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Tension over cattlemen’s unprovoked tyranny


Tension over cattlemen’s unprovoked tyranny

Nigerians warn that herdsmen’s invasion of communities is a ticking time bomb

By Tessy Igomu

A trail of sorrow, tears and blood. That has been the recent regular trademark of itinerant herdsmen in many parts of the country. With unconcealed impunity, they invade communities, maiming everything in their path. From the South-West to the South-South, from the South-East to the North-Central zones of the country, it has been theatres of wanton killings as heavily armed herdsmen alleged to be of Fulani extraction unleash vicious attacks on helpless communities. After each deadly visit by the herdsmen, villages and farmlands become desolate and dead bodies line the narrow bush paths.

Daily, reports of lives massacred send shock wavess through the spines of millions of Nigerians. No week passes without a report in the media of fresh, vicious attacks allegedly carried out by Fulani militias on agrarian communities. Farmlands are not spared in the disheartening invasions.

Right now, there are fears of a confrontation between the herdsmen and the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), following allegations that the herdsmen kidnapped and murdered one of the OPC leaders in Akure. The victim, Ayodele Ige, was OPC coordinator in Akure and leader of the guards on Chief Olu Falae’s farm in Akure.

According to a December 2013 Human Rights Watch report, violence between Fulani and farmers in local communities had killed 3,000 people since 2010. From Abbi in Enugu State to Agatu in Benue, from the highlands of Plateau State to the hills and rocks of Ekiti State and other parts of the country, it has been a chronicle of gory and heart-rending assaults by the marauders.

Agatu communities in Benue State are yet to overcome the recent brutal attack on them by herdsmen. For years, the suspected Fulani herdsmen had engaged several villages in the area in an enduring battle over the destruction of the people’s farmlands by cattle. The confrontations took a deadly twist with renewed attacks on seven villages that left no fewer than 300 people dead and 700 villagers displaced in February.

Emboldened by their seeming free rein, the herdsmen, together with their cattle, have gone a notch further to occupy the communities, while the fleeing villagers are forced to take refuge in camps located in squalid, dingy school facilities that also serve as homes for mosquitoes, rodents and dangerous reptiles.

There appears to be no end in sight to the bloodshed and wanton destruction of property.

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