The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) the leading body of Christians in Nigeria, has decried the federal government’s refusal to end “the continuous inhuman and wicked activities of the Fulani Herdsmen all over the Federation who are going from community to community killing innocent farmers with impunity.”
The Islamist Fulani, who have deliberately and strategically targeted the predominantly Christian communities and villages in the middle belt region of the country “have killed more people than the Boko Haram sect and almost displaced more people than them.”said the Rev Samson Supo Ayokunle, president of CAN.
He said that Christians were “now reaching a breaking point in our patience and toleration of this wicked impunity before degenerating to a civil war.”
The CAN president observed that the government had taken the fight to Boko Haram but had not shown any willingness to tackle the Fulani herdsmen. “This to us is a betrayal of the confidence reposed in this government by Nigerians when they voted them into power,” he said.
Taking the Nigerian government to task, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, in said, “No-one has ever been held to account for the many murders committed during these clashes. The pattern of attacks and reprisals is reaching a boiling point because of the failure of authorities to carry out investigations and end the rampant impunity for previous crimes. It is not enough for government to make pronouncements or issue condemnations, it is vital that those responsible are punished.”
Coming out of an emergency meeting on Tuesday 9 January, in Jos, the Coalition of Middle Belt Interest Groups (COMBIG) sent out a communiqué condemning “these continuous barbaric killings and destruction of properties in Plateau, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Adamawa and other parts of the country.”
The group said it “observed seeming complicity, insensitivity and abdication of responsibility by the President and Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Government (FG) and other security agencies in the face of unwarranted and rising spates of killings and arson on innocent and armless citizens of Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen.”
The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, contrasted the example of other countries with similar desert regions that have adopted rahcning in their meat supply by enclosing cattle rather than grazing freely. The Bishop pointed to Israel which is able to cater for itself, all its pilgrims and able to export.
In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, dated January 5, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, Nigeria’s former ambassador to Canada, said the Fulani are on an agenda to “ethnic cleanse the Tiv, (people in Benue state, central Nigeria) then nobody can stand in their way to possess the land and carve a new geo-polity and demography for the middle-belt.” The former ambassador said President Buhari has “allowed the genocide in the Middle Belt to go on unimpeded you have betrayed your campaign promise to Nigerians that your government ‘‘will always act in time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester’’.
In allowing the Benue genocide to take place your government has acted irresponsibly and has allowed problems to fester and failed to act on time. You have also failed to lead from the front; giving the impression that centrifugal forces around you are dictating vicious anti-people agenda!”
Responding to the allegations of killings by various communities in the middle belt and specifically the Benue killings on New Year’s Day, the National Secretary of Miyetti-Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, said the “Anti-grazing laws are nothing but populist agenda designed by visionless and desperate politicians to destroy our means of livelihood.
The Islamic cattle herders political pressure group said, “These laws are oppressive and negative and are fundamentally against our culture as Fulani pastoralists, against our economic interest and against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.
Image credits: CC/Google images/protests/scenes of bomb blasts