Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Herdsmen’s Atrocities In Benue And House of Representatives Intervention

The atrocities perpetrated against the people of Benue state since 2011 by the Fulani herdsmen, took preeminence last week as the House of Representatives Committee investigating it with the hope of ending the crisis and settle the people of Benue.

The committee chaired by Hon. Haliru Jika, had last Wednesday invited the suspects, victims, alongside all interest groups and relevant security agencies to testify, and the natives of Benue state, who are mostly affected by this attacks, were present but almost all key government and security agencies, as well as the herdsmen refused to appear.

At the sitting, the people of Tiv nation in Benue state, under the aegis of Mdzough U Tiv, MUT, captured the atrocities in a proper perspective in a 38-pages report with photographs of slain natives, presented to the committee. It was a shocking revelation to know that between 2014 and 2016 alone, over 984 Tiv people have been killed by Fulani herdsmen.

In a report co-signed by the President General of the MUT, Edward Ujege and Secretary General, Azer Ukende, presented at the hearing, Ujege told the committee that over 29, 974 people have also been displaced across the state, with property worth over N40billion lost to the mayhem.

The President General, who said he was speaking for Tiv people all over the world by the virtue of his office, accused the security agencies of neglecting their duties to secure the Benue people. He specifically accused the police of not carrying out a single arrest of the herdsmen since these killings started. He said that the police and federal government had often referred to the killers as unidentified herdsmen, dismissing it as a cover up, as the representatives of these acclaimed unidentified herdsmen were always meeting with the various authorities to absolve the herdsmen of alleged crimes. From his report, Ujege said that in 2014, 142 persons were killed in Guma Local Government Area, LGA, 6544 persons displaced with property worth over N128 million lost, while in Gwer East, 15 were killed, 253 displaced, over N53million lost. In West, he said 168 were killed, 4,543 displaced and over N592million lost, Katsina Ala, 20 killed, 1,679 displaced, over N4billion lost, in Kwande, 3,199 displaced, over N132million lost, In Logo, 54 killed, 4088 displaced, over N9billion lost, and in Makurdi, 484 killed, 3018 displaced and over N31billion lost. Ujege further stated that in 2015 and 2016, 28 people were killed in Buruku, 6,650 displaced and over N8billion was lost in two wards of Binev and Mbaya, and in four wards in Logo, 58 killed, with people displaced too and property destroyed, as well as in Tarka, where 15 people were killed and also in Ukum, where 101 were killed, 6650 displaced and over N8billion lost.

He lamented that the way and manner these people were killed was barbaric as some were slaughtered and others hit with chemical weapons, causing them to vomit and pass on slowly.

The President General of the Tiv nation alleged that all these killings and mayhems were highly coordinated as the killers were often aided by security forces . He lamented that this incessant attacks have impoverished his people as they no longer go to plant in their farms. Ujege said the Tiv people were now afraid to go back to farm seeing that the herdsmen have taken over their farmlands and were armed to teeth ready to kill them.

He said the current food and tomato shortages were fully connected to the activities of herdsmen, who have made farmers unable to return to farm. This attack is perpetrated in 18 Local Government Areas, LGAs of the state and cut across the Tiv and Idoma ethnic groups especially. Records are clear on the wickedness perpetrated by these herdsmen against the people of Agatu also, where hundreds of locals were slaughtered by herdsmen, who claimed that their cattle were also killed.

Although the police, which says it is its constitutional duties to investigate and prosecute murder cases, claimed that only three persons were killed in Agatu mayhem, they were ridiculed at the committee by Civil Defence, which said 300 were killed and the Deputy Governor of the state, Benson Abonu and other interest groups, who affirmed that 500 persons were actually killed in Agatu.

The committee has said that it would invite the Benue state Commissioner of Police and the Idoma nation for another hearing, when further startling revelations would be made and the Deputy Governor said he would be on ground and much more prepared to speak on Agatu killings.

The Fulani herdsmen, who are always represented by Miyati Allah Cattle rearers association, refused to appear at this committee, but they’d visited the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, where they claimed they had something to tell them, perhaps because of a certain presidential directive then to crush all threats to national security.

At the DHQ, they opened wide their mouth without control, when they boldly told the DHQ that that they killed in self defence and would continue killing in self defence as they cannot watch helplessly their cattle being rustled or killed. Again, they’d appeared before Inspector – General of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase, where they boldly said the herdsmen killed the people because their cattle were killed and rustled.

Now, what is annoying here is that murder is a capital crime and attract capital punishment and whoever walks up to police to confess to murder, could not just be allowed to take tea with a DPO, DCO or even an Inspector crimes at a police station and walk away freely, but these people were allowed to go freely, after they revealed with impunity their actions before a COMPOL, IGP and military Chiefs. The police by now should have extracted evidences from the Miyati Allah group, who affirmed the killings by their members, but the people of Benue and indeed, all Nigerians are pained that they are not taken based on their self confession, but the police say, “we have no evidence to prosecute them.”

The IGP on Thursday, at the committee, testified that there was no sufficient evidence to prosecute the Fulani herdsmen, who perpetrated all these killings in Benue state. The IGP, after much pressure, in what looked like a facesaving measure, claimed that 18 people were already in police net in connection with the killings. He said his professional calling would not allow him to reveal all he was doing in the case, but that he had engaged all the parties in the crisis with a view to achieving peace.

“We have apprehended some persons, may be investigation is rather slow. You must be able to assemble sufficient evidence to prosecute them. I don’t just want to prosecute people without securing conviction”, Arase stated. These people that the IGP said he has no sufficient evidence against are well armed with assorted weapons, with which they perpetrate the killings, while the locals are unarmed. There are pictorial evidences of the killings perpetrated by these herdsmen, but none for the acclaimed killing of cattle has ever been presented to the authorities, yet the IGP said he has no sufficient evidence to prosecute them.

These attackers are said to be well trained in modern warfare and highly motivated, and often carry out fierce and coordinated actions against the people of Benue along the riverine areas, yet the security agencies which duty it is to protect lives and property of these locals abandon their duties claiming no evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.

Well, for the Tiv nation’s victims, they are asking for a compensation to the tune of N100billion, over the killings and destruction of property. Resuming his testimony on Thursday at the committee when the IGP and representatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, Interior Minister, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, appeared, Ujege insisted that the negligence of security forces and the federal government, which commands them, led to these colossal loss.

He said that it was also the demand of the Tiv nation that the herdsmen be ejected from Tiv land, as well as asked the federal government to investigate the carnage and punish the perpetrators. Ujege stressed that the N100billion, which the Tiv nation was asking for, could not assuage the feelings of the loss but was needed. Of course this compensation and other demands are not directed at the National Assembly, but Presidency, which duty it is as the Executive to implement resolutions of the legislature directed to it.

The House of Reps is making its own efforts to end the crisis and it can only stop at sending its resolution, but it is the presidency which is truly interested in protecting the people against fulani herdsmen?

The Committee Chairman, Jika said, they would send their report to the House and the House would recommend to the executive for implementation, he is very correct, that would definitely be the end of it all if the executive refuses to implement. Given the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari over this matter, one is worried and constrained to believe that all actions are geared towards favouring the Fulani herdsmen and their interests are well protected by the presidency and executive. This explains why the IGP and military cannot conduct offensive and defensive operations, arrest and prosecution, but promoting dialogue with a group but calling them unidentified people, while their victims are still in tears and pains.

Also, in the face of all these, the presidency is planning to seize lands from farmers and spend public funds to create grazing fields for private business of cattle rearing belong to a few and a segment of the country. The Fulani herdsmen have always been here and knew that they should carry out their businesses without disturbing others, but they appear to find so much favour now with this administration to get everything free to themselves, given the fact that Buhari is their member and grand patron.

The President is interested in the controversial grazing bill, of which every state has sharpened its sword, waiting for its arrival to kill, and already, Ekiti state has made a statement. One has heard repeatedly, how the presidency is planning to take public funds to buy grasses from Brazil for Fulani herdsmen to feed their cattle. You could even see it evidently that the President has never, personally said anything since these killings by fulani herdsmen started. In his May 29, Democracy day broadcast, he condemned Boko Haram and militancy in Niger Delta, but neglected to speak on Fulani herdsmen killings, which is even considered worst crime than what the Niger Delta Avengers were doing. It is the opinion of Nigerian citizens that cattle rearing is a personal business just like any other, and that the presidency should allow the Fulani herdsmen to do their businesses and also, protect all citizens from their harassment, which is becoming unbecoming.


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