Last week, the nation was rattled by several violent attacks by the Boko haram sect and incidences of attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen with devastating impact in Kaduna, Benue and Katsina States. Lawmakers have sounded the alarm that the attacks are increasing by the day and the time to act to avert a situation like that in the north-east is now. Adesuwa Tsan captures the debate.
Shaken by the high scale destruction of lives and property in Benue State and especially his community, Katsina-Ala/Logo/Ukum federal constituency in Benue State, Hon Emmaunel Memga Udende has called for a thorough investigation as well as a proactive action to end the rampage of herdsmen in his state. The attacks happen predominantly in Tiv communities of the state.
While about 37 lives were lost in a recent attack in Benue, over a hundred were taken away by suspected herdsmen in Katsina State and another 100 in three southern Kaduna villages. The victims include men, women and children. There has been a constant dispute between Fulani herdsmen and farmers over the years over grazing land.
Speaking on the matter, the lawmaker condemned incessant attacks on people and properties in his constituency-Sankera and Benue in general, which have resulted in loss of lives, properties, crops and displacement of over a hundred persons.
He added that it was saddening and disheartening to see deaths numbering up to 50 as well as the alarming figure of about 100,000 refugees caused by these attacks on people who are in their homeland while also lamenting that, farmers in the area were also badly hit as their seedlings have been lost in the attacks.
These attacks come as a surprise, the lawmaker continued, considering that “the Tivs are a peace-loving people and patriotic Nigerians. It is therefore very disheartening to see that the herdsmen have rendered us homeless in our own land. I therefore totally condemn these attacks on my people”.
Urging a fast response to the situation, Udende called for increased security around the area, adding that the necessary authorities should swiftly deal with the situation and bring this mayhem to an immediate halt.
“As Nigerians, the Tiv people deserve protection from these attackers”, he said, adding,”Benue State has been in the center of news of the attack on Tiv people by herdsmen. This attack, which has engulfed the entire Benue State has created an alarming refugee situation as families have been displaced and forced to move out of their abodes to seek shelter in other places.
“Only a few weeks ago, the herdsmen unleashed havoc in Anyibe, Gbeleve, Kpoavule, Orbaki, Gidin Mangoro, Azege and other towns and villages of Tembu Ward in my constituency killing over fifty people. They have also destroyed crops like yams, Guinea corn, millet, groundnuts and other crops which is the main source of livelihood of the people.
“The herdsmen have destroyed the peoples’ seedlings thereby creating a precarious situation for the farmers during the next farming season. There is currently a wide scale looting of properties by the invaders. Indeed, the crisis has led to the massive destruction of property worth millions of naira while over 10,000 people have been displaced in the Sankera zone of the state”.
“This is the time to act and curb this recklessness before it escalates”, he said, while appealing to the people of Sankera to remain law-abiding and continue to support the government of Governor Gabriel Torwua Suswam while necessary efforts are being made both at the federal and state level to ensure that peace returns to Sankera.
“So far, the attackers have showed they are no respecter of persons, having also attacked Anyii, the country home of Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam and driving the governor’s kinsmen, extended family members, elders, women and children away from their ancestral homes and killing over 22 persons.
It was reported that from Anyii, Suswam’s ancestral home, to Ayilamo, a stretch of about 25 kilometers, all the inhabitants of the close to 29 villages had been sacked by the rampaging herdsmen who struck less than 24 hours before the governor’s visit.
In Katsina State, the case isn’t different. After a gruesome attack by suspected herdsmen, a member of the House of Representatives representing Faskari/Kankara/Sabuwa Federal Constituency of Katsina State, Hon. Abbas Abdullahi Machika lamented that many family members were still searching for the bodies of their loved ones who were killed by gunmen in an attack on his community.
Machika who spoke in a monitored interview with the BBC Hausa on Thursday, said it was misleading to put them off as herdsmen as they can now rightly be described as terrorists and as such, all security agencies must match action to their own action.
“As I speak to you we are still searching for dead bodies, and there are still dead bodies in the bush. The attackers are not thieves but just killers and this is what they are doing. They did not steal anything but killing people. They look like Fulani herdsmen and had killed 69 villagers and burnt scores of houses between Tuesday and Wednesday”.
“This morning we picked dead bodies in Faskari forest, again, this morning in Mararaban Maigoro, we buried 47 people. In Goran Mota we buried seven people and Ungwan Rimi we buried seven people. And in Maigora we buried eight people, like I told you we are still searching. They attacked our communities in the broad day light.”
“For over one year we are talking, people are saying it is about stealing and I am telling you it is not so but purely killings. It is almost the same thing that started in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, there is no response from the police authorities as they are busy with President Goodluck Jonathan’s state visit.”
Also in Southern Kaduna, Fulani herdsmen attacked several villages in Southern Kaduna killing at least 100 villagers in Moro’a Chiefdom in Kaura local government area of Kaduna.
Residents of Me-sankwai, Tekum and Ungwan Gatah villages all under the Moro’a Chiefdom were attacked by fulani attackers attackers in the wee hours with several men, women and children massacred, set on fire by the rampaging attackers.
… .As Catholic Bishops Ask Jonathan, Suswan To Stop Attacks
Three Catholic bishops from Benue State have raised the alarm over the alarming killings of locals in villages by suspected Fulani herdsmen while calling on President Goodluck Jonathan and governor of the state, Gabriel Suswan to urgently provide security in the state to prevent further attacks on the people.
The bishops who addressed the press on the killings in the dioceses led by the Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Most Rev. Williams Avenya who spoke on behalf of bishops of Gboko Diocese, Most Rev. Peter Adoboh, that of Otukpo, Most Rev. Micheal Apochi and Makurdi Diocese, Most Rev. Athanasius Usuh said that the present situation in the state deserved some urgent decisive action from President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Gabriel Suswam and chief security officers in the country.
“The Catholic Church and the government have over the years collaborated effectively in the areas of education, health, social services and the moral moulding of the citizenry. The present situation of insecurity and blatant destruction of lives and property on some parts of our state calls for prompt, effective and decisive action on the part of all. We hope that our collective efforts will help end this crisis.”
“What is most worrisome among other issues was the protracted conflict between the Fulani pastoralists and TiV, Idoma and Agatu farmers in some parts of Benue.”
Expressing concern over thousands of displaced persons and numerous lives that have been lost since the crisis began, the clergy appealed to the ” leadership of the Fulani community in Benue State to actively engage genuinely and openly in the course of dialogue to bring this situation to an end”.
Bishop Avenya stressed that the continuous killings have led to a shutdown on economic activities, deteriorated the health systems, disrupted education and religious activities and increased the rate of criminality in the areas.
Providing areas that could be explored by the government to bring an end to the constant clash between herdsmen and farmers in the state, he called on the federal government to urgently provide grazing reserves for the cattle rearers as a way of addressing the problem as done in developed countries.
“We can improve on the process of rearing cattle in our country as other countries have done. Is it not possible for us to provide feeding for cattle, keep them in ranches and reserves and improving on them rather than roaming the length and breath of our country as from antiquity?”