Cattlemen killed 1,878 in Benue, says Ortom
The national body of the Fulani, known as Kawtal Fulbe-Nigeria, has directed all its members nationwide, especially the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders, to boycott the ongoing public hearing on the anti-grazing bill in Taraba State.
In a statement yesterday in Jalingo, the national leadership of the group, which alleged the persecution of the Fulani in the state, urged the government to “address the current issues in Taraba, especially as they affect our people.”
The statement by the North-East chairman of the group, Mafindi Umar Danburam, reads in part: “These are definitely not the best of time for the Fulani (Fulbe) in Taraba State as the Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku-led administration is fully out using the state powers to totally eliminate us with a grand plan to make the state a no-go-area for the Fulani.
“For two years running, it has been a total war that has put our people in all spheres of life under tormenting and dehumanising condition. The Fulani are constrained to state that the proposed prohibition of the said grazing bill in the state is part of the agenda to empower ethnic militia groups across the state for total ethnic cleansing as started in Sardauna Local Government Area.”
The Fulani group further said: “We refused to be cajoled into accepting the deceitful phrase in the bill which tends to promote ranching, because even where the ranching system is fully operational in Sardauna Local Government, our people are no longer safe with their livestock. The bill is nothing more than a draconian law intended to segregate, witch-hunt decimate and eliminate the Fulani in the state.
“All Fulani groups across the nooks and crannies of the country had met and agreed that none of us is participating in the state government window dressing approach of dealing with the security challenges, including the deceitful public hearing on the bill put in place to further abuse our sensitivity and show us more hatred less than a week after the massacre of our people on the Mambilla Plateau.”
The group called on all the Fulani “participating in all committees set up by the state government” to as a matter of urgency “disengage immediately as we continue to mourn the hundreds of Fulani massacred by the Mambilla under the protection of the state government.”
They urged the Acting President and the National Assembly to “declare emergency rule in Taraba State to allow for a neutral leadership to restore peace and order based on justice, equity and fair play to all.”
In its reaction, the state government said it had deployed men and materials in the affected areas to give succour and quicken the healing process.
Governor Ishaku, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan Abu, said: “What the government expects is support for this effort and not the evil act of promoting sentiments that can only worsen the peace process being pursued by government.”
Governor Ishaku spoke yesterday as his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom revealed that over 1,878 people were killed in cold blood by Fulani herdsmen within three years.
Ortom also said not less than 750 persons were critically injured, 200 still missing and over 99,427 households as well as property worth billions of naira destroyed in the Fulani herdsmen attacks on Benue State.
The governor made the disclosure when he received in his office the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) country representative, Edward Kallon and his team.
According to Ortom, over N95 billion worth of property were destroyed in 2014 alone across 10 local government areas of the state during invasion by Fulani herdsmen.
On the cause of the constant clashes between Benue farmers and herdsmen that resulted in the carnage, the governor said the crops of Benue farmers were usually eaten up by the herdsmen.
He stated that the attacks on the agricultural communities of the Benue valley posed great threat to food security in the nation.
“For over a decade, the people of Benue have noticed the influx of armed herdsmen who have violently attacked many communities in the state.
“Between 2013 and 2016 alone, Fulani herdsmen killed more than 1,878 men, women and children in cold blood from 12 local government areas.”
Ortom urged the UN to support the state towards the implementation of durable solutions to insecurity, violence and displacement of people.
Meanwhile, the youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has endorsed Ortom and Ishaku and other governors that are willing to implement anti-grazing laws for automatic second term ticket in 2019 general elections.
While addressing journalists yesterday at the Yola International Airport, the National President of CAN Youth Wing, Daniel Kadzai, said that the anti-grazing laws would bring an end to the daily mindless killings of farmers by herdsmen in those states that implement the laws.
He pointed out that the first priority of any reasonable leader is the protection of lives and property in his area of operation, noting that there is no development more than to end the bloody crisis.
“There can be no development when there is crisis in your area, no contractor can work in places where killings and burning of houses are taking place. We must commend Governors Ortom and Ishaku as well as other governors that are working hard to ensure that the anti-grazing bills in their states are passed into law,” he stated.
Kadzai explained that the anti- grazing law should not be misinterpreted by cattle breeders as a legislation targeted at them to render their business of rearing cattle unproductive, but as a law that will not only bring peace but promote cattle rearing business to international standard of using ranches.
“Some undesirable elements are trying to use the anti-grazing law to cause confusion in the country. When our leaders take a wrong action, they defend it by using developed countries as example, but when the matter on ground does not protect their selfish interest, they don’t make reference to developed countries.
“There is no developed country that is practising open grazing now, what is being operated is ranches which reduce the high level of sickness the animals may contract, so we must embrace ranches in Nigeria,” he said.
The CAN youths commended the security agents, especially the military, for their quick response during the last month communal clash in Sarduana Local Government in Taraba State where about 18 people were reportedly killed, urging them not to be selective in their operations since they are all working for Nigeria’s unity.
“When Agatu people in Benue State were attacked by Fulani herdsmen and over 200 people were killed, there was no such response from the military. When Southern Kaduna was attacked by Fulani herdsmen and 900 people were killed, there was no such rapid response from the military, but when the Hausa in Ibadan, Oyo State were attacked, in less than 24 hours, suspects were arrested by police and charged to court. In Benue, no arrest because it was Fulani herdsmen who attacked and killed Christians, in Kaduna, nobody has been charged to court because it was Christians that were killed,” he lamented.
Kadzai warned that “if the security agents reduce themselves to a religious group instead of protecting Nigerians without religious sentiment, their existence will become valueless and they will pose serious danger to the unity of the country.”