The killing of Nigerians all over the country has continued unabated; recently, more than 200 residents of Plateau state were killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Pressure groups and Civil Society Organisations like the Oodua Peoples Congress, Arewa People’s Congress, Ohaneze Ndigbo, PANDEF – Pan Niger Delta Forum, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and many others have always been at the forefront when it comes to matters affecting Nigerians, but many of them have suddenly chosen to be quiet in the face of the recent killings.
ENE OSANG and PAUL OKAH, in this piece, wonder why the hitherto vibrant Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and pressure groups have maintained an unusual silence.
Insurgency Since the creation of the country, it has experienced different religious and ethnic crises, but nothing can be compared to the Boko Haram pogrom, which have left many people dead.
Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, the group has been led by Abubakar Shekau since 2009.
Since the current insurgency started in 2009, Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands and displaced 2.3 million.
Of the 2.3 million people displaced by the conflict since May 2013, at least 250,000 have left Nigeria and fled into Cameroon, Chad or Niger.
Boko Haram killed over 6,600 in 2014.
The group have carried out mass abductions including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014 and the adoption of about 110 schools from Dapchi Girls Secondary School, Yobe state.
Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have allegedly hampered efforts to counter the unrest.
Though the Director of Information at the Defence Headquarters of Nigeria announced that all Boko Haram camps had been destroyed, they have been holding sway in many parts of the country and have now been joined by Fulani herdsmen in causing havoc.
Enter the herdsmen Ordinarily, Fulani herdsmen were supposed to be a group of people rearing cows for a living, but they have taken violence in their stride.
In the past, the nomads have often come into conflict with local farmers.
Recently, the nature of the attacks has changed, as it is often contained in news reports that Fulani herdsmen now use firearms.
In recent years, the Fulani herdsmen and farmers’ clashes have become a recurring decimal.
Amnesty International, Global Terrorism Index report Amnesty International has claimed that clashes between farmers and herdsmen have claimed at least 168 lives in 2018 alone.
In a recent statement, Osai Ojigho, Country’s Director of the organisation, alleged that government was not protecting Nigerians.
“The Nigerian authorities’ response to communal violence is totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful.
“Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna have resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone.
Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government s still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes.
Worse, the killers are getting away with murder,” he said.
She said in 2017, 549 deaths were recorded across 14 states, while thousands were displaced.
“In 2017, clashes between nomadic herdsmen and local farmers resulted in at least 549 deaths and thousands displaced across Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Katsina, Delta and Ekiti states.
“The government must totally overturn its response to these deadly clashes to avoid this crisis getting out of control.
They need to investigate and bring suspects to justice.
Locals in each village also provided Amnesty International with lists of the dead, which totalled 86 names.
The Nigerian authorities must investigate these attacks and, where these investigations indicate criminal responsibility, prosecute those responsible and bring them to justice.” NLC condemns attacks On June 26, 2018, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) described as senseless and barbaric the renewed killing of innocent Nigerians by suspected herdsmen, saying such act poses threat to peaceful coexistence in the country.President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said in a statement in Abuja that reprisal attacks and the taste for revenge may not be the solution to problems in the country and appealed to those involved to engage in dialogue and peaceful reconciliation.
He also tasked the federal and state governments to take immediate steps to rebuild communities affected by the crisis.
He said: “The Nigeria Labour Congress is deeply saddened by the renewed violence in Barkin-Ladi and Riyom local government areas of Plateau state and their environs leading to the killing of over 86 persons by suspected killer-herdsmen at the weekend.
“We are disturbed by the range of targets, the duration of these attacks and the scope of casualties and destruction.
Even in a full scale war with another country, the statistics are numbing.
Therefore, for the umpteenth time we condemn these killings in their entirety.
“They are senseless and barbaric and threaten to shatter once and for all the bonds of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence.
Accordingly, our security, though stretched, must be seen to do more to restore the confidence of the civil populace.
“If the emerging allegations are true that the attacks went on unchecked for hours, then something needs to be done about the reaction time of our internal security operations in the state.
Peace lies in dialogue and in squarely addressing the underlying causes of the problem.
The time to frankly talk to ourselves is now.” The Congress has not gone beyond the condemnation.
PANDEF condemns attacks National Secretary, PANDEF, Dr.
Alfred MULADE, in a statement on Tribune Online in Warri, said: “The scale of the killings and destruction, as reported in the media, is greatly disturbing.
We, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the security agencies to act decisively to ensure that the perpetuators of the grievous killings and their sponsors are arrested and brought to justice without delay, this time.
Expressions of regret, condolences, and mere promises are no longer acceptable.
The government must live up to its constitutional responsibility of safeguarding lives and property of the citizens.
It is worrisome that over time the government seems reluctant to take drastic actions against these Fulani killer-herdsmen.
It is this situation that has emboldened these killer herdsmen to continue their killings of innocent Nigerians across the country,” he said.
Again, the group has since then remained silent.
In the past, what appeared as pockets of communal clashes between farmers and herdsmen in various parts of the country has snowballed into an intractable crisis that can affect food security.
This is because subsistence farmers who constitute the bulk of food growers can no longer visit their farms either for fear of being killed by rampaging herdsmen or in some cases have lost such farm plots and taken up residences as displaced persons in internally displaced camps.
This is the story behind the imminent, looming famine in the country.
From the evergreen Mambilla mountain of Taraba state to the flood plain Food Basket of the Nation in Benue, Plateau, and Southern Kaduna down to the rocky plains of Kogi, it’s the same story.
In Benue, for instance, it is estimated that 14 out of the 23 local government areas are under siege as herders have driven the farmers from their ancestral lands which could result in a major food crisis in the coming days.
Experts react Mark Amanza, an agricultural extension analyst, said the Northcentral zone which produces half of the food needs of the country will itself need food to sustain the region in the days ahead because of what he called “intractable crisis.” “These clashes together with all the previous ones have not only led to the displacement of thousands of people but have also led to steep drop in food production as these areas make up part of Nigeria’s middle belt which is a rich agricultural zone well watered by the rivers of Nigeria and Benue as well as its tributaries or in the case of Plateau state, the topography and altitude allow it to enjoy high rainfall level conducive for food production,” he said.
It is widely believed by many that government’s lukewarm approach to the problem has continued to exacerbate the crisis, hence the fear of an impending food crisis.
For example, in spite of the repeated assurances by the military about their safety, most of the displaced farmers in some IDPs camps are not willing to return to their ancestral homes.
An agricultural expert, Prof.
Chinedu Nwajuna, in his reaction, said: “Nigeria has always had the ambition of diversifying her economy from oil dependency; however, the country has a looming food security crisis with the growing population that is increasingly dependent on imported food.
Unfortunately, the once dominant subsistence-oriented farm economy is currently at the risk of gradual disintegration due to insecurity of land tenure and lately crisis among farmers and herders.” He said given the situation, younger people from the rural areas rather prefer to try their lucks in urban centres as against farming for food production.
IDPs speak In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, Micah Babini, an internally displaced person (IDP) from Adamawa state, but presently staying at Gurku IDPs camp in Nasarawa state, said: “I don’t want to return to my state again because if I do, I am not sure of my safety and that of my wife and children.
Here in Gurku, even though we don’t have a house of our own or a land for farming, we are safe.
Those who returned are regretting it.” Timothy Akase, an indigene of Benue state, whose relatives now reside in one of the camps in the FCT, said: “If those who produce food for the country can no longer access their farms, I think it should be a concern of everybody that the food basket is under attack and tangible measures must be put in place to solve the problem.
But how can a government that prides itself as having transformed agriculture allow this type of thing to happen to their score card?” Continuing, he said: “Benue state identified as the Food Basket of the Nation can no longer sustain the food needs of the state as a result of the persistent clash between local farmers and herdsmen.
This has heightened fears of insecurity among the locals who constitute the bulk of farmers that produce the food needs of the state.
Amazingly, it is not peculiar to Benue as Taraba, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Kaduna, Zamfara and Adamawa who produce the food needs of the country had in recent times come under intense attacks from herdsmen.” UN warns Early this year, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mohammed Ibn Chambers, represented by the former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Obadiah Mailafia, equally warned of a major food crisis resulting from the farmers, herders’ clashes, if not addressed.
He said: “If Nigeria must attain her potential height as a leader in Africa, there is a need to form a coalition of Nigerians who believe in its destiny as a leader of the continent.
“Nigeria is meant to be a city on a hill, a light unto the nations.
But she can only fulfil that destiny if she reinvents the nation as a country anchored on positive science, peace and humane values devoid of communal crisis.
In doing so, she must remain open to world values and build partnerships that promote trade rather than conflicts to stem any food crisis in the sub region.” Government reacts In his reaction to the development, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, whose state is one of the theatres of the clashes, said Nigerians should not equate the situation in the North-east and Somalia with the rest of the country.
According to him, government has stepped in to address the situation through a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Morocco for the importation of phosphate.
“I think there is a danger of mixing the situation in the North-east with the situation nationwide.
I have seen that on CNN about starvation in Somalia and Nigeria and then they go on to talk about civil commotion in the North Central.
I don’t think the rest of Nigeria is facing any threat of famine.