Monday, 15 January 2018

Still on Murderous Fulani Kidnappers

“Terrorists Now Disguise as Fulani Herdsmen” – President Goodluck Jonathan June 2014
The above quote was the news headline after a speech by former President Goodluck Jonathan at an
international conference on Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna in June 2014 before they became major kidnap kingpins. 

I must admit that I would ordinarily avoid discussing this and other bewildering developments, especially in Northern Nigeria. I won’t delve into the appointment of a retired operative of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar, from Katsina who is now the Director General of the foreign intelligence apparatus when a retired Director Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, also from Katsina, is currently the boss of the internal intelligence agency.

Why should I even talk of the odd appointments of ghost political office holders when some time ago, a widow and a chartered accountant from Borno State, Mrs. Maryam Danna Mohammed, was unlawfully and arbitrarily removed from her position as General Manager Audit of NDPHC without any justification. The media, including the Foreign Hausa Service radio stations, which we learnt President Muhammadu Buhari listens to, expressed their misgivings over the plight of the innocent woman who was victimised for being a whistle-blower in the organisation. Not even a memo from Justice Minister Abubakar Malami recommending her reinstatement and campaigns by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were enough to assuage the high and mighty on all the entreaties on the plight of the incorruptible woman.

I will also deliberately avoid discussing the mass burial we have witnessed in Northern Nigeria when the country is not in a state of war. From the massacres in Zaria of Shiite members to the families of farmers in Benue, families of herdsmen in Taraba and the Plateau genocide, among others.

It is therefore wrong for anyone to claim that some of the incidents are motivated by religion, ethnicity, tribalism and elitism when we are living witnesses to the fact that Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser are both Muslims and Northerners, who have been in detention for more than two years against all conventional laws and court orders.

Back to the issue of the Fulani kidnappers. In the last one year, at least the police spokesperson, Moshood Jimoh, has pushed out several press releases on the arrests of “vicious, murderous, deadly, dangerous kidnappers” where he provided the names and pictures of the suspects. The spokesperson was even magnanimous in allowing journalists to interrogate the suspected kidnappers. Apart from the lists mostly bearing Northern names, I won’t say Islamic, as they were mostly Fulani men from their own confessions and accents, the arrested Fulani criminals in their chilling and graphic confessions admitted to raping, killing and even drinking the blood of some of their victims, sometimes after collecting the ransoms.

My concern as a Northern Muslim is how come Fulani people have now taken over the job of kidnapping, which prior to the arrival of President Buhari’s administration was common with militants in the Niger Delta and occasionally armed robbers in the South-east and South-west? What influenced the Fulanis to take up this kidnapping profession? What happened to their business of animal husbandry/pastoral farming? What motivates them into killing some of their victims after collecting ransom? Where did they acquire the intimidating skills of handling sophisticated weapons? How do they get the supply of weapons? What intoxicates them into raping their victims, including pregnant women? How can all these be addressed by the people and the government?

The answers to some of the questions above can be found at the event addressed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in Kaduna in June 2014.  The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) under Dasuki (Dasukigate?), funded and organised the International Conference on Security and Development Challenges of Pastoralism in West and Central Africa, with the theme, ‘The Role of Pastoralists in Preventing Insurgency and Conflicts for Sustainable Development.’ The conference which was attended by Fulani herdsmen and policymakers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, identified the key challenges facing herdsmen and other stakeholders, and their consequences on national security. It also encouraged synergy among stakeholders to tackle the menace of terrorism, insurgency, cattle rustling, communal clashes and other threats to national security.

 As the special guest of honour at the conference, Jonathan had said terrorists and criminal elements masquerade as Fulani herdsmen in order to inflict maximum damage on the peace, stability and security of the country. Represented by his deputy Namadi Sambo, Jonathan argued that insurgents were hiding under the umbrella of herdsmen to exploit the conflict between pastoralists and farmers in Nigeria to propagate their activities.

Also speaking at the event, Dasuki as the NSA, urged governments at all levels, traditional rulers, the mass media and other relevant institutions to work together in finding solutions to violence, saying: “Peaceful coexistence requires compromises.” 

In his remarks, the then Speaker of the House of Representative, Aminu Tambuwal, commended the ONSA for organising the conference and urged stakeholders to collectively find solutions to the crises, which if not properly handled, could degenerate into a very serious security situation in the country.

The then Agriculture Minister, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said Fulani herdsmen were facing a lot of pressure with the increase in population and desertification, adding that the increase in criminality had made livestock production a risky business. He called for regional solutions to the menace of rustling because most of the cattle raiders have an affinity with others in neighbouring countries that often ignore international boundaries.

A leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Ahmadu Suleiman warned that the frequency of livestock theft was increasing. He claimed that thieves attack herders with weapons and often inflict heavy casualties on herders’ camps.

Recommendations from the conference, which was well attended by traditional rulers, service chiefs, political leaders and the diplomatic community, were forwarded to the federal and state governments for action. One of the major recommendations was the need for the security agencies to be proactive in recognising and addressing the security challenges involving Fulani herdsmen and farmers to avoid the manipulation and hijack of the situation by violent actors which could further exacerbate and worsen the conflicts. The implementation of that report could go a long way in addressing some of the challenges Nigeria faces now.

• Shuaib, a public relations specialist, writes from Abuja


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