While on a fact-finding mission to Benue State on Thursday, inspector-general of police Solomon Arase convened a meeting to hear from “Fulani herdsmen” and their victims from Agatu LGA of the state. Between 300 and 400 women, men and children have reportedly been killed in Agatu!
The conversation that took place in Benue further strengthened my conviction that terrorists have since succeeded in making Nigeria a failed state. Their plot has been to set one section of the country against the other and kill as many innocent people as they could, while taking advantage of Nigeria’s weak justice system. So, “Boko Haram” has not been defeated. I believe it’s the same gang of terrorists that many call “Fulani herdsmen”.
At the meeting with the IGP, the Fulani leader, Ado Boderi, said the Agatu crisis started after 10, 000 heads of cattle had been stolen by Agatu people. Criminals on both sides escalated the conflict, he noted.
Agatu’s spokesman, Akpa Iduh, said the Fulani’s target was to wipe out all non-Fulani humans so that the grazing fields of Agatu would belong to the herdsmen alone. He said his people became powerless when confronted by AK 47-wielding “herdsmen” because they had surrendered their weapons to the authorities when they embraced an amnesty programme in the state. The “Fulani mercenaries”, he said, were killing children and pregnant women on sight during the “unprovoked” attacks.
What other fact would IGP Arase find that is different from what we already know? What did he say or do? He spoke of policemen that had been deployed to Agatu to maintain peace: “We have deployed enough security officers to end the ongoing crisis between farmers and herdsmen in Agatu LGA of Benue State.” And he added: “There is no way we can all live together without having disagreements with one another at some point.” Hugh?
The only truth in Boderi’s statement is that criminal elements aggravated the crisis. Iduh alluded to the same gangs which he called “Fulani mercenaries”. I disagree that real herdsmen carry AK 47 rifles. Perhaps mercenaries from Mali, Libya or Chad, who are also Boko Haram members, do. I have yet to see a true herdsman carrying a rifle. And the story of AK 47-wielding herdsmen came at the same time as Boko Haram.
But Boderi lied that Agatu villagers stole 10, 000 cattle. If he had said 10 or 20 cows, it would have been believable. If it happened, where did Boderi report it? In any case, theft of cattle cannot be an excuse to murder innocent women and children who couldn’t have been the cattle thieves. Boderi ought to be in handcuffs now while the search for other murderers continues. Deploying policemen to Agatu is no solution; they won’t be there forever. It appears life has become so cheap in Nigeria that nobody is afraid to confess to murder anymore. What happened to the law against murder?
Lawlessness was also at play in Lagos. It is still not certain what provoked the clash between Yoruba and Hausa traders at Ketu market in Lagos. Likely, there was a fight between two people and each had to receive support from his tribesmen. Who was guilty or innocent did not matter! In the end, no fewer than 10 people lay dead. Scores of others received wounds. Hundreds were arrested.
The kidnap of Ese Oruru from Bayelsa State was also in the news last week. The incident, though not new, follows the same course: the law was on leave. Were it not so, hundreds of Kano people would have been taken to court on abduction charges. Nobody has a right to contract a marriage for a 13-year-old without her parents’ consent. And when Ese’s father reported the kidnap case to the police, nobody acted until the media stepped in.
Several other girls and young women have suffered or are suffering like Ese. Gradually, I’ve started agreeing with those who say Nigeria has no police force. Why these acts of terror everywhere? After surviving an armed robbery attack in 2012, I sponsored an investigation that led to the arrest of six accomplices who named one of the suspected robbers: Muazu Maishayi from Kano. The matter was mentioned only once in court, and the case seems to have died. No word from the police anymore, even though the family home of Muazu Maishayi in Kano had been identified.
By the time this is published, I hope the three schoolgirls kidnapped from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary (BMJS) in Ikorodu, Lagos, would have reunited with their parents. What I read on Friday is that a ransom was being negotiated. Between who and who? May this not follow the path of the Chibok girls.
The cases I’ve mentioned are all complications of living in a society where law and order are absent and terrorism rules the roost. Several loopholes in our statutes have enabled thieves and murderers to escape unhurt in this country called Nigeria. Where existing laws are weak, they ought to have been strengthened after 17 years of uninterrupted lawmaking. But what do we see? Lawmakers like Dino Melaye are more interested in making uncomplimentary remarks about somebody’s wife failing the test of made-in-Nigeria.
If Buhari’s sole achievement after two years in office were to be restoration of the rule of law, he would have done very well. Doing so would entail an overhaul of the judiciary. Left in their present state, the bench and the bar are sure to frustrate all of Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts. Nigerian law protects the rich and punishes the poor.
The economy is partly at the root of the clashes at Agatu and Ketu. Uncertainty about the future, the lack of electricity, food and jobs always breed tension. That’s why Okada riders are constantly at war. Among farmers, there is always a struggle over land. Armed bandits are becoming more daring. Drug peddlers and other emigrants to Asia and Europe are not deterred by the death penalty. Drought or desertification has been pushing cattle herders down south. Everywhere you turn, there is a struggle for survival! When you see angry policemen and road marshals extorting money from motorists, know that something is troubling their stomachs.
How can this fire be quenched? If there is a budget for this year, it should be implemented right away so that money could start circulating. More than once in this space, I’ve warned of a stomach revolution. I know this government cannot share money among jobseekers or poor people, but at least it can let people eke out a living without being molested. For all those who have been preaching about agriculture, the rainy season is here already.
–By ANIEBO NWAMU