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Fulani herdsmen: The Niger State scenario and the army

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Fulani herdsmen

The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has a major security challenge which it has just said it is set to address with brutal frankness- the incessant violent attacks of farmers across the various States by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.    

For critics the initial  ‘inability’ or seeming ‘unwillingness’ or ‘lack of political will’ by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to confront the rising phenomenon of attacks and slaughter of thousands of villagers in many states cutting across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria has led to a conspiracy theory that is too strong to overlook – that Mr. President is treating the Fulani attackers with kid gloves because he too is a Fulani by Ethnic origin. 

Officials of Mr President strongly dispute the conspiracy theories, saying the President Muhammadu Buhari is the President of all Nigerians. 

 But recently at an event at the National Defence College in Abuja President Muhammadu Buhari directly provided in person strong response and ordered military action against these armed Fulani herdsmen. 

Supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari said Mr. President himself didn’t help matters because for the last one year that he came on board that these bloody attacks have become a recurring decimal he has maintained what looks like a conspiratorial and not stoic silence. 

There are strong insinuations in many quarters that the armed Fulani attackers must be enjoying strong support and sponsorship from some top shots are indeed are the real owners of the cattle being reared by these Fulani pastoralists some of whom have constituted themselves into terror gangs embarking on sporadic but deadly attacks to various farming communities. 

Most critics are curious that President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t deem the attacks a much more serious national security problem but he could direct the armed forces to set up troops to chase after cattle rustlers. 

The question of double standard is very strong.

 Added to the fact that the suspected Fulani herdsmen attacking communities across board have become much more daring and several things have happened that have raised mind boggling questions of lack of commitment on the part of government to decisively go after these terrorists who altogether have massacred well over ten thousand innocent villagers in far distant places as far as Enugu State of South East of Nigeria. 

 As I write the injuries inflicted on the soul of Enugu by the recent violence unleashed by armed Fulani hasn’t abated just as a probe panel set up by the Enugu State administration to unravel the circumstances and individuals responsible for that dastardly criminal attack on Enugu State by armed Fulani herdsmen is going on after it was inaugurated by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. 

But the clear mandate issued by President Muhammadu Buhari on the military to confront and stop the attacks of farmers by armed Fulani herdsmen may have laid all those suspicions and conspiracy theories to rest for a long time to come except otherwise proven. 

By way of a reference we may recall that section 217 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution states clearly that: “there shall be an Armed Forces for the Federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the Armed forces of the federation as may be established by an act of the National Assembly “.

Sadly few hours back a frightening dimension to the entire scenarios was added when it emerged that there was a bloody clash between some villagers and operatives of the Nigeria Army sent on cordon and search operations in a Niger State community.  

That Ill- fated military operation led to needless casualties on both sides and since then two versions of what happened are on the public domain. 

The Army said the suspected gun runners opened fire on them but a Senator representing those people which falls under Niger East made up predominantly of Christians blamed soldiers for attacking the community only days after the villagers repelled a bloody attack by armed Fulani marauders.  

The  Nigerian Army officially confirmed the killing of 11 of its personnel, including a lieutenant while one officer is still missing after last Thursday’s bloody clash between the Kpaidna community in Bosso Local Council of Niger State and soldiers from 31 Field Artillery Brigade, Minna.

The army also confirmed the arrest of 50 others. But the senator representing Niger East senatorial zone, David Umoru, has strongly condemned the alleged invasion of the community, saying that the reason given by the army is unacceptable.

The General Officer Commanding One Mechanized Division of the Nigeria Army, Kaduna, Maj.-Gen. Adeniyi Oyebade who gave the figures in Minna yesterday while briefing reporters shortly after visiting the community where the clash took place, said seven armed bandits were also killed while about 50 others were arrested in connection with the killing of the soldiers.

He promised that those arrested would be released if found innocent after an interrogation. 

The GOC insisted that their invasion of the community was based on intelligence reports that there were arms stockpiled by the community, adding that the army decided to embark on what he called “cordon and search operation” which resulted in the bloody clash.

The senator who was reacting to the invasion said that the reason given by the army for its action was wrong.

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