September 5, 2023

Herdsmen: 60,000 dead and counting!

Nasarawa attack

NIGERIA is about the only country in the world where livestock herding and nomadism have been so mismanaged that it has boiled over, with the herders picking up arms against farmers with virtually no response by the law enforcement agencies.

Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ben Kalu, disclosed that over 60,000 people had been killed in the 22 years since the herdsmen attacks began in 2001. He spoke during a “stakeholders’ interactive session organised by the House ad-hoc Committee on recurring “clashes” in Gombe State and Abuja, usually with the armed herdsmen targeting farmers, their farm produce and communities for destruction.

The herdsmen menace is felt all over the country. It peaked during the Muhammadu Buhari regime with armed herdsmen militias ravaging virtually every state in the country. They were able to gather such a nihilist force because the Buhari administration was seen in several quarters as aiding and abetting their genocidal campaigns by targeting individuals and indigenous communities that tried to defend themselves.

The killings by the armed herdsmen concentrated mainly around Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Enugu, Ebonyi, Ondo, Edo, Oyo and other states. 

Buhari refused to designate them as terrorists, despite their being categorised as being among the most murderous terrorist organisations since 2016. 

Over the centuries, the herdsmen who used to be peaceful became violent because the grazing routes that their host communities allowed them to use to move their cattle around were taken over for the use of the exploding human population for farming and housing.

The nomadic herdsmen were not settled in ranches, thus unwittingly weaponising them against their host communities. Buhari regime’s inability to fairly deal with the situation was perceived as a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and in the event allowing jobless and criminal herdsmen to emasculate unarmed and law-abiding citizens. 

We see the House of Representatives’ tepid initiative as a waste of time. They can only bark without biting. The ball is squarely in the court of President Bola Tinubu. He has a choice to make between continuing to cuddle this terrorism and stamping it out.

We believe this problem is soluble. All foreign herders must be expelled while the local ones are resettled in their states of origin or where they are able to acquire lands for ranches.

These killings must be stopped.