Before Abuja becomes another killing field

AWAAL GATA writes on the steps that should be taken by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in nipping the problems of cattle rustling and herdsmen/farmers’ clash, which are slowly becoming very pervasive in the territory,  from the bud

Recently, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) set up a task force committee which is headed by the territory’s Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, to “sanitise” the nation’s capital against “environmental problems”.

The intermittent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers  was not mentioned among the responsibilities of the committee. However, the FCTA should have added it to the tasks of the committee or even set up another committee to work towards resolving the problem, if the FCT, especially its satellite towns must not become a killing field like Benue, Plateau or Nasarawa states.

Since a clash broke out between the people of Gwako community of Gwagwalada Area Council in January 2013 causing the death of seven people and injuring about 13, absolute peace, Blueprint gathered, has not returned to the village, and it was axiomatically peaceful before the clash.
“Since that 2013 clash, we have been sleeping with half-closed eyes, afraid of reprisal. You know Fulani people, they don’t forget; they could hire mercenary to invade us.

“After the clash, there was a committee set up by the FCT Minister, but I don’t think it is still working. There should be a permanent committee for farmers/Fulani problem if there must be peace. They have been taking their cattle into our farmlands despite the warnings; they are doing it so that if we react they will invite their mercenaries to come and invade us,” a 31-year-old native of Gwako who pleaded for anonymity told our correspondent.

In the same vein, just about a month ago, in the same Area Council, in a community called Ibwa, a herdsman reportedly killed a native after a misunderstanding. The incident would have caused a bloody reprisal if the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not quickly intervene. Ever since, armed military men have been stationed in the community to restore peace.

The remaining five Area Councils have also had their own cases of herdsmen/farmers’ clash. However, Mr. Timothy Dogo, a commercial farmer, told our correspondent that if the FCTA activates the various grazing reserves in the territory, “there would no longer be clashes.”

He said the clashes usually start whenever a herdsman tinkers his cattle “into a farmer’s farm, destroying the crops in which he suffered for.”
According to him, “immediately we have grazing reserves, there would not be clashes. Gwari people are a peace loving people. Internationally, Gwaris are known to be peaceful, once you don’t encroach on their farmlands, you would not have their problem.”

Beside the afore-mentioned problem which is supposed to be taken up by the FCTA or added to the responsibilities of Mbu’s committee, there is also the problem of cattle rustlers in the territory.  If the farmers complain of encroachment of cattle on their farmlands, the herdsmen could also lay claim to the rising trend of cattle rustling in the FCT.

Blueprint gathered that the rustlers use sophisticated weapons in carrying out their evil deeds, and many herdsmen have been killed in the process of protecting their cows, just as thousands of cattle have been carted away by the perpetrators.

Speaking to Blueprint in a phone interview, the Publicity Secretary of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, an umbrella body of the Fulani in the FCT, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakili, said over 1000 cattle were stolen since 2013, adding that scores of herdsmen were also killed during this period. He said the cows were taken from various locations within the FCT.

“Initially, the thieves work at night, stealing just two or three, put them in the car or butcher them, but now they could steal as much as 100. Last week, they stole more than 100 cows in Idu and till now we do not know the whereabouts of the cattle,” he said.

None of the area councils in the FCT is spared of rustling, said Wakili, who also alleged that the government has not made any noticeable effort in curbing the situation.

Sometimes in 2013, suspected rustlers reportedly stole about 75 cows when they invaded Kwaku community.
A victim, Umaru Bello, said about 15 suspected cattle rustlers invaded the community and moved away with 75 cows.
He said some of the cattle rustlers wore Army uniform and masks on their faces, tied both hands and legs of the two security men inside the bush before they stole the cattle.

However, commenting on the menaces, a public commentator, Musa Zubair said: “FCT, being the capital of this country, should enjoy utmost peace and security. Cattle rustling and Fulani/farmers’ clash should be put to an end. The government shouldn’t think that it happens only in the satellite town; it could shift to the city centre, so a task force should be set up to handle it.”

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