sowing destruction and death throughout the length and breadth of the country under the bizarre veneer of cattle rearing. They are all over the country destroying the crops and farms of people yet the government is giving the unfortunate impression that these criminals are above the law. Growing up in the village, my image of the average Fulani herdsman was that of the magical stick and the myth then was that should he touch you with the stick, he could transform you to a cow.

They were peace loving and easily mingled with the natives and havoc was not in their DNA. But today, the image has changed into a criminal carrying dangerous weapon like AK47 whereas other Nigerians with double barrel gun are chased by the police and other security agents for not getting the license to bear arms. The question that staggers the imagination is who is issuing license to those Fulani herdsmen that are bearing sophisticated weapons and using same to attack and even kill their hosts.

No week passes without one form of attack by these Fulani herdsmen in the media. Recently, a legislator in Delta State bemoaned the attack of Fulani herdsmen that led to the death of two people in Abraka. There was also the case of the attack in Enugu that led to the death of some women and when the men protested, they were arrested by soldiers and locked up and they had to bail themselves for demonstrating against an evil ravaging the land.

In Benue state, it had to take the intervention of a foreign body for the state government to acknowledge the menace of the Fulani herdsmen that resulted in the death of three hundred people. For how long will this menace continue to ravage the land and the federal government and some state governments pretend that all is well?

That is why the cries of the National Christian Elders Forum should be taken seriously by the federal government – the executive arm and the legislative arm. The chairman of the forum, Mr Solomon Asemota expressed displeasure over the federal government inability to stem the on-going carnage and destruction by Fulani herdsmen. He lamented thus on this security challenge: `It is shocking that till today, there had been no prosecution of any of these marauders. For years, the Fulani herdsmen have been murdering innocent Nigerians with impunity.

It is sad to note that Boko Haram which is presently regarded as the world number one most dangerous terror organization and the Fulani herdsmen considered the fourth are both operating in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the response of government to the menace of these individuals has to date, been tepid and indifferent. The most recent case occurred in Agatu area of Benue State. According to media reports, over 300 Nigerians were massacred by the herdsmen and many communities were devastated in the attacks`.

Thus all over the country perhaps except in the core north, the Fulani herdsmen are like demons straight from hell killing people for the offence that cattle are grazing on their farms and destroying their crops. In the outlandish and absurd formulations of the herdsmen, their cattle are more valuable than human beings and crops. That is why a national figure like Chief Olu Falae could be attacked twice in his farm and the recent one consumed the life of his security guard. Can a southerner go to the core north and attack a prominent figure in the stature of Falae?

The impression the federal government is giving by its lukewarm responses is that there are two classes of people in the country – the citizens and the subjects. The citizen can commit a crime and goes scoff free and he is above the law. The subject who is the victim of the citizen`s lawlessness can be clamped into detention for protesting the brigandry of the citizen as demonstrated in the Enugu example. This is clearly a recipe for chaos and anarchy.

What is stopping the federal government from putting an end to this menace? There are certain things known to the government that are not in the court of public opinion. If the federal government wants to build ranches, it should go ahead and do that quickly before the situation gets out of hand.

If the government is still enamoured with the bizarre idea of importing grasses from Brazil to feed these animals and keep the herdsmen in check, it should not waste time. What must be stated clearly here is that the herdsmen should not use their occupation to destroy other people’s occupation and even kill human beings in the name of protecting their cattle.

The lands which these cattle roam freely belong to the people and communities. And these people who are at the receiving end of the brutality of the herdsmen will one day exhaust their patience and resort to self help. That will be too dangerous for the unity and security of the country. One governor in a clearly after whiskey talk was justifying the menace of the Fulani herdsmen when he maintained that the Fulani have a history of revenge.

Nothing can justify the violent attitude of the Fulani herdsmen and the northern elites should call them to order. I am really bemused that the Arewa Consultative Forum that is always quick to condemn other people are in conspiracy of silence giving the unfortunate impression that they tacitly support the activities of these marauders or what one writer called the men from Hades.

No nation courts progress and development where there are two sets of laws. The silence of the federal government and the undignified support of the northern elites to the marauding activities of the Fulani herdsmen is the best advertisement yet that something is terribly wrong with the nation.

This is a trying period for the Buhari administration and this writer has to remind the APC led government of that iconic speech of the president a la ` I belong to nobody and I belong to everybody`. Those people that were killed in Enugu, Agatu and Abraka and their relatives will find it difficult to understand the relevance and wisdom of that presidential speech. The time to act is now to defuse the time bomb that is the Fulani herdsmen menace.

Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392

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