By Denrele Animasaun
In 2014, more than 1,200 people lost their lives, according to the most recent, Global Terrorism Index. This makes the Fulani herdsmen militia, the world’s fourth deadliest militant group, the report said.
In February, they massacred over 300 people in central Benue State and in March in Enugu State, more than 40 people were killed, countless properties and thousands flee their homes and are currently displaced. Properties and businesses were destroyed and thousands of people forced to flee their homes. There is a huge human and economic cost here; the conflict has stalled trade, investment and normal life. This will be felt adversely by the locals and Nigeria in general. This conflict has cost Nigeria more than $14bn in the last three years, according to the UK-based Humanitarian organization, Mercy Corps.
Of course, there are some people who have an ulterior agenda and they benefit from the prolong conflict and they pit one group against the other. We cannot afford the problem for what it is; it affects us all. Common sense is needed here and the Nigerian authorities have got to improve the integrity of our borders, protect people and property. I understand that some are quick to proclaim hail and brimstone, but it is all rhetoric and no action. What is needed is a plan that protects people and properties, engineer a workable solution that includes genuine herdsmen’s need to graze but an understanding of consequences should the agreement be ignored or flaunted.
This is a crisis that is not going to go away unless we go to the heart of the problem. Time to separate the wheat from the chaff; who are these murderous herdsmen and what really is their agenda and are they Nigerians, does Nigeria have an agreement or special dispensation for nomadic tribes who are stateless and has it been followed to the letter, if not, why not, what are the neighbouring countries’ policies on Fulani grazing right or right to roam? If one exists, Nigeria does not have to reinvent the wheel.
Let us not forget: the real Fulani herdsmen play an essential and crucial role in Nigeria’s economy, in particular, cattle, leather and the meat business. The arrangement may not have been formalised, but they have co-existed in every state in Nigeria and they have their own community who have settled and are part of the bigger community.
There is a lot of theories and the finger of blame pointing at all Fulani and Hausa for these atrocities and that itself, is problematic. It is unfair.
We run the risk of throwing the baby out with the proverbial bath water. People are quick to whip up violence and retaliation is people who would stand back when it all blows out of proportion. The lives lost are very tragic and unacceptable.
There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” – Martin Luther King Jr.