All You Need to Know About the Fulani Herdsmen Crises in Nigeria
Did you know?
According to This Day Newspapers, between 2017 and May 2, 2020, Fulani herdsmen conducted 654 attacks, killed 2,539 and kidnapped 253 people in Nigeria.
The Violence between Nigerian herders and farmers has been a point of national security since 2017. The conflict has evolved from spontaneous reactions to provocations and now to deadlier planned attacks, particularly in Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Taraba states.
However, in recent times, this virus has erupted into the Southern Parts of the Country, affecting Ondo and Oyo States in particular. These Herders lead their cattle to people’s farm to graze, destroying crops. And when they face any form of resistance, they go ahead not just to fight but murder these farm owners. There’s the question of what gave them the audacity to openly graze on other people’s farms, but there’s even a more pertinent question: How come local Fulani herders have guns and are allowed to move with it freely? They soon suddenly moved on from killing farmers to the abduction of persons travelling on the highways and demanding huge ransoms from their families.
The Global Terrorist Index 2019 published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, indicates that the primary driver of the increase in terrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa was a rise in terrorist activity in Nigeria attributed to Fulani extremists: In 2018, Fulani extremists were responsible for the majority of terror-related deaths in Nigeria (1,158 fatalities), with an increase by 261 and 308 per cent respectively from the prior year.”
Why does it matter? This conflict has become Nigeria’s gravest security challenge, now claiming far more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency. It has displaced hundreds of thousands and sharpened ethnic, regional and religious polarisation. It threatens to become even deadlier since the Federal Government has decided to fold its arms and watch and could affect forthcoming elections and undermine national stability.
Of all the states in the South West, Ondo State has had a lasting battle with this menace. Olufunke Olakurin, the daughter of the Afenifere chieftain, Reuben Fasoranti, was also shot and killed while on her way to Lagos by suspected herdsmen along Ore road in Ondo State. The Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, was abducted by armed herders on his farm in Akure. Despite efforts by police to free him, the chieftain still paid N5 million ransom.
Sometimes last week, the Governor of Ondo State Rotimi Akeredolu had had about just enough. He via a statement ordered all herders to vacate all forest reserves within seven days and asked that those who wanted to continue to graze should register with the appropriate authorities. He equally banned Night grazing and movement of cattle within cities and highways.
Oyo State has however been the focal point of the news as regards the reckless killings of by these herdsmen. The Ibarapa Community of the State had been the boiling point. These herdsmen entered people’s homes and murdered them at will. Those who were lucky were abducted and millions of Naira demanded from their families as ransom. Though the Governor of the State Seyi Makinde had adequately equipped Amotekun (a South Western Vigilante Unit), they still were not able to stop these acts. However, things changed on January 15th 2021.
Before the said date, Sunday Igboho had not been a popular entity in the South West. Nonetheless, January 15 was the day he, a grassroots mobiliser and his supporters stormed the Fulani Community in Igangan, Ibarapa Local Council of Oyo State to issue a seven-day quit notice to Fulani herdsmen to vacate Igangan community, Oyo State, and all other Yoruba communities or be forced to do so. He confronted the Sarkin Fulani, Saliu Kadri, and issued the polity-shaking ultimatum.
As expected, the ultimatum raised dust in the polity. It pitted Sunday Igboho against Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, who asked the police to arrest the warrior. It also divided the polity with pro and anti-Igboho’s ultimatum supporters baring their fangs.
As he threatened, Ighoho, on Friday, January 22, 2021, when the ultimatum expired, mobilised a huge number of his supporters and marched to the Fulani, and drove them out of their abodes in Igangan. The freedom fighter was received with ululation by hundreds of youths, who sang and danced when he marched into Igangan. After carrying out his threat, an angry Ighoho, while addressing the people, vowed that Fulani herdsmen would be chased away from the town and the entire Yorubaland for inciting insecurity and banditry.
For now, the land is boiling and requires calm. We’re on the brink of a tribal war. The Government at the centre needs to act. Here are steps the government can and should take according to the International Crisis Group:
Bolster security for farmers, forests and smaller communities.
The federal government should deploy more police in affected areas; ensure they are better equipped; improve local ties to gather better intelligence, and respond speedily to early warnings and distress calls. Besides, it should begin to disarm armed groups, including ethnic militias and vigilantes in the affected states, and closely watch land borders to curb the inflow of firearms.
The federal government also should order the investigation of all recent major incidents of farmer-herder violence. It may need to expedite the trials of individuals or organisations found to have participated, sponsored or been complicit in violence.
Elaborate The New National Livestock Transformation Plan and Commence Implementation
The federal government should publicise details of its National Livestock Transformation Plan, encourage buy-in by herders and state governments, and move quickly to put the plan into effect in consenting states.
Freeze Enforcement of and Reform State Anti-Grazing Legislation
The Benue state government should freeze enforcement of its law banning open grazing, as Taraba state has already done, and amend objectionable provisions therein. It should also help herders become ranchers, including by developing pilot or demonstration ranches, and conducting education programs for herders uneasy about making the transition.
For their part, herder leaders, many of whom recognise that pastoralists will have to move, even if gradually, toward ranching, should exercise restraint. They should challenge legislation they dislike in court; urge members, in the meantime, to abide by laws and court decisions; and encourage herders to take opportunities to move from open grazing to ranching. All communal leaders – religious, regional and ethnic – should denounce violence unequivocally and step up support for local dialogue.
Nigeria’s international partners should nudge President Buhari to act more swiftly to end the killings. Human rights groups should speak out more loudly against atrocities. Aid organizations should devote resources to internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the states affected with special attention to women and children, who constitute the majority of the displaced. International development agencies should work with Nigerian authorities to offer technical support for livestock sector reform.