By Daniel Adaji.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom is counting his last days out of Government House, Makurdi, not without floods of tears over yet another massacre of 134 persons in Oturkpo, Apa, and Guma Local Government Areas of the State.
The latest deaths, blamed on bandits associated with Fulani herdsmen, occurred few weeks after Ortom had lamented the death of about 6,000 Benue indigines in the hands of Fulani herdsmen in the last eight years.
On April 3, the killer herdsmen invaded Apa LGA, killing 41 persons. On April 5, they entered Umogidi community in Oturkpo LGA, killing 51 persons.
The attack in Guma LGA last Friday, led to the death of 28 persons, a figure that was confirmed by the Nigeria Police in Benue State.
The story of Oganenigu in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State is also very pathetic, as heavily armed herders invaded villages on Sunday, April 3, 2023, killed several persons, burnt down all houses, and rendered the people homeless. Kogi State Deputy Governor Edward Onoja who visited the communities after the mayhem, vowed that government would investigate and bring the perpetrators of the attacks to book.
Previous attacks were never investigated, not to talk about the arrest of perpetrators
However, previous attacks were never investigated, not to talk about the arrest of perpetrators. In September 2017, Fulani herdsmen invaded Omala Local Government Area of Kogi East Senatorial District, killed many persons, including monarchs, but government failed to bring anyone to book.
In spite of the fact that the bandits, fully armed with sophisticated weapons, have been on the rampage from Nasarawa through Benue to Kogi State in recent weeks, security operatives have not been mobilized to stop them.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Nigeria, in a statement issued on his behalf by Garba Shehu, last week, made an ambiguous reference to ‘excessive violence’ in Benue State, and failed to speak on the killings and destruction in Kogi State.
In the statement the president referred to the killings as ‘inter communal conflict,’ and “directed the secret services, police and military commanders to enhance surveillance on every front and to immediately review the security management in the affected areas…”
It thrives because there are no deterrence measures put in place in spite of the fact that attacks on vulnerable rural communities
Such statements have done little to deal with the growing incidents and deaths from rural banditry in many parts of Nigeria. It thrives because there are no deterrence measures put in place in spite of the fact that attacks on vulnerable rural communities, where there is little or no police presence, have been going on in Nigeria for about a decade now. Heavily armed bandits, mostly made up of Fulani herdsmen, invade rural agrarian communities, kill innocent persons, burn down their houses and farm produce without intervention by the military or the police.
In the last few years, governors of northern and southern states, whose indigenes were victims of banditry have advocated devolution of power on security to state governors, as the central command nature of Nigeria’s security architecture has failed to address the issue.
Heavily armed bandits, mostly made up of Fulani herdsmen, invade rural agrarian communities, kill innocent persons
Governor Ortom, in December 2022, argued that the killings in Benue State would stop if the Buhari administration would permit security agencies in the state to take instructions from him, as governor. He advanced his position thus: “If the federal government, whose responsibility is to provide security for lives and property and who have the coercive forces of the security architecture of the country, decides that terrorism, kidnappings, and evil should end today, it will end. If the federal government is in doubt, let them make an executive order, just like the president makes executive orders in other areas, and give me the responsibility to look after the coercive forces that are in Benue state. Tell them to take instructions from me. We will end the evil, armed robbery, banditry and everything; we will end it today in Benue state.”
Benue State Government, had to pass an anti-open grazing law in 2017, design to curtail cattle and animal grazing, the major cause of conflicts between farmers and herders. Herdsmen who violated this code have been arrested by security agencies, and made to pay fines for not taming their cattle. But the law has not stopped bandits from invading and destroying communities in Benue State.
If the federal government is in doubt, let them make an executive order
It was not only Ortom who advocated the control of security architecture by governors. In the South-West, mainly in Yoruba-speaking states, where Fulani bandits have wreaked havoc in many community, governors had to establish Amotekun. The vigilante organization was set up in order to tackle the menacing activities of bandits who hide in thick forests to unleash violence on villages at night or unsuspecting hours. There is not enough data to establish if this measure has reduced the murderous and destructive activities of bandits in the South-West.
In Kogi State East Senatorial District, where bandits had attacked communities and killed innocent persons in the past few years, a socio-cultural organization, Uk’Omu Igala Organization, had called on both the Federal and State Governments to provide security for their people in rural areas, who are without arms and vulnerable.
Government has proposed what it termed community policing, as a strategy for tackling insecurity in rural areas, but that has not happened
The group issued a statement in 2019, saying, “The leadership is worried by what appears to be the callous insensitivity of government in abdicating its primary responsibility of meeting the security needs and welfare of citizens. While the people of Kogi East have proved to be one of the most tolerant Nigerian groups, government must be seen to be living up to the expectations of the people by doing all it takes to secure the people as the only basis of mutual co-existence.”
President-elect Bola Tinubu will find the murderous campaign of Fulani bandits as an initial challenge when he takes over on May 29, 2023.
Government has proposed what it termed community policing, as a strategy for tackling insecurity in rural areas, but that has not happened. Communities that went ahead to establish a similitude of community security network are prevented by government from mobilizing such vigilante groups with weapons that would enable them to resist invading bandits. In Oyo State where there is a vibrant vigilante group, its members have raised the alarm that bandits overpowered them because bandits bore very sophisticated weapons. Even Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello had lamented massacres by Fulani bandits in his state and contemplated equipping them with highly sophisticated weapons. However, this has not happened because procuring such weapons would require an approval by the Federal Government, which is unwilling to do so.
President-elect Bola Tinubu will find the murderous campaign of Fulani bandits as an initial challenge when he takes over on May 29, 2023. A decisive step must be taken about how to curtail the activities of bandits who are on killing spree in the country.
First published on The Insight