West & Central Africa

Nigeria ‘buys off’ Christians to ‘appease’ Boko Haram

Church leaders are protesting against plans by the Nigerian government to compulsorily purchase lands from predominantly Christian communities to settle Muslim Fulani herdsmen in order to tackle the threat posed by Boko Haram.

Christian leaders claim that Nigeria’s President Muhammed Buhari has failed to tackle Boko Haram and instead has come up with a ‘Grazing Reeserve Bill’ to acquire the lands of communities who have been devastated by Boko Haram, in order to settle Muslim herdsmen who have been associated with the terror group.

The Grazing Bill which states, that a Commission will take  ‘any land in respect of which it appears to the Commission that Grazing on such land should be practiced and… any land in respect of which it appears to the Commission that primary, secondary or tertiary routes be established,’ will be acquired by simply notifying the state. This gives the Commission the powers to ‘grab whatever land it chooses for the Fulani Herders,’ a community leader in Jos said.

Fulani Herdsmen arrested in January 2011 were made to lie face down and their weapons displayed by the military
Fulani Herdsmen arrested in January 2011 by the military

The Fulani is the tribe that prides itself for introducing Islam to Nigeria through Othman Dan Fodio in 1804. They are also members of the Miyetti Allah, an Islamic pressure group in Nigeria. Due to desertification and disease, they are forced to migrate seasonally from north to south in search of pasture. This migration has brought conflict with indigenous local famers whose farmlands are destroyed by the cattle. In these clashes, the herdsmen have destroyed many villages, killing women and children. Former Director of Defense Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, has acknowledged that Boko Haram has both trained and influenced Fulani Cattle herders to operate as cells as they migrate.

Christians claim that to stop the killings, President Buhari, rather than enforce the law and protect poor rural communities has decided to displace them instead by buying them off.

The Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) has rejected the bill in a memoranda sent to the national assembly saying, ‘It is wrong for Federal Government to seize a community land and give it to private businessmen who are cattle breeders as it favours one group at the expense of others.’

Ben Kwashi
Most Rev. B. A. Kwashi Archbishop of Jos Province

Governors of Nigeria’s Southern States have rejected the Bill while the Sokoto Caliphate and Northern Governors are supporting the government.

The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, the Most Rev Benjamin Kwashi said, ‘land is a heritage from God, when a people lose their land, they lose their heritage and soon they become extinct.’

The Benue State Governor, Ortom, said, ‘the land is no longer there, the land that used to be in the fifties. We are not saying that people should stop raising cattle or breeding them but we must do it in a civilised way.’

<box>Boko Haram is the popular name of Jamā‘at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, the Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad, and who have now added Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyyah, meaning the Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP. The Global Terrorism Index 2015 named Boko Haram the deadliest terror group in the world.