The prevailing peace, harmony and brotherliness existing in Abbi community of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State was shattered February 9 when assailants suspected to be Fulani herdsmen invaded the community. The quiet, agrarian enclave had no inkling of the evil lurking around that fateful day as people went about their normal daily routines until the marauders struck. More than 150 precious lives were brutally snuffed out by the machetes and vicious bullets of the assailants. Houses were touched and farm produces worth millions of Naira destroyed. Like a block buster movie, Abbi went up in flames and in a twinkle of an eye, turned out a ghost town. As reflected in one of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s popular rendition, the assailants left in the wake of the destruction, sorrow, tears and blood.
Misery is written all over people’s faces and life will never remain the same in Abbi again. People are in dire need of water, food, clothing and shelter. Survivors are presently taking refuge in neighbouring communities of Ugbene- Ajima, Nrobu, Nimbo, Nkpologu and Edem. Abbi community and others in Uzo-Uwani LGA are accommodating and peace loving. They are hosts to numerous visitors, including the Fulani herdsmen who for years have been grazing in and around the local government without molestation. Some Fulani even speak local dialects while their children attend public schools with the wards of the host communities. “But the major challenge between them has been the issue of the visitors operating without restriction and even ready to kill anyone who questions their will. The excesses of the Fulani herdsmen had been a burden on the community, even as they are tolerated among the natives. There have been successive stories of the Fulani grazing in their farms and intimidating them with firearms, raping their women as well as maiming anyone that dare challenge them,” said Felix Ugwoke.
The incessant attacks on innocent communities by suspected Fulani herdsmen have become one too many. From Abbi in Enugu State to Agatu in Benue, Plateau to villages in Nasarawa, the story is gory and the same. The chronicles of attacks unleashed on innocent people by these men are shocking. These attacks have assumed a frightening dimension. It must be addressed before it consumes all of us. In fact, this is the right time for owners of cattle to create farm settlements for their animals. Time for government to establish the much talked about grazing reserves. There is large expanse of land in the north suitable for any kind of grazing reserve. What is needed is the logistics to maintain and keep them going. Therefore, northern state governments should hasten to provide and equip them with the needed facilities to tame the movement of headers which is always the source of the conflicts.
It is understandable that cattle rearing is a traditional agricultural occupation of most, if not, every family in the north. The owners of these herds of cattle should be reminded that this is a personal business; therefore, owners should put on their thinking caps on how to nurture and sustain it. These individual businesses should not translate into a source of worry, concern to others or a national crisis. To coerce government to provide grazing reserves throughout the federation or placing the responsibility and survival of their businesses on others is unacceptable. The Alhajis, the well to do in the north and politicians who own these cattle should be made to take responsibility. They should also be reminded that monies realised on the sale of these cows do not belong to government or communities where the cattle graze. The herders tendering these cows are mostly not the real owners. Therefore, real owners of these cattle should find ways of survival; take the first initiative while government provides support and enabling environment for business to thrive.
It is a well-known fact that the rains come late and end quickly in the north. This naturally forces the herders to look down south for alternative foliage for their cows. In the event of this voyage, so many untoward things happen leading to stand-offs and tension. For national cohesion and peace to rein, southern states in conjunction with their northern counterpart should equally partner in creating reserves that should be properly managed by Miyyeti Allah but with proper supervision of host states to avoid clashes or undue interference with the businesses of the host communities. Anybody who genuinely follows the trend of events between herdsmen and communities should be aware that the bone of contention in most cases is not the refusal of communities to allow rearers to graze but the penchant for allowing cattle to destroy farms and communities’ means of livelihood. This is the crux of the matter. Miyyeti Allah which is the national umbrella body of cattle rearers should encourage their members to regard community farms as dear to them even as an average Fulani man does to his cattle.
The gnawing fear of attack has come to stay with the people in rural communities. The nation no doubt is wounded by these senseless, incessant killings and loss of innocent lives. This precarious situation the nation finds herself has raised doubts on the brotherhood share. In this or any asphyxiating circumstances, no one should be deterred of preaching the gospel of peace. The forces of darkness have deliberately hidden the truth and are hell-bent on tearing the nation apart. The stability of the nation is being threatened and the path of caution should be towed. As a people, we have chosen to fake our religiosity, pretend to love our neighbours: while we indulge in hateful vengeance and woefully failed to live out this our faiths.
One of the problems with Nigeria lies with the deliberate hesitation to stand up for the truth, justice and equity. Unfortunately, the high and mighty today look on while senseless killings go unhindered in our land. In this melee, our, religious, political and opinion leaders became shameless abettors who ensure that this dastardly act rages on. Government has majorly failed to take bold steps aimed at nipping most of these prevailing security problems in the bud. However, we cannot deny the fact that we have all jointly abdicated our responsibilities as a people in terms of standing up for the truth in all circumstances.
Mistrust among the ruling class, unresolved cultural, religious and political issues which triggers crisis and leave innocent Nigerians at the receiving end should be properly addressed. Government is encouraged to be resolute this time and take sincere drastic steps which majorly underline the interest of the nation. It is high time government faced this problem head long but the society should be a willing ally for the government to succeed. Our laws should bite with its strong teeth to be able to take its course in dealing squarely with individuals, institutions and sponsors of crises and violence. We can as a nation dispelled the huge cloud of doubts, uncertainty and apprehension surrounding our ability to get it right. Our strength in diversity should serve as a unifying factor not our Achilles’ hill.
The National Assembly and the entire nation are therefore called upon to act accordingly before the already charged situation gets out of hand. The effort of Senator Chuka Utazi representing Enugu North Senatorial District to bring to the knowledge of the nation the dastardly acts of the marauders through a motion titled “ Tackling the perennial conflicts between farmers and cattle herdsmen” on the floor of the Senate is commendable. Referring the matter to the Senate Committee on National Security and Agriculture should be the first step towards ensuring enduring peace. President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the incessant bloody clashes between Fulani herdsmen and various rural farming communities where the itinerant herdsmen graze their cattle. In short, dialogue should be employed as a potent tool to forestall future mayhem. Moreover, there should be an urgent deliberate effort to re-orientate the host communities and the rearers too to embrace peace and be law abiding citizens. Everybody should be well educated on the evil faces of violence and implored to abhor violence no matter the level of provocation. However, who supplies the herders or the villagers these weapons of warfare? Those involved in fanning the embers of discord should face the music for Anatole France declared, “Justice is the means by which established injustices are sanctioned.” Moreover, Benjamin Franklin held that, “justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” It is high time Nigeria tamed the unending nuisance of suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist wrote via [email protected] and can be reached on 08060901201

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