By Emmanuel Onwubiko
There is now a commonality of opinion that the rate of violent attacks of farmers all across Nigeria by armed Fulani herdsmen skyrocketed since the emergence of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari who by birth is a Fulani.
Conversely, since he assumed office last May, president Buhari has yet to articulate a workable public policy framework on how best to effectively combat the rise in armed Fulani attacks/insurgency.
It is then correct to affirm that at the macro level there is total absence of a coherent public policy to deal decisively with the grave phenomenon of armed Fulani terrorism.
There seems to be a deliberate dereliction of duty by virtually the entire top commanders of the security forces and police which has created the motivation for the sponsors and masterminds of the rampaging armed Fulani terrorists.
At the micro level, it looks like only the Ekiti state government has successfully enacted and enforced a law to check the excesses of armed Fulani herdsmen just as all other states have experimented a distorted form of policy of appeasement which to a large extent has not worked because any society that appeases violent elements will live to regret such miscalculations.
Government exists all around the civilised World to enforce law and order and to bring the fullest weight of the law to bear on law breakers and not to appease offenders.
Benue is one such state that experimented with appeasement even after armed Fulani herdsmen invaded and destroyed most local communities and killed thousands of villagers.
In Kaduna state, the controversial governor who is fulani by Ethnic origin Mallam Nassir ElRuffai stepped up his government’s appeasement policy by reportedly offering payments in exchange for a ceasefire deal that collapsed as soon as the ink in which the cheques were signed dried up.
Armed Fulani herdsmens are directly responsible for hundreds of murders in the Christian dominated southern Kaduna state.
Then on the Benue appeasement’s scenario which resulted in the alleged donation of substantial grazing land near the destroyed communities in the Idoma Speaking areas of the state to the Fulani herdsmen by the state administration, it’s a classical case of organised confusion.
This poorly articulated policy of appeasement did not work because soon after the so -called agreement was reached, other armed Fulani attacks have happened which has so much annoyed the Benue state governor that he has to give a notice to the Fulani herdsmen to quite Benue within a specified time line.
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, directed security agents to ensure the exit of Fulani herdsmen from Buruku and Gboko Local Government Areas as a result of recent security breaches.
The directive which fell on deaf ears came as the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the immediate disarmament of armed and strange herdsmen in Buruku and other parts of Benue State and throughout the country.
Ortom also requested them to arrest those of them responsible for killings in the areas.
He the governor received reports after an on-the-spot security and humanitarian assessment tour of Logo and communities in Mbalagh part of Buruku Local Government Area that the invaders had killed six people in Igyorov council ward of Gboko.
Ortom said the communities in the affected areas told him they had no grazing land.
The governor gave the directives to the Commanding Officer of the 72 Special Forces Battalion, Colonel Nura Muhammad Inuwa, and the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Bashir Makama, after on-the-spot visits to trouble spots in Logo and Buruku Local Government Areas.
He lamented what he described as the cold blooded murder of residents in parts of Buruku and Gboko Local Government Areas saying it was clear that farming and grazing were incompatible.
Ortom said after hearing statements from both sides, it was clear that casualties came only from the side of the invaded communities.
The governor urged the security agencies to live up to their responsibilities of securing lives and property in the state and arresting those responsible for the killings.
According to him, the security agencies have assured him that the invaders would be flushed out and the displaced would return to their ancestral homes.
But contrary to the assurances to flush out the armed Fulani herdsmen, the police commissioner has reportedly called the bluff of the governor in a media statement telling the Benue state governor that he lacks the power to expel armed Fulani herdsmen.
This failure of the Benue state governor to sufficiently exercise the constitutional power of the chief security officer of the State is a manifestation of the abysmal failure of the distorted form of federalism practiced in Nigeria whereby states lack policing institutions peculiar and uniquely formed by the people to work for the people.
Nigeria operates a dysfunctional federal policing system whereby a particular section of the Country dominates the commanding hierarchy to the exclusion of some others just as police commissioners who aren’t conversant with their states of posting are simply posted by the Inspector General of Police who apparently is not completely knowledgeable about the crime maps of all component parts of the country.
In southern Kaduna state, the inspector general of police Idris Kpodum has been busy engaging the victimized communities in meaningless arguments on the accuracy and veracity of the number of casualties from the armed Fulani attacks as if he is the police boss picked to speak for the armed attackers. Why should it be the business of the police chief of Nigeria to debate with victims of crime on the extent of the damage inflicted on them by the fleeing criminals? Is the business of police chief of the federation not to chase criminals and bring them to decisive justice?
In our increasingly failed federation, both the police and soldiers have yet to arrest the armed Fulani attackers but the commanding officers are engaged in destructive propaganda.
Whilst the armed security forces while away their time engaging in fruitless propaganda the armed fulani terrorists keep expanding the teach and extents of their murderous attacks to far and near. Few hours ago, in oyo state there is this news report of the killing of one person by armed Fulani herdsmen.
In delta state, a state house of assembly member representing Ethiopia east raised the alarm over fears that an unidentified helicopter was always landing inside the Ovre-Abraka desert of the state where thousands of herdsmen and their cattle reside.
He described the desert area across Ovre-Abraka as a time-bomb waiting to explode owing to the activities of herdsmen in the area.
“if you go there, there are more than 5,000 cattle with more than 2,000 herdsmen dwelling there. They carry all kinds of weapons and many unwholesome activities are going on there”
The legislator continued thus: “in that place, a helicopter is always landing from time to time and we do not know what is going on there. The government needs to look into the issue critically because we fear that one of these days, the herdsmen may decide to cross river and invade the community”.
This story of mysterious helicopter dropping supplies to Fulani deep inside the forest or desert had previously surfaced in southern Kaduna state and even foreign press celebrated this story. Why is Delta state governor not making effort to buy drones to patrol his state and monitor movements of persons deep inside the bushes or are those bushes not pary of the State? Kaduna is an interesting scenario because the governor is accused of being a party in the dispute that created the atmosphere for the Southern Kaduna genocide. He is known to have stated that for one Fulani person killed by others the Fulani will revenge maximally no matter how long it takes for the disproportionate retaliatory killings to happen.
So when a foreign online newspaper known as modern Ghana reported that fulani herdsmen receive reinforcements of weapons through an helicopter it wasn’t a shock to most observers.
The paper reported that: “prior to this, killings in southern Kaduna have been on since 2014 but worsen in August 2016. In November 2016, scores of people were killed in Godogodo and Ninte villages when the same suspected herdsmen invaded the villages, the bandits also razed down houses and farmlands up till now the villages still remain a ghost town as the natives are yet to return for fears of fresh attacks”
Reverend father Ibrahim Yakubu, vicar general of the catholic diocese of kafanchan, southern Kaduna state told journalist that 53 villages have so far been attacked
Isuwa Dogo, Former Chairman of southern Kaduna people union who traced recent killing to have started in 2014, added that: “the jihadists now plan total annihilation of the locals which he prayed will not happened. He told channels television on Friday January 6, 2017 that the killers are hiding in the bush and that helicopter was being used to drop arms and ammunitions to them in the night by their sponsors who could be government officials”.
This writer confronted the army spokesman brigadier General Sani Kukesheka Usman on the strong allegations of the use of helicopters to drop military supplies to Fulani herdsmen but he denied them.
But what troubles most people is that president Buhari does not seem to have a clearly articulated public policy on how to tackle the threats to national security by armed Fulani herdsmen.
His interior affairs Minister lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazau(rtd) is as confused as the incoherent public policy.
This retired Chieg of Army staff acvused of filling up all the top interior security jobs in the ministry of internal Affairs with persons from his Ethno-religious backgrounds further compounded the fears of observers when he dismissed these serial violence by armed Fulani terrorists as mere law and order issue.
At other times, minsters such as that of agriculture has been quoted to give out contradictory policy blueprints on how this government is resolving this emerging grave threats posed by armed Fulani herdsmen.
Mr. Audu Ogbe is known at a time to have stated that establishment of ranches for cattle is been explored but at another forum he was quoted to have said government was demarcating grazing lands in some states.
Constitutionally, grazing areas is not workable because land right and issuance of land licences reside with the states in line with the land use Act of 1978.
Then coming to the issue of establishing ranches, observers wonder how government intends to deploy public fund to set up ranches for private owners of cattle’s whereas such entrepreneurial groups like traders have never been considered for funding support from government.
Such a policy of using public fund to set up ranches for Fulani herdsmen breaches the constitutional provision against discrimination (see section 42(1)).
However, the establishment of ranches by private owners of cows is the current global best practice. The United States ambassador to Nigeria has just been quoted in the media for canvassing this line of thought.
The danger in nigeria’s continuous experimentation with a grossly unclear policy goal in the area of checking the incessant invasions of farmlands by armed Fulani herdsman was stated in a classical book by R.K SAPRU titled: “Public Policy: Formulation, Implementation and Evaluation.”
The author said: “ if policy goal are unclear or are not specified in any measurable form, to determine the extent to which they have been achieved becomes a complex and cumbersome task. Officials such as legislators and administrators who are in different positions in the policy system may be uncertain about the accomplishment of the programme”.
“even when the goals are clear… Specifying such goals and putting them into effect would require further political action within the organization. The specification of goals may also lead to the division of responsibilities”.
Let President Muhammadu Buhari be compelled to end the regime of punlic policy incoherence as it relates to effectively stopping the hydraheaded monster of armed herdsmen insurgency and to bring perpetrators to face the full weight of the Nigerian laws against terrorism and mass murders. Nigerians please say no to any public policy that preaches APPEASEMENT OF TERRORISTS.
Enough is enough!
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and firstname.lastname@example.org; www.emmanuelonwubiko.com
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko – Human Rights Activist, Social Media Expert, Writer