The Nigerian community is currently facing an ethnic controversy as Fulani herdsmen are being accused of attacking their fellow Nigerians on their farmlands. The complaints have spread from the plains of Plateau State to Benue in the North and from Ondo in the South West to Enugu in the South East.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) strongly condemns the alleged killings. In line with our avowed motto, ‘Dialogue, Not Violence’, we denounce all acts of violence, all actions capable of disturbing the peace and all statements calculated to cause public disorder.
We remind the Federal Government (FG) that security of lives and properties of all Nigerians is its inalienable responsibility. Article 14 Section 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
According to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 4, Clause 1 & 2, “Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.” As a signatory to the African Charter, the FG should take urgent steps to protect lives and properties and also bring perpetrators of crimes to book.
Nonetheless, MURIC still calls on all stakeholders to exercise restraint as nothing has so far been proved against anybody. We must allow the security agencies to pursue the matter to a logical conclusion. All allegations at this point remain assumptions. Article 7(b) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights stipulates the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court or tribunal.
We call on Nigerians to consider the huge pressure on the corporate existence of the country as manifested in the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967 to 1971, the June 12 saga from 1993 to 1999, the numerous religious crisis experienced in the country, the Niger Delta militancy over resource control which is still ongoing, the Boko Haram insurgency which is just about dying out and the reincarnation of Biafra in form of renewed agitations from the Eastern region.
All the above took heavy tolls on the Nigerian nation in terms of human lives and collateral damage and it has been a miracle that Nigeria has survived all. A new crisis under the guise of attacks by Fulani herdsmen poses a very serious threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria and no one can predict its outcome.
It is noteworthy that there are backlashes already. Seven youths of Northern extinction who engaged in tricycle business in Ugwuaji, Enugu South Local Government were allegedly killed and secretly buried in January this year. There are calls by ethnic groups and individuals from the South East and the South West for Northerners to leave the region.
MURIC considers these calls as premature, unjustifiable and untenable. The calls for certain ethnic groups to leave particular regions are tainted with ethnic jingoism. They are as parochial as they are myopic.
Our position is based on facts emerging from police investigations into alleged Fulani killings and attacks. For example, the Elogba and the Egba in Benue State clash which claimed 60 lives was blamed on Fulani herdsmen. The kidnappers of Chief Olu Falae who were citizens of Niger State were led by one Baba Olu, a Yoruba man, but Fulani herdsmen were blamed for it.
It is didactic that the police have absolved Fulani herdsmen from blame over the killings in Nimbo community of Enugu State. Equally instructive is the fact that the Inspector General of Police has issued a similar statement. We advise Nigerians to stop calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
It is sad that pictures of herdsmen in Sudan, Mali, Niger and Chad brandishing AK 47 rifles are taken from the internet and displayed to gullible Nigerians as Fulanis on Nigerian soil. This is quite misleading, highly mischievous and grossly provocative. It is incitement on a large scale. The Nigerian press is advised to desist from playing to the gallery.
We appeal to Nigerians to separate individuals with criminal propensity from their tribes and religions. Every Nigerian tribe has its own criminals, lay-abouts, never-do-wells, busy-bodies and area boys. Yet every Nigerian ethnic group has its men and women of honour, men and women of timber and caliber, including Fulanis and Igbos in particular.
We therefore call for objective appraisal of incidents and caution against generalization, sensationalisation, stigmatization of Fulani herdsmen and the profiling of Northerners or their religion. It is a time bomb waiting to explode and none can visualize its reach or its victims.
We must not allow people who nurse anti-Fulani and anti-North agenda to blow this country apart. Neither should we allow politics of resentment and unsubstantiated minority claims of marginalisation to becloud our sense of critical analysis at this point in time. We have all the law we need to punish the individual Fulani, Igbo or Yoruba if he commits any crime. But we have no moral right to target a whole ethnic group for annihilation.
In conclusion, MURIC calls on all Nigerians to allow one love to keep us together. Let us think Nigeria and stop thinking of ethnicities. Let us rise as one to punish individual criminals and not their tribes.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)