Nigeria's army on February 7th said it would send troops into the country's volatile central states to quell violence between farmers and herders that has killed hundreds in recent weeks.Major General David Ahmadu said the deployment from February 15th would crack down on “herdsmen/farmers clashes and attacks on innocent members of our communities, particularly in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa state by armed militias”.The operation will also target “armed banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling” in Kaduna and Niger, plus other crimes in Kogi, he added.Ahmadu, who is the army's head of training and operations, said criminal activities had “continued unabated in these states despite the efforts by sister security agencies to curb them”.Ahmadu said operations would include “raids, cordon and search operations, anti‐kidnapping drills, road blocks, check points and show of force as well as humanitarian activities.”Amnesty International said the previous week that 168 people had been killed in communal violence between herders and farmers in 2018 alone, with about a hundred in Benue state. It warned the violence was “spiralling” out of control.President Buhari in early February rejected claims a government proposal to create cattle ranches to contain herds was an attempt to “colonise” any part of Nigeria.The central region has become the scene of almost daily clashes between settled farmers such as the ethnic Christian Tiv and herders, who are mainly Fulani and Muslim.In Benue the crisis has morphed into a ethnic and religious crisis, with more and more Tiv openly expressing hatred towards the Fulani, whom they accuse of launching raids from neighbouring states and looting their crops. Nomadic cattle herders have all but left, driven away by fighting over access to resources and a new law banning migratory herding.“Our people largely depend on farming. We don't have industries here. If you take agriculture away from our people it means you're taking up their lives,” Benue's governor Samuel Ortom, an ethnic Tiv behind the controversial ban on open grazing, told AFP.“We tried every other option, dialogue, meetings, but the killings continued,” he added. “This law will provide peace, it is a win‐win for both herdsmen and farmers.”To see herders and their livestock, you have to go to the neighbouring state of Nasarawa, where livestock markets are teeming with activity. The herders say armed Christian militias are attacking their cattle, arguing that the law has only emboldened them.Political opponents of President Buhari have seized on the issue because of his perceived inaction towards the violence – and his own ethnicity. Like the herders, Buhari is an ethnic Fulani from the mainly Muslim north, while the farming communities are in the largely Christian south. The police have also been accused of not doing enough to end the violence.On February 6th, Buhari visited Lafia, the state capital of Nasarawa, and said his government was “working day and night to ensure peace and stability returns”.“We have deployed additional resources to all the affected areas to maintain law and order. The attacks by suspected herdsmen and other bandits will not be tolerated,” he added.Three people were shot dead on February 8th by unknown gunmen in Anyiin, in the Logo area of Benue state, police said on the 9th, with suspicion falling on cattle herders. Given the location and similarity to previous attacks, suspicion locally immediately fell on herders.A police officer was killed and mutilated in an attack on the 10th blamed on herdsmen. The officers were ambushed in the Logo area of Benue state. Benue police commissioner Fatai Owoseni told reporters that one man had been arrested in connection with the ambush and that an assault rifle was recovered from the scene. Herders were also suspected the previous week when three people were shot dead and four others injured in the same area. (© AFP 9,13,14/2 2018)Following an emergency meeting on February 13th, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) called on President Buhari to declare a state of emergency in Taraba, Kaduna, Benue and Zamfara States. It also demanded the suspension of political structures and the appointment of administrators to run the states’ affairs until security is restored.Meanwhile, the committee set up by the National Executive Council to find a solution to clashes between farmers and herdsmen revealed that herdsmen were willing to abide by the Benue State anti‐open grazing law, according to head of the committee and Ebony State governor, David Umahi. (The Guardian, Lagos 14/2)Bandits Kill DozensPolice say gunmen shot dead at least 18 people in Birani village, in the Zurmi area of Zamfara state, where previous bloody clashes have been blamed on cattle rustlers and kidnapping gangs. Some local media reports on February 16th put the death toll as high as 40.State police spokesman Muhammad Shehu said the bandits were mobilised by cattle rustlers who had been prevented from stealing cows.An increase in criminality has been blamed on the government crackdown on cattle rustling, forcing those responsible into kidnapping for ransom. Security personnel believe the gangs are moving between connecting forest in the northern and northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger.President Buhari directed security agencies to “immediately mobilise” and “ensure that the perpetrators are brought to face the full wrath of the law.” (Associated Press 16/2; © AFP 16/2 2018) Carnage in central state p. 21728
Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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