By John Shiklam
The Middle Belt Dialogue (MBD), an association of professionals and new breed politicians in the Middle Belt, yesterday disagreed with the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), an umbrella organisation of northern Muslims over allegations that Fulani herdsmen were behind the persistent invasion and killing of people in rural communities in the Middle Belt states.
The MBD in a statement made available to THISDAY in Kaduna, had alleged that Fulani herdsmen were behind the raiding, killings and destruction of properties in communities in Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi and the southern part of Kaduna State which had been going on unabated since after the 2011 presidential election won by President Goodluck Jonathan.
But the JNI at a press conference at its secretariat in Kaduna, warned against unguarded and misleading utterances over the issue, maintaining that it was unfortunate that without any investigation, and out of prejudice and hate, some people are pointing accusing fingers at certain tribal groups.
The MBD in the statement signed by its spokesman, Mr. Aminu Zang, decried the cowardly manner in which the Fulani herdsmen attacked communities in the dead of the night, particularly the recent attacks on three villages in the southern part of Kaduna, which led to the killing of 119 people.
“These attacks have taken place in Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Kogi,Kwara, Adamawa, Taraba, FCT and Southern Kaduna, all of them in the Middle Belt. The media labelled them attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
“The regularity, discipline and weapons used in the attacks, lead us to conclude that there is more to them than mere cattle rustling or vengeance. What we have been witnessing is the Nenace of an ethnic militia, with a definite and articulated objective,” the statement said.
The statement further claimed that the Protem National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Alhaji Saleh Bayari, had in a letter to President, Goodluck Jonathan, called Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State unprintable names for asking the president to direct the Fulani herdsmen, who had murdered thousands of people in their sleep, to exit Benue, Nasarawa and Kogi States.
“Why did the Fulani become blood thirsty? Why is it that only the Middle Belt’s blood will satisfy their lust?
“Our conclusion is that the attacks on our communities by the murderous hordes of the Fulani is the vengeance the ‘North’ is exacting for its loss of power at the centre.
“What Miyetti Allah is doing is to attempt to intimidate the Middle Belt into submission by either voting for Buhari or displacing the people of the Middle Belt from their homes so that they would not be able to participate in the 2015 elections.
“We and the Fulani are no strangers to each other. What their ancestors could not achieve in open warfare, these present day pretenders seek to achieve in the dead of the night through the cold blooded murder of women, children and the elderly.
“If it is not too late, the founders and patrons of the Fulani militias should bring them to hell. We shall not issue another warning” the statement said.
However, at a news conference, the Secretary General of the JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said it was unfortunate that without any investigation, and out of prejudice and hate, some people have started raising accusing fingers on certain tribal groups.
Aliyu who noted that the unguarded utterances by some people was quite misleading and very dangerous, called for caution, pointing out that in times of difficulties such as this, false claims and chauvinistic accusations would only add fuel to an already damaging fire.
The JNI noted that “it is becoming increasingly glaring that our dear nation, Nigeria, and especially northern Nigeria, is drifting towards serious situation of violent conflicts, insecurity and destruction.
According to Khalid, “almost the whole North is on fire, while almost the entire North-east is engulfed by recurrent killings and bombings in the name of the supposed Boko Haram; in Birnin Gwari (Kaduna State), some parts of Zamfara, Kebbi and other parts of the North-west, the killings are perpetrated by unidentified criminals.
“In Benue State, it is Tiv-Fulani conflict which has long been hijacked by terrorists and political criminals, while in Nasarawa State it is Ombatse, and few days ago various attacks were reported in Kaduna, Taraba and the most recent Giwa Barracks attack in Maiduguri, Borno State.
Aliyu called on religious bodies, professional and labour groups, civil society organisations and all well meaning Nigerians to come out boldly and play their role in addressing this insecurity challenges facing the country once and for all.