It was a very sad Thursday in Benue State following a mass burial of more than 70 people that were killed by the Fulani Herdsmen recently. As a matter of fact, dozens of people have been killed in conflicts between the Fulani nomadic herdsmen and farming communities in three states that include Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa – in recent weeks as the All Progressive Congress-led Federal Government of Nigeria kept mum.
However, the Nigerian army says it has deployed Special Forces to all three states to “stem the menace,” just as millions of Nigerians no longer take the utterances of the army seriously following their recent activities in some parts of the country and outright neglect of even more severe crimes against the Nigerian state in another part of the same Nigeria.
Herders, mostly from the Fulani ethnic group, where President Muhammadu Buhari comes from and farmers in Benue State often clash over grazing land in the region. Since the New Year, the number of clashes has intensified, with more than 100 deaths reported in Benue and Taraba states. Yet the Federal government is yet to take a definite action that would restore calm in the state. Fighting has been particularly heavy in Benue State, where reports have it that 80 people have been killed while another 80,000 have been displaced.
“Thousands of people attended yesterday’s funeral service to honour those that were gruesomely killed,” according to Benue’s information commissioner, Mr. Lawrence Onoja told the British Broadcasting Corporation. Mr Onoja, who also attended the funeral, said 73 people were buried.
The Commissioners however defended his state’s controversial ban on open cattle grazing implemented in November 2017, which Fulani herders have claimed targets them unfairly. “Our economy in Benue State depends on agriculture,” he said. “Take that away and we have a serious problem.” Mr. Onoja said that herdsman had a “misconception” the law was against them, saying they had not taken the time to look at it closely.
“Fulani herders have been a law unto themselves. We want them to adopt ranching. These clashes result from the encroachment of cattle on farmers’ land.” The BBC’s Haruna Shehu in the capital, Abuja, says Fulani herders’ associations have told him they only mount retaliatory attacks when others steal their cattle or kill members of their community. “They prepare attacks months in advance and enlist fellow herdsmen from as far as Guinea,” he said.