Factsheet: Federal Response To The Attacks And Killings By Herdsmen In Benue And Other States

Background

Insinuations and allegations that the attacks and killings are happening because President Buhari is Fulani are both unkind and incorrect. These attacks long predated the Buhari Government. In 2013 no fewer than nine cases of herdsmen attacks were recorded in Benue State alone, with more than 190 people killed. In 2014 there were no fewer than 16 recorded attacks, in Benue, which claimed more than 230 victims. Between January and May 2015, six attacks left more than 300 people dead, again in Benue State alone: See here and here for examples.

This historical context is important for a proper understanding of the issue, and to avoid unnecessarily politicizing what should be regarded and dealt with as acts of criminality. These attacks have been a longstanding issue, and successive governments have struggled to contain the situation.

The Buhari Administration is more than fully committed to bringing the cycle of violence to an end, prosecuting the attackers, and preventing further killings and attacks. The security agencies have standing instructions to arrest and prosecute any and all persons found with illegal arms.

Federal Interventions

The recent killings in Benue and Taraba States have elicited the following Federal responses:

1. President Buhari has met with the Governor of Benue State on the matter, to assure him of the Federal Government’s commitment to protecting farmers and communities.

2. President Buhari has directed the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue State.

3. On Monday January 8, 2018, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, convened a security meeting on the issue, bringing together Federal and State government officials: Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Heads of security agencies, and the Governors of the most affected States: Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, and Taraba.

4. On Wednesday January 10, 2018, the IG held a Stakeholders engagement with the Benue State Government, elders, community, religious and traditional leaders etc

5. Since the first week of January, immediately following the January 1 attacks, the Inspector General of Police has deployed the following to the affected areas:

· Ten (10) Units of PMF
· Police Special Forces
· Counter Terrorism Units
· Conventional Policemen.
· Police Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD)
· Special Police Joint Intelligence and Investigation Teams
· Police Aerial Surveillance Teams (Police Helicopters)

6. The Nigerian Army has deployed Special Forces to Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa States.

7. In Benue State, eight (8) suspected herdsmen are in Police custody over the recent killings, and are currently being prosecuted.

8. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is working to establish cattle colonies across the country, in 2018. These colonies will provide grass and water for the cattle, and education and healthcare facilities for herders. They will also have Agro-Rangers deployed to secure the facilities.

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Benue Killings: Indigenes Resolve To Self-Defence

Indigenes of Benue state have resolved to defend themselves following what they say is the failure of the Nigerian government to protect their communities from invasion, attacks and killings by armed Fulani herdsmen.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, the nation’s capital they described the violence and killings as nothing short of ethnic cleansing.

The Benue indigenes say attacks and killings in farming communities in their homes by armed Fulani herdsmen started on July 7, 2015 and for three years the bloodshed, maiming and destruction of property has not been brought to an end.

The Abuja-based advocacy group, community development coalition says for peace to be restored in Benue state, there should be a full implementation of the anti-open grazing law as well as heightened security presence.

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Benue Killings: IGP Idris Apologises For Comment

The Inspector- General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on Wednesday apologized to people of Benue State over his statement that the Fulani herdsmen attacks on people of the state were communal clashes.

He gave the apology while addressing Benue stakeholders at the Government House in Makurdi.

He said 10 mobile police units have been stationed in Benue and promised to bring to book those that had unleashed terror on the state to serve as deterrent to others.

He assured the state governor, Samuel Ortom, that his men would investigate all allegations raised against Miyetti Allah Katal Houre and that of Nassarawa where some militia men are being camped to carry out attack on Benue people.

Governor Ortom maintained that some militia men are still camped in Tungwa, Awe local government area of Nasarawa State and urged the IGP to investigate the matter.

The governor donated five Hilux vehicles for the operation against the herdsmen.

The Nation

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Benue Govt Denies Training Militia Group

The Benue State Government has denied arming militia groups to defend the people against marauding herdsmen in the state.

Terver Akase, media aide to the state governor, Samuel Ortom, said the government has never recruited armed militias since inception.

“We read a news report insinuating that some youth arrested by the military at Arufu, a town between Benue and Taraba States are armed militia sponsored by the Benue State Government to defend the territory of the State against invaders.

“We wish to state categorically that the Benue State Government under Governor Samuel Ortom has not recruited any militia group and armed them since the Governor assumed office.

“Governor Ortom is widely recognised for his disarmament policy which brought the amnesty programme leading to the recovery of about 700 arms and ammunition with over 800 youth laying down their weapons to embrace the programme across the State.

“It is also on record that the present administration inherited the State Civilian Joint Task Force from the previous government but later proscribed it.

“Following the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in Benue State last year, the Government set up Livestock Guards to help in implementation of the law. The Livestock Guards are not armed personnel. Their job is to ensure compliance with the regulation of ranches establishment and prohibition of open grazing of animals in the State.

“The Benue State Government believes in the use of conventional security agencies to protect the people. Even in the face of renewed killing of innocent people by herdsmen in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas, Governor Ortom did not let the people resort to self help. The Governor acted swiftly to get the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for the deployment of more troops to troubled parts of the State.

“We reassure the people of Benue State and other Nigerians that the Government is committed to bringing the killings in the State to an end andrestoring peace to the affected areas.”

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Buhari Orders IGP Idris To Relocate To Benue

Following the killings of innocent people by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas in Benue State, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate relocation of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to the state.

The order, which was issued on Monday night, was to forestall future breakdown of law and order in the state.

In compliance with the order, Idris is moving into the troubled state with additional five units of Police Mobile Force (PMF).

On Sunday, the police chief deployed, among other security measures, five MOPOL units. There are now ten of them in the crisis areas.

More Units of the Police Special Forces, Counter Terrorism Units, and Conventional Policemen were also deployed to the State on Monday.

“The Aerial Surveillance by Police Helicopters will continue, while the Police Mobile Force Personnel, Police Special Forces and conventional Police Personnel, the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Police Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD) and Special Police Joint Intelligence and Investigation Teams already deployed to Benue State will carry on relentlessly with the patrols and crime prevention activities in the affected areas to sustain the normalcy that have been restored in the State”, police spokesman Jimoh Moshood said.

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Benue Killings: Suspected Fulani Herdsmen Attacks Suswam’s Town, Kills Three

Suspected Fulani Herdsmen on Wednesday night, reportedly launched an attack on Anyiin, the country home of the ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam, and killed three people.

The suspected herdsmen also ransacked three roadside kiosks and made away with over one hundred mobile phones, destroyed assorted drinks and other valuables.

According to a community leader in Anyiin Chief Tardoo Ugo, he disclosed that they heard sporadic shootings which began at 9:00 PM on Wednesday night and lasted until Thursday morning, leaving blood and tears.

The names of those killed are  Mr Tatyough Uombor from Turan Mr Gbenger Orakundu of Mbazar, Tombo ward, and Mr Angar Ude Jugu also from Mbazar, Tombo ward all in Logo local government area in Benue state.

 

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Benue killings: FG To Deploy Security Operatives, Says Ortom

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has assured residents of the state of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to deploy security operatives to end the serial killings in some communities in the state.

Ortom said this while addressing journalists in Makurdi, on Wednesday, in the wake of protests by angry youths in the state.

Recall that dozens of farmers have been killed, allegedly by herdsmen, in some communities in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state, forcing many to flee their homes.

Leader of the protesters, Orngu Angu had insisted that the protests would continue except President Muhammadu Buhari sets up a Military Task Force within twenty four hours to guarantee the safety of lives and property of the people from activities of the herdsmen.

Governor Ortom, had meanwhile, urged the people of the state to remain calm in the face of what he described as an obvious provocation, even as he called for the arrest of some of their leaders.

The Governor called for the arrest of the leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who he said, threatened to invade the state, last year, as those responsible for the current killings in the state.

He insisted that they be arrested for making inciting statements concerning the open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law and for allegedly carrying out their threats.

However, he explained that actions carried out in anger against the killings were bound to complicate the situation and cautioned the people to “avoid taking the law into their own hands as two wrongs cannot make a right”.

Governor Ortom said he appreciated the pains which the people of the state were passing through, especially families of the victims, pointing out that he had informed the President about the development and was awaiting for a positive response.

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Protesters Shut Down Makurdi Over Herdsmen’s Attacks On Benue Communities

Following the alleged attack on some communities in Benue State by Fulani herdsmen, residents have trooped out to protest the incessant killings ravaging the state.

Recall that the herdsmen allegedly launched an attack on Tomatar village in Sengev Council ward, Akor village in Nzorov council ward, and Bakin Kwata village in Umenger council ward of Guma Local government area of the state.

Protesters, who took to the popular Makurdi-Enugu expressway demanded an end to the killings, even as men of the Police and Nigerian Army were deployed to forestall breakdown of law and order.

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Benue Police Command Arrest 8 Fulani Herdsmen Over Attacks On Tomatar Village

The Benue State Police Command has said it has arrested eight herdsmen over attacks on Tomatar village in Sengev Council ward, Akor village in Nzorov council ward, and Bakin Kwata village in Umenger council ward of Guma Local government area.

Benue Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Moses Yamu, in a statement, disclosed that six of the herdsmen were arrested in Guma Local Government Area while two others were arrested in Logo  Local Government Area of the state.

Yamu said a total of 17 persons, including seven members of Benue State Livestock Guards were killed, their vehicles burnt and an uncertain number of persons injured in separate attacks between 31/12/2017 and 02/01/2018 while revealing further that more villages were being attacked by the invaders.

“Again, Agba-Uko near Azege village and Tse-Aga village of Logo Local government area experienced the same fate where one person was killed, one motorcycle burnt and four persons injured. All the injured from both local government areas are currently undergoing treatment in various hospitals in the State.”

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Suspected Herdsmen Kill Two In Benue Community

Suspected herdsmen on Sunday killed two persons and wounded two others in Odonto, a village in Akpa district of Otukpo local council of Benue state.

Police spokespersons in Benue State, Moses Yamu, stated that the local police in the area gathered that some youths from the neighbouring town of Utonkon, allegedly aided and guided the herdsmen in the Sunday morning attack.

Since the open grazing prohibition law was effected on November 1st, 2017, violent agitations by herdsmen across the state, have led to the killing of over seven indigenes who tried to ward off herdsmen from their farm in the ongoing harvest season.

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Benue Reps Member, Mato Donates To Church, Urges More Support At Her Thanksgiving

The thanksgiving and grand reception in honour of Rt. Hon Mrs Dorothy Mato, representing Vandeikya/Konshisha federal constituency was held on Sunday, 26 Nov. 2017 at St Peter’s Catholic Church, Mede, Mbadede, Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State. The event was organized by the elders of Mbangur community, Mbadede district under the Chairmanship of Arc. Bernard Yisa.

The thanksgiving service was moderated by Very Rev Fr. Dr. Akume Mato while the sermon was delivered by Rev. Fr. Moses Msughter Ate. In his sermon, “Jesus is the King of kings”, he said there is no other person like Jesus and should be given all the honour and glory. That kings, presidents and other leaders come and go, but Jesus Christ still remains the unchanging King and Hon Mrs Dorothy should continue to look up to Jesus including all politicians for them to make the desired impact.

He appreciated Hon Mrs Mato for using her accumulated wealth to elevate the human race through her enormous contributions to education, agriculture, health, community development, infrastructural development, youth empowerment, women empowerment, orphans and vulnerable children.

In her speech, Reps. Mrs Mato thanked Rev Fr. Moses for being a blessing to her and the entire people of Mbadede. She also appreciated the wife of the Benue State Governor, Dr. Eunice Ortom for honouring her invitation and for being one of those who have contributed to her success. She appreciated Rev Fr. Mato, the brother to her husband for making her married a good man. She was grateful to the support and prayers of the elders and all the people of Mbadede and promised to always stand by them.

She donated 200 bags of cement and also gave N200, 000 in support of the new church building project of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Mede which is still in progress. She said she has not been duly paid that is why she is yet to do more but as soon as the situation is resolved, everything will be fast in progress.

She urged others to support the church project as well. In their responses, Dr. Eunice Ortom donated N500, 000 for the project and also gave N200, 000 as welfare package for the organizers and those invited by Rep. Dorothy. The Chairman of Vandeikya LGA, Hon Dennis Akura donated N100, 000; a member of the Benue State House of Assembly, Hon Titus Ubah donated N50, 000 including others who gave various amount. Dr Eunice and Hon Dorothy promised to do more as time progresses.

The Chairman of the occasion, Arc. Yisa eulogized Rep. Dorothy for her uncommon love for her people and encouraged her to do more to support her people and work towards uniting APC in the state.

The vice Chairlady of the occasion, Chief Mrs Martha Yasee Akiga; the Vice Chairman of the occasion, Hon Terna Takeda and Hon Titus Ubah in their separate speeches, thanked Hon Mrs Mato for the good work she has begun and encouraged her to keep it going as they will ensure she gets the support she needs for her election in 2019.

The mothers of the day for the occasion, the former First Lady of Benue State, Chief Mrs Regina Akume JP and the wife to Senator Barnabas Gemade, Chief Mrs Vickie Gemade were represented and they all appreciated Mrs Mato and prayed that she continues to climb greater heights both in her personal life and political career.

Hon Mrs Mato assured Dr Eunice that the people of Jechira will give her husband, Governor Samuel Ortom block votes in the 2019 governorship election.

Dr Eunice closed the occasion with her speech by appreciating Reps. Mrs Mato for being a resolute woman who loves her people without reservation. She extended her husband’s appreciations to all the people of Mbadede and Vandeikya in general for their support for his administration and promised to do more for the people of Benue State.

She admonished Reps. Dorothy to distant herself from using thugs in politics and God will see her through her political pursuit.

She thanked kunav for their unswerving support for Hon Dorothy and urged them to continue to support her for the good work she is doing and for her election in 2019 and that men should also support women who wish to participate or choose a career in politics.

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The Changing Face Of Terrorism In Nigeria, By Usha Anenga

“A stitch in time, saves nine” is a phrase which means, a little effort expended sooner to fix a small problem prevents it from becoming a larger problem requiring more time and effort to fix later.

Terrorism is the unlawful indiscriminate use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political, religious or ideological aims. The first use of the word was in the 18th century, precisely during the French Revolution when intimidation and violence, including mass executions of innocent citizens, were employed by the state to compel obedience and loyalty. A century later, terrorism began to be associated with non-governmental groups.

Since then, this activity has proliferated to involve increasing number of groups and attacks that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives; the biggest being those of September 11, 2001 carried out by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda in the United States of America. In that attack, four passenger airlines were hijacked and deliberately crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York resulting in the death of about 3,000 people and over 6,000 injured.

Terrorism remained an unknown concept in Africa until in 1973 when an American and Belgian envoy were assassinated in Sudan. Thereafter, it was confined to countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and those along the East African coast, until much later when it found entry into West Africa, with Nigeria leading the fray.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of terrorism in Nigeria. The country has been plagued by several incidents of civil unrest and ethno-religious crisis since gaining independence from colonial rule, however the killing of Mr Dele Giwa, by a letter bomb in 1986 is regarded as the beginning of terrorism. Since then, there has been isolated cases of terror across the country at different times in various magnitudes.

In the South where there has been perennial tension between foreign oil corporations and a number of minority ethnic groups, armed militant groups emerged in 2003 who engaged in violent destruction of oil infrastructure, bunkering, kidnapping and killing of expatriates.

In the East, agitations for a separate state of Biafra which began in the 1960s have resurfaced from time to time under the championship of different groups which the Nigerian government doesn’t hesitate to label as terrorists.
In the northern part of the country, there has been several incidents of sectarian violence from time immemorial, more recently in Jos and series of bombings and killings in Maiduguri, however a car bomb explosion in August 2011 in a UN building in Abuja, marked the terrorist incident after which an organised group, Boko Haram, would claimed responsibility.
The group’s name which translates in English as “Western education is forbidden” was founded as a religious study group in 2002 by an Islamic extremist, Mohammed Yusuf. After his arrest and execution in 2009, the group grew to become the world’s deadliest terrorist group, claiming over 100,000 lives and displacing about 2.3 million people internally and externally to neighboring countries.

These developments have made terrorism currently Nigeria’s greatest security challenge forcing the country to launch counter-terrorism interventions. The efforts which began first with armed militants in the Niger-Delta have yielded significant progress. Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua granted amnesty and an unconditional pardon to militants who would surrender themselves and their weapons, and embrace a change of livelihood.

Over 30,000 armed youths enrolled for the programme which led to a significant reduction in terror activities in this area. Now, even as the programme has been terminated by the present administration due to alleged corruption and paucity of funds, the country continues to count it’s gains. A military operation tagged “Operation Crocodile Smile” has been launched against militants who have returned to the creeks while efforts are being made to sustain development in the region.

In the South-East, the quest for secession led to the Nigerian civil war between 1967 to 1970 wherein over 3 million deaths were recorded. The latest debate and movement in favour of awakening the thought of secession has been smashed by another military operation, Python Dance, with the championing organisation proscribed.

The country has also make inroads into quelling the crisis orchestrated by Boko Haram in the North-East. Although efforts were slow initially which culminated in the loss of 7500 lives in 2014, the highest casualty figure worldwide that year, significant advancements have been made especially during the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Improvements in strategy, arms/ammunition, soldiers’welfare packages, and collaborative efforts with armed forces from neighboring countries have seen Boko Haram decimated into factions, only capable of isolated guerilla attacks of soft targets.

From the disastrous heights of 2014, Nigeria has recorded its second consecutive year of reductions in deaths attributed to terrorism with an 80 per cent drop, the biggest decrease recorded by any country in the world. This is according to the 2017 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) report released about a week ago. It reads, “Boko Haram killed over 12,000 people in Nigeria through terrorist attacks committed between 2013 and 2015. However it was responsible for only 762 deaths in 2016; which is a decline of 81 per cent from the previous year.”

Despite this decline, Nigeria still ranks third amongst the counties worst hit by terrorism worldwide and this is down to perhaps a shocking revelation that is probably being underrated and overlooked by many, including Nigerian government. The GTI which is a comprehensive study analysing the impact of terrorism for 163 countries, covering 99.7 per cent of the world’s population and underlining the key global trends and patterns in terrorism in the last 17 years have identified a new and emerging face of terrorism in Nigeria.

According to the report, even with the decline in attacks by Boko Haram, Nigeria will likely continue to face terrorism as 13 separate groups undertook attacks in 2016, top amongst which are Fulani herdsmen extremists who have been involved in violence across the country especially in the North-Central states. It reveals that Fulani extremists killed over 2,500 people in Nigeria countries between 2012 and 2016, and undertook more attacks and were responsible for more deaths than Boko Haram in 2016.

These notwithstanding, the Nigerian government has continued to put up a lackadaisical attitude towards addressing the issue of rampaging Fulani herdsmen across the country. The government has consistently ruled out the use of military might to subdue their attacking force.

The Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, retd, while answering questions on a Channels Television programme last Sunday said deployment of the military to combat the Fulani herdsmen menace was not an option because, the situation has not overwhelmed the police yet.

According to him, “This is a non-military issue that borders on law and order. It is not every security issue that you call in the military. It is the responsibility of the police to maintain peace… The police are equal to the task. If you have to deploy the army, then you are going above board.”

It’s surprising how the government adjudges the deployment of the army against a group that carried out more attacks and killed more people than one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world as going overboard. It is however consistent with the government’s history of “fire brigade” approach to pertinent issues of national interest.

Long before terrorism found its roots in Africa, when it was still a budding experiment in the middle-east, it was said that erstwhile Al-Qaeda co-founder and renowed terrorist, Osama Bin Laden envisioned and identified Nigeria as the future of world terrorism.

This however fell on deaf ears as the leaders of the country were unconcerned. Likewise, issues have consistently been raised concerning the indiscriminate movement of herdsmen and cattle across the country and the havoc they wreck on farmlands to no avail. Recently, Fulani militants ranked behind Boko Haram as the fourth deadliest militant group in the world after claiming 1229 lives in 2014, today they are more deadly than Boko Haram. Tomorrow will definitely be worse if nothing tangible is done to solve this problem immediately.

In conclusion, as concerted efforts have yielded fruit in the fight against Boko Haram and militants in the Niger-Delta, it behooves of the Nigerian government to learn lessons from past mistakes and apply due diligence and attention towards fighting this new face of terrorism in the country, Fulani herdsmen extremists, before they becomes overwhelmingly monstrous and insurmountable. Like they say, “a stitch in time saves nine”.

Usha Anenga is a Medical Doctor and sociopolitical commentator. He writes from Makurdi, Benue State.

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