Herdsmen have attacked rural communities in different parts of
Nigeria in a well-established fashion: a village is surrounded in the
dead of night, shootings are indiscriminate, anyone found is killed
whether they be children, women or men while the rest of the
community are made to flee.
The question is if we as unlettered security persons have taken
into cognizance this pattern in Adamawa, Plateau, Benue, Southern
Kaduna, Mambilla, Enugu, Taraba and all of the states these
onslaughts have gone on, how is it that our security personnel
have not been able to intercept this pattern and bring the attackers
to account? Boko Haram was said to be an asymmetrical warfare
as such difficult for the security agents, how then is a rehearsed
pattern such a challenge for our security agents?
The writer also alluded that although communities feign innocence
and that the fact that the herdsmen leave thousands of villages
along their routes untouched and sneak upon specific ones
suggests that somebody in that community did something-either
killed a herdsman or rustled some cattle. He further said that the
herdsmen live in another age and they have different rules of
engagement from the one most of us are used to-the ugly notion
that when someone offends them, every member of the offending
village woman, child, aged and infirm is fair game.
It is very difficult to wrap the head around what Jega describes as
the herdsman’s different rule of engagement. If the intention was
to present the herdsman as unintelligent or primitive, then that
notion falls short for a herdsman whose trade makes him the most
migratory of all people exposing him to several cultures and
civilizations. At the very least, one would expect that if the
herdsman does not live in our age nor understand UN Conventions,
he certainly shares our humanity and bleeds red when cut and so
should know the value of life. What is the price of a cattle rustled?
How many human bodies bring to equilibrium the loss suffered by
It is therefore not only offensive to modern value system that
anyone (herdsman or farmer) should go on a killing spree when
offended. It is a rape on justice, a desecration of just dessert and a
usurpation of the philosophy of the heat of passion rule. The thing
to do is not to mow down a community when a cow is rustled or a
family member killed, no,the justice system is there for redress.
When cattle is rustled, the Law calls it theft and theft has a
punishment in our Law books. When a person is killed whether by
the herdsman or member of any community whenever or
howsoever by persons other than the State, then the name for it is
To hit the nail, that thing we call herdsmen-farmer conflict is called
Murder in a state where there is respect for the Rule of Law. When
houses are burnt, the Law calls it arson. When property is stolen
without arms or with arms the Law calls it theft or armed robbery.
The Law, not humans should balance terror and when we get to
the point where we decide we cannot trust our legal system
anymore then the thing to do is to shut down all security agencies,
close down the legal system and go home to create our own kind
of justice; but until then, the Law is the Law and the State cannot
afford to be the enabler of crime by calling crime less than what
the Law says it is or given priority to those who make life
unbearable for others.
Take Southern Kaduna as example a place where Mr. Jega
suggests that the killings are reprusals of the herdsmen losses in
the 2011 post-election crisis; Mr. Jega may want to note that since
2012 there have been constant attacks in that area. Curiously, the
2011 post-election crisis did not begin in Southern Kaduna, it
happened all across the country especially in the northern states.
How many more of the killings of the Southern Kaduna people will
appease the herdsmen and who will say stop when the killings
reach the equilibrium? Are Kogi, Enugu, Numan, Mambilla, Benue,
Plateau, Taraba also paying up the herdsmen 2011 post-election
deficit? If not, why should Southern Kaduna be the sole place still
paying for the 2011 post-election crisis which had indiscriminate
casualties and for which even the Southern Kaduna people had so
much losses of their own?
My point is to say those of us who write must be careful not to
give any justifications even if unwittingly for impunity. The
expression high-tech low casualty wars and low-tech high casualty
wars does not apply in this instance because the ‘thing’ we are
talking about by whatever name we intend to call it has raked up
huge casualty to earn itself a fourth place in the Global Terror
Index. Ironically, the present administration does not see it lethal
enough to give it the same name the global terror index gives it nor
did the President deem it big enough to recognize it as a problem
to address in his new year speech- a speech which Nigerians
envisage is the compass for our national journey in 2018.
It is tasking to think that the herdsman who in Jega’s reckoning
does not know a North Central geopolitical zone, knows how to
handle an AK47 and will “leave thousands of villages along the
route untouched and sneak upon specific ones”.
If Prof Wole Soyinka’s assertion is to be debunked on Jega’s basis
that the herdsman does not know that Nigeria exists then it means
the herdsman does not recognize the sovereignty of the Nigerian
state which invariably lends credence to the assertion that the
herdsmen who carry out the attacks are foreign mercenaries and if
they do not ‘know a local, national or international boundary when
they cross one’; who are the states supposed to provide the
colonies for? Foreigners? Will they recognize the colonies if and
when they see it? Is Nigeria not ceding its sovereignty to people it
cannot hold accountable?
You know, this crisis of climate change, population pressure, influx
of small arms and other causes are largely man made than natural
and like all man-made disasters, they can be solved by men and
women of good conscience who will not look for temporal
decisions for long-term problems. China is turning deserts to green
fields and agricultural zones. They make no discrimination as to
forms of agriculture as such give a fair chance to all forms of
farmers; Nigeria should do the same.
Cattle rearing is a private business which does not entitle the
government to tax since the Jangali tax system was abolished.
The government may facilitate an enabling environment for
agriculture if it wills but in so doing must not complicate matters.
Take the colony proposal as example, with Nigeria’s landmass of
about 923,768sqkm, the proposed cattle colony of 10,000 hectares
per state brings the total hectares to a huge 370,000hectares
proposed to be given to cattle rearers only. How justifiable is it to
cede such large swathes of land to the exclusion of other business
owners and the rest of the Nigerian community?
In any case, this colony creation falls short of section 28 of the
Land Use Act which empowers Government to take over land only
for overriding public interest. If the government intends to solve
this problem in a nuanced and balanced fashion,it can through the
Bank of Agriculture, give interest free loans to all farmers but if it
continues on the path of this cattle colony it must envisage a
situation where pig owners, poultry owners, rabbit owners and all
other animals on the animal farm demand for same and when that
happens, what is good for Angola must be good for Uganda.
More critical is to look at the composition and efficacy of the
Nigerian Security chiefs. Nigerians around the country have cried
hoarse on the lopsided representation of Nigeria’s security chiefs
–the Inspector General, the Army chief, the Air Force Chief, the
Director for State Security Service, the Interior Minister, the
Defence Minister and the National Security Adviser are all
perceived to be from a single geographical area. The President
may have his reason for having them but clearly the Nigerian
people do not trust the arrangement. In Law we say Justice must
not only be done, but seen to be done. To make matters worse,
these killings have gone on without a successful response by the
present chiefs. Part of the solution is to sack the present security
chiefs and to bring on board competent replacement with national
The government also must give as much attention to the victims as
it does to those it wants to create the colonies for. The peaceful
loss of a loved one is traumatic much more a violent one worsened
by the memory of knowing the murderer is not brought to book or
termed ‘unknown gunman’. There are victims who have lost
husbands, wives, children, homes, livelihood; there are
communities that have been sacked these victims need justice.
Government must forestall these attacks and where they happen
demand answers from the security officers in charge of those
Government must also not rounddown these murders or forget
about them carrying on as though the lives of Nigerians mean
nothing. The death of the paramount ruler of Numana and his wife
in Southern Kaduna for example ought to have been unraveled by
now. The deaths of all other persons whether in Mambilla, Taraba,
Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Birnin Gwari or anywhere at all need to
be unraveled. The President should also show up in these troubled
areas to atleast empathize with Nigerians, it is a basic human
requirement for someone leading a country of human beings.
The reality of what we are dealing with should leave such
impactful conviction and presence of mind that we say no to these
killings and the truth is, we don’t have a capacity problem but a
will problem. It’s time to find the will to stop these killings.
Herdsmen have attacked rural communities in different parts of