In the wee hours of the New Year day, tragedy struck in Tom-Atar and Umenge villages of Guma, a farming town in Benue; a state in the Northcentral region of Nigeria. Cattle herders of the Fulani ethnic extraction had laid sieges on the sleeping villages, slaughtering at least 50 persons in their sleep – women and children included – in a pattern that has of recent become a regular occurrence. Similar attack was launched on the town of Agatu in February 2016 where not less than 500 were massacred and over 7000 other persons displaced.
In a similar case of mindless bloodletting, 23 churchgoers who were on their way back from the New Year ‘Cross Over Service’ were gunned down in the town of Omoku in Rivers state by cult members loyal to a dreaded cultist and community leader Don Wanny. The army had raided Don Wanny’s residence precisely on November 2017 where shocking recoveries that include human skulls, bags of cannabis and military gears were made. Don Wanny had breached his own part of the agreement he signed with Rivers state government to lay down his arms during the much-publicized state Amnesty program.
Gory images of lifeless bodies of victims caught in the killings in Benue and Rivers – some of which, were children of only but few months old – were circulated on different social media platforms raising public anger.
Twenty-four hours after the killings in both Benue and Rivers, thousands gathered in major Benue towns, especially the state capital, and sparked off huge protests and demonstrations, with a demand that government puts an end to the regularly occurring bloodletting. The army was sent to quell the protest and three persons were reportedly shot dead on the process.
The leader of the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders in Benue, Garus Gololo, admitted during a BBC interview that their members had carried out the attack because – according to him – the villagers had stolen about 1000 cows from their members while they were relocating from the state to neighbouring states due to the anti-grazing bill that was signed into law by the Benue State government.
The governor of Rivers state, obviously embarrassed by the public outcry for the perpetrators of the Omoku carnage to be brought to book, placed a 200 million Naira bounty for information leading to the arrest of the culprits. Don Wanny was shot dead few days later in Enugu during a combined raid on his hideout by the Department of Secret Service and the Army.
The question on the lips of discerning minds after seeing the ease with which Don Wanny was fished out and subsequently killed has remained one without a plausible answer! Why has there been no bounty placed on the heads of these murderous Fulani herdsmen that have killed thousands and displaced much more? Why is the so-called leader of the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders in Benue, Garus Gololo, still walking free after admitting publicly that his members had carried out the killings? Why has the government over the years, fail to bring a lasting solution to the Herdsmen-Farmers clashes?
How a government that rode to power promising to reduce all security challenges to the barest minimum sits with folded arms while lives and properties are lost due to clashes between cattle breeders and farmers is nothing but worrisome.
The continuous fights between Farmers and cattle breeders have always ended in rape, deaths and destruction of properties worth billions of Naira. The clashes have also become too frequent and too violent that special attention should be paid to it to avert future occurrences. The Buhari-led government has always found it comforting staying aloof as citizens die in preventable circumstances. The Buhari’s administration has demonstrated its unwillingness to put an end to these killings that have spiralled out control with the manner with which lip services has always been paid to Herdsmen-Famers clash.
Buhari swore to protect lives and properties. He should be bold and tactical enough in bringing to an end these unnecessary killings