By Ngozi Ekhator
The umbrella body of cattle breeders in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), on Sunday said it lost 1,000 of its members and two million cows to local militia allegedly armed by Benue State Government.
Disclosing this in a press conference in Abuja, National Secretary of the Association, Baba Usman Ngeljarma, said the human losses included women, children and the aged.
“Only very recently we have lost over 1,000 people including children, women and the aged and over 2 million cattle to this gang. We are more disturbed today as this state government hides under the self created crises and blackmailing the Federal Government into releasing to them security operatives to achieve their illegal and wicked agenda on our people”, MACBAN said.
Full Text of the Press Conference by the National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) on Sunday, January 14, 2018
Members of the general public are already aware of the burning national security challenges with violent hostilities affecting pastoralist community in different parts of the country.
These very unfortunate crises have since degenerated into dangerously intolerable level of killings, maiming and unprecedented destruction of property. More worrisome is the fact that the pastoralist community which has been the main target of the offensive is also deliberately being pointed as the attackers at the same time. This horrible accusation in both intent and purpose is meant not only to smear the image of the herdsmen as a peace loving community, but to also allow further criminal justification to carry out total ethnic cleansing on our members, as witnessed in different parts of the country.
Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria as the premier pastoralist body in the country has remained in unimaginable pains on daily basis as we receive communication of gory details of attacks, maiming and destruction of our members across the country.
For the avoidance of doubt, we totally condemn violence, in whatever form anywhere in Nigeria and by whoever. It is important to note that the pastoralist share a long relationship with many communities in the country, as they carry out their legitimate occupation of nomadism/pastoralism; carrying along their lives, families and possessions making it impossible to foment trouble.
Our disposition as the immediate neighbours to almost all Nigerians does not only make us vulnerable but also susceptible to baseless accusations by promoters of violence, despite us being the worst victims.
We are however not denying the fact that, as any other community in the country, we are also battling with misguided and criminally motivated elements who indulge in social vices and criminal activities. However, these few miscreants do not represent the mainstream of herdsmen.
In fact our case is worsen by long years of exclusion suffered by the Fulani herdsmen as the most neglected community in the country, thereby depriving us of so many things.
The current situation in our opinion is fuelled by the draconian laws put in place by some state governments with the singular aim of chasing our people out of the states simply for ethnic hatred. The anti-open-grazing law in Benue, Taraba and other states is nothing more than a symbol of intolerance and do not in any way intend to solve the farmers/grazers conflict as the livestock breeders interest is neither captured in the law nor in its implementation mechanism.
While as a body we are not against any law that can engender peace, create societal harmony and stability, we cannot oblige any self-centred regulation with primordial sentiments based on injustice, intolerance and infringement of people’s fundamental rights. It is no longer hidden that to achieve these, some State Governments are sponsoring ethnic militia against our people, recruiting and arming locals to kill our people and rustle their livestock as seen recently in Benue and Taraba States.
Two days ago, the media was a washed with the story of Tiv militia gang arrested in Taraba State by the Army who confessed that over 1,000 of them were recruited and dangerously armed by the Benue State Government to kill the Fulani herdsmen. No doubt the activities of these criminal gangs are putting our people in unbearable pains as they operate with the greatest impunity under the protection of the State Government.
Only very recently we have lost over 1,000 people including children, women and the aged and over 2 million cattle to this gang. We are more disturbed today as this state government hides under the self created crises and blackmailing the Federal Government into releasing to them security operatives to achieve their illegal and wicked agenda on our people.
The trend of attacks on our defenceless members by ethnic militias oiled by a deliberate profiling through coordinated media campaigns against our members, to say the least, is the worst crime against humanity.
What started as communal clashes has since metamorphosed into a coordinated operation to exterminate our people. From the killings in Plateau State, to southern Kaduna to Benue, Taraba and Adamawa among others the story is only worsening by the day.
Let me refresh your mind on the unprovoked attack on the Fulani communities on the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State. The attack, which took place around June last year on the sedentary pastoralist Fulani families who have practiced the much deceitfully advocated ranching for decades left about 700 people killed, over 20,000 cattle rustled or killed with over 300 communities burnt down. In Lau, 24 Fulanis were also killed. In Numan, Adamawa State, about 82 of our women and children were slaughtered in cold blood by Bachama militias. In Kajuru, Kaduna State, 96 were killed.
All these were committed in a span of 7 months, beginning in June 2017 to January, 2018. All the killings were done by ethnic groups who see themselves as indigenes and the Fulanis as marauders, even where the latter have been settled for nearly a hundred years. However, up till today nobody is arrested even when the perpetrators are well known to the victims. The pastoralists have been abandoned, unfortunately, to their predators.
In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, our story is a very sad and painful one. While we have suffered decades of neglect by the government with attendant consequences, the current national gang up against the herdsmen is not only endangering our survival as a people but also justifying action against us, no matter how crude and inhuman it is.
After reviewing the current challenges as they affect our members we are of the humble opinion that following steps can go a long way not only in dousing tension in the country but will also go a long way in reducing the perennial conflict to the barest minimum.
1. We confirm the position of His Royal Highness the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that in spite of the fact that 732 of our people were killed in Mambila and 82 women and children killed in Numan and nobody was arrested. We hereby demand for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes without further.
2. We further state that the refutal of the Emir’s position by the Taraba State Governor is merely a continuation of his desperate act of hiding the state government’s involvement and protection of the perpetrators of these acts.
3. Pay compensation to the victims of all crises to reduce their level of suffering.
4. The Federal Government should create a Federal Ministry of Livestock Development to attend to the multidimensional needs of the industry as is obtained in many countries and the enactment of a national law to carter for the peculiar needs of pastoralists in particular and the livestock subsector in general since the mischievous anti open grazing laws promulgated by some states have woefully failed to address the contentious issues.
5. We call for a federal judicial commission of inquiry into all these killings so as to unravel the truth and the offenders.
6. We wish to register our appreciation to all those who have refused to be blinded by sentiment and are standing on the path of truth and justice especially the governors of Bayelsa, Plateau, Kogi and Nasarawa states, in the face of these complicated circumstances.
7. We disassociate ourselves from any other group or individual that is out to foment trouble in the country.
8. We also welcome the Federal Government’s current resolve to address the lingering crises and submit ourselves for any positive participation to restore mutual and harmonious relationship in the country.
9. We demand for immediate disarmament of all illegally armed militias across the country in the interest of peace, security and stability. Finally, we condemn in totality any attempt of branding herdsmen as terrorists as is being clamoured from certain quarters. We view this as the continuation of the hate agenda on our people and a very dangerous trend for the country.
*Baba Usman Ngeljarma
National Secretary MACBAN