The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Gabriel Olonisakin on Wednesday warned that the military will not tolerate deadly attacks by any armed group on any community in the country, just as leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders said herdsmen who carried out attacks were on self defence.
Olonisakin gave the warning at the Defence Headquarters(DHQ) when a three-man delegation of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders led by Senator Kabiru Alikali Jajer met with top military officers in a closeddoor meeting over the festering herdsmen and farmers crisis. The meeting on Wednesday came two days after President Muhammadu Buhari ordered security agencies in the country to deal decisively and expeditiously with armed Fulani herdsmen attacking communities across the country.
Buhari’s order, which he gave Monday night during a meeting with Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), was against the backdrop of reports of continued attacks and wreaking of havoc on communities across the country by armed herdsmen. The most recent attacks by the herdsmen were recorded in Agatu in Benue State, and Ukpabi Nimbo in Enugu State where scores of villagers fell to their superior fire power. At the meeting with the Miyetti Allah delegation on Wednesday, General Olonisakin who spoke through the Chief of Administration DHQ, Major General Fatai Ali said the military was already acting upon the directive of the President to clamp down on rampaging herdsmen and bring any violent armed group to book for killing citizens.
He, however, assured that the military was conducting its exercises in accordance with international best practices and rules of engagement. He, therefore, advised the groups to sheath their swords otherwise the military will deal decisively with them. The leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders, Senator Kabiru Alikali Jajer, had in his remarks said that the herdsmen’s reaction were in self defence, arguing that “if you have been squeezed and pushed to the wall, you have to fight back.” He attributed the crises involving Fulani herdsmen and farmers to several factors among which is the dry season and the fact that the Fulani herdsmen are seeking grazing areas for their cattle.
According to Kabiru, the Boko Haram insurgency has also contributed to the displacement of Fulani herdsmen in the entire North East zone. He said that no fewer than three million cows belonging to Fulani in Yobe state and 2.3 million cows in Borno State have been stolen. Senator Kabiru also noted that in the past the herdsmen and their cattle had use of about 400 forest reserves which regrettably have ‘disappeared’ due to increase in population, thus leaving the herdsmen with no other means of survival than to migrate to preserve their culture and way of life. Senator Kabiru said that the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders was disturbed about the ugly incidents of killings in the Middle Belt and South East zones. According to him, apart from the crisis, Fulani herdsmen are also daily being kidnapped and made to pay ransoms.
He appealed to the government to holistically address the issues. The Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar told journalists after the meeting that Senator Kabiru was being emotional and that the military will fish out the armed bandits. Meanwhile, Senators from Northern Nigeria on Wednesday warned against provocative statements that could inflame tempers in the country in the light of the killings by herdsmen in Nimbo, Enugu State. They also said that the categorization of all herdsmen as Fulani is wrong and should be stopped. The Senators under the aegis of Northern Senators Forum, said that they “note and appreciate the steps that the Federal Government has taken so far to contain the problems of herdsmen/ farmers clashes.”
They specifically asked community leaders (including governors) “to be careful when making statements on these ugly incidences.” Chairman of the Forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu who read the communiqué of the lawmakers said that they “resolved to continue their complete support for President Muhammadu Buhari in order to bring about even development to all sections of the country.” Adamu said that members of the Forum further resolved to work assiduously to enact laws and amend existing ones when and where necessary in order to promote the interest of Northern Nigeria in particular and Nigeria in general. He added that they noted specially the steps taken by the government to wipe out incidences of insurgency and are hopeful that in no distant time, “we shall say bye-bye to the problem of insurgency.”
On inflammatory statements, he said that some groups in the South East have said that the Fulani should leave their part of the country, “if people from the North say the same thing of people from the south East, we wonder where it will lead the country.” On tagging herdsmen as Fulani, Adamu said, “We have tried to kill the idea that every herdsman is Fulani. I am a farmer but I am not Fulani by birth. It is very very wrong to say that everybody you find with a cow is Fulani.” Adamu noted that when Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped the news went round that the kidnappers were Fulani.
He said that when those responsible for kidnapping the elder statesman were eventually arrested, it was discovered that they were not Fulani. Adamu noted that when he travelled to the western part of the country, he saw a lot of Yoruba cattle rearers, insisting that cattle rearing is no longer the exclusive preserve of the Fulani.