Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Are The Fulani Herdsmen Above The Law?

By Julius Oweh
A lot of things have been said and written about the menace of the Fula­ni herdsmen sowing destruction and death throughout the length and breadth of the country under the bizarre veneer of cattle rear­ing. They are all over the country destroying the crops and farms of people yet the government is giv­ing the unfortunate impression that these criminals are above the law. Growing up in the village, my image of the average Fulani herds­man was that of the magical stick and the myth then was that should he touch you with the stick, he could transform you to a cow. 

They were peace-loving and eas­ily mingled with the natives and havoc was not in their DNA. But today, the image has changed into a criminal carrying dangerous weapon like AK47 whereas other Nigerians with double barrel gun are chased by the police and oth­er security agents for not getting the license to bear arms. The ques­tion that staggers the imagination is who is issuing license to those Fulani herdsmen that are bearing sophisticated weapons and using same to attack and even kill their hosts.

No week passes without one form of attack by these Fula­ni herdsmen in the media. Re­cently, a legislator in Delta State bemoaned the attack of Fulani herdsmen that led to the death of two people in Abraka. There was also the case of the attack in Enu­gu that led to the death of some women and when the men pro­tested, they were arrested by sol­diers and locked up and they had to bail themselves for demon­strating against an evil ravaging the land. In Benue state, it had to take the intervention of a foreign body for the state government to acknowledge the menace of the Fulani herdsmen that resulted in the death of three hundred peo­ple. For how long will this men­ace continue to ravage the land and the federal government and some state governments pretend that all is well?

That is why the cries of the Na­tional Christian Elders Forum should be taken seriously by the federal government – the execu­tive arm and the legislative arm. The chairman of the forum, Mr Solomon Asemota expressed dis­pleasure over the federal govern­ment inability to stem the on-go­ing carnage and destruction by Fulani herdsmen. He lamented thus on this security challenge: `It is shocking that till today, there had been no prosecution of any of these marauders. For years, the Fulani herdsmen have been murdering innocent Nige­rians with impunity. It is sad to note that Boko Haram which is presently regarded as the world number one most dangerous ter­ror organization and the Fulani herdsmen considered the fourth are both operating in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the response of gov­ernment to the menace of these individuals has to date, been tepid and indifferent. Can a southerner go to the core north and attack a prominent figure in the stature of Chief Olu Falae? The impression the federal government is giving by its lukewarm responses is that there are two classes of people in the country – the citizens and the subjects. The citizen can commit a crime and go scoff free and he is above the law. The subject who is the victim of the citizen`s lawless­ness can be clamped into deten­tion for protesting the brigandry of the citizen as demonstrated in the Enugu example. This is clear­ly a recipe for chaos and anarchy.

If the government is still en­amoured with the bizarre idea of importing grasses from Brazil to feed these animals and keep the herdsmen in check, it should not waste time. What must be stated clearly here is that the herdsmen should not use their occupation to destroy other people’s occupa­tion and even kill human beings in the name of protecting their cattle. The land which these cat­tle roam freely belong to people and communities. And these peo­ple who are at the receiving end of the brutality of the herdsmen will one day exhaust their patience and resort to self help.

No nation courts progress and development where there are two sets of laws. The silence of the fed­eral government and the undigni­fied support of the northern elite to the marauding activities of the Fulani herdsmen are the best ad­vertisement yet that something is terribly wrong with the nation. This is a trying period for the Bu­hari administration and this writ­er has to remind the APC led gov­ernment of that iconic speech of the president a la ` I belong to no­body and I belong to everybody`. Those people that were killed in Enugu, Agatu and Abraka and their relatives will find it diffi­cult to understand the relevance and wisdom of that presidential speech. The time to act is now, to defuse the time bomb that is the Fulani herdsmen menace.
Oweh, a journalist writes from Asaba, Delta State

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