Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Opinion: Nigeria: Before We Drown In Rivers Of Blood



By Ogadimma Machikwe

“The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.” (Enoch Powell, Rivers of Blood Speech). The Telegraph, November 6, 2007.

 THE INVADING HERDSMEN AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Nigeria is known in world geography by the two major rivers that run through it, the River Niger and River Benue. These two major rivers meet in Lokoja from where they travel to the Niger Delta and empty through tributaries into the Atlantic. Nigeria is also blessed with many other rivers, good climate and ample arable land which is great for agriculture. See Rivers and Lakes-Land Resources in Nigeria-Africa. The blessings of good rivers, good climate and good vegetation may be compounding the problems facing Nigeria, threatening to turn the country into a killing field by rampaging nomadic Tauregs (also known as Fulani Herdsmen), driven out of the Sahel Region by climate change, armed conflicts and weak governments.
According to Ann Heshkowitz, “The Tuaregs are a mainly nomadic people who live in the semi-arid Sahel and arid Sahara in an area that overlaps with the modern nations of Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya. They are known alternately as warriors, traders and pastoralists. In Mali and Niger they are primarily occupied as pastoralists, raising cattle, goats, sheep and camels. Ethnically related to Berbers and often described as “light-skinned,” Tuareg culture dates back centuries.” The Tuareg in Mali and Niger, The Role of Desertification in Violent Conflict. ICE Case Studies No. 151 August 2005. For centuries, nomadic herdsmen or pastoralists would migrate from the Sahel Region into Nigeria especially during the dry season and return, when the climate improved in their various countries. Some settled down in many areas of Nigeria living in peace and coexisting with the host communities. As the population increased in the settlement clusters, these settlers started seeking political and social placement, sometimes seeking to displace the indigenous communities. A case in point, is the fight between indigenes and settlers for the control and ownership of Jos, Plateau State. Over the years, there has been many riots in Jos with attendant loss of thousands of lives. Each time, either the Federal or the State Government or both, set up a Judicial Panels of Inquiry. The 1994 Fiberesima Report, the 2001/2002 Niki Tobi Report and the Plateau Peace Conference of 2004 were all in agreement that Jos belong to the indigenous Afizeres, Anagutas and Beroms and not to the settlers. It has been stated that most of these conflicts were caused by Fulani Herdsmen who were originally from Niger Republic and environs, but who settled in Jos Plateau several years ago.
The Tauregs and Pastoralists span several countries and are an organized establishment whose livelihood is threatened by the desert encroachment in the Sahel Region. Their umbrella Organization is the Billital Maroobe with head office in Dori, Burkina Faso and a permanent secretariat in Niamey, Niger. Organizations from the following West African countries are members, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. Nigeria is represented by Miette Allah in this regional organization Billital Maroobe, whose objective includes seeing to the welfare and advancement of the Pastoralist Fulbe. See New mobilities and insecurities in Fulbe nomadic societies: A multi-country study in West-Central Africa (Niger-Nigeria) Mirjam de Bruijn, Kiky van Oostrum, Oka Obono, Amadou Oumarou, Dodo Boureima, ASC Working Paper 96 / 2011.

WHO IS BILLITAL MAROOBE?
According to Mirjam de Bruijn, et. al.,(citation above),   Billital Maroobé is:
” a network of organizations of farmers and pastoralists in Africa, that works for the advocacy and promotion of its members in economic, political, social and cultural development in seven countries in West Africa: Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
Billital Maroobé is operating on three levels: international, national and regional. The
head office is located in Dori (Burkina Faso) and the Permanent Secretariat in Niamey (Niger). The responsibility of the latter is the division of tasks, the reinforcement of capacity building at regional level, research and practical implementation of some activities of which the most important are the achievement of strategic plans and the operation of a sub-regional forum. Every day they receive and respond to questions from various sub-regional pastoralist organizations despite the fact that their level of technology has not yet reached an optimum
level (especially lack of internet connection).

The Chairman of the Permanent Technical Secretariat of Billital Maroobé is Mr.
Dodo Boureima. Since 1990 he takes up the case of pastoralist Fulbe in general and
he plays a decisive role within the network of Billital Maroobé in particular since its
inception in 2003 in Burkina Faso (Dori). Its foundation stems from the efforts to join
the interests of three pastoral organizations namely: the Association pour la Redynamisation de l’Elevage au Niger (AREN) in Niger, Comité Régional Des Unités de production du Sahel (CRUS) in Burkina Faso and Tassaght in Mali. Since the network has started it sees a growing momentum and today many organizations operate under the umbrella of the network
of Billital Maroobé. In addition to the three mentioned above, the total of actual associated organizations include: l’Association Nationale des Organisations Professionnelles d’Eleveurs de Ruminants (ANOPER) in Benin; la Fédération des Eleveurs du Burkina (FEB) and the Réseau de Communication des Pasteurs (RECOPA) in Burkina Faso; the Association des Organisations Professionnelles Paysannes (AOPP), la Fédération des Eleveurs pour le Bétail et la Viande au Mali (FEBEVIM) and the Fédération Amadane in Mali; Groupement National des Associations Pastorales de la Mauritanie (GNAP) in Mauritania; Gaina and Gadjé in Niger; Miette Allah in Nigeria ; and finally l’Association pour le Développement de Namarel (ADENA), l’Association pour le Développement Intégré et Durable (ADID) and the Fédération pour le
Développement du Jolloff (FBAJ) in Senegal.” (Emphasis, mine)
This Association of Pastoralist Organizations as part of its strategic plan, aspires to install friendly governments in all the countries where they operate as well as friendly legislatures in all tiers of government. They have been accused of complicity in removal of governments and fermenting trouble for governments seen to be adverse to their interests. They influence the appointment and promotion of top civil servants that will be sympathetic to the goals and aspirations of pastoralists also known as herdsmen. They fight for the free movement of herdsmen and cattle across borders, the unimpeded access of cattle to pasture and fresh water sources like rivers, streams and other fresh water bodies. They are predominantly Moslem and seem to have added the spread and propagation of faith to their agenda. In that way, they have steady access of slush funds from wealthy Arab Nations. Some of the youth embedded in the Herdsmen are involved in armed robbery, kidnapping and other illicit means of raising money for personal and organizational sustenance. The upsurge in kidnapping in Nigeria can be attributed to the Fulani Herdsmen. They are not from the same country, but from diverse countries but mostly belong to the Fulbe Tribe. They speak a common language all the way to the Central African Republic and as far North as Libya. They also speak pidgin English. Those of them who have adapted to city life work as drivers of buses, tri-cycles, called Keke-Napep, day laborers like concreting at construction sites and other menial jobs. They make themselves available as thugs to politicians during elections, and were touted to have flooded Nigeria in the hundreds of thousands during the 2016 Nigerian  elections. In the event that Jonathan won the elections, Nigeria would have witnessed a major human catastrophe, such as never seen in the country,  since these Herdsmen have infiltrated all nooks and corners of Nigeria down to Calabar, Uyo,  Port Harcourt, Bayelsa and Lagos. It is believed that the concession by former President Goodluck  Jonathan saved Nigeria from being another Rwanda.
  1. THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH CLIMATE CHANGE
The Sahel Region encountered severe droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. That caused severe alteration in the lifestyle and livelihood of the inhabitants of the region who are predominantly herdsmen, a lot of whom  lost their cattle to the drought. At the same time,  most of the governments were failing leading to a lot of insecurity in this volatile region. Countries like Niger and others were having  explosion of youth  of low median age, who were restless and looking for engagement. Many in the Sahel migrated North where they participated actively in the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya and other restive areas of the time. Some joined  Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, while others may have received training in the hands of Al Shabab. With the fall of Libya and the  re-alignment completed in the surrounding countries, those persons started returning to their countries of origin, with weapons and fighting skills. Some joined Boko Haram, while  others went back to being herdsmen. The major problem was that the pasture and rivers had dried up due to desert encroachment.
  1. THE MARCH SOUTH
The Tauregs began their march south in search of arable land for their cows and fresh water bodies. Realizing that the issue of desert encroachment is a permanent phenomenon, it was not same as the process of  years before, where the cattle would be grazed in the south for only a few months of the year. The herdsmen are seeking permanent settlements in the middle belt and Southern states of  Nigeria, as well as other West African countries. The capital of the Fulani Herdsmen in the Nigerian Southern Hemisphere is  Lokoja, Kogi State. This is where they have their command and control. This is where they settle disputes and where they retreat to, in times of trouble in the Southern States. It is their own capital city.
The lands they seek belong to communities that settled in them for centuries. The quest to acquire these lands and water rights by conquering the native communities is what the popular press is calling “attacks by Fulani Herdsmen”. The truth of the matter is that Nigeria is at war. The war is being waged by the Tauregs who are seeking to take over and occupy the lands and rivers of indigenous communities so that they could carry on the livelihood of cattle rearing which cannot be practiced in the Sahel Region due to desert encroachment. It must be noted that the Tauregs have been in Nigeria for centuries and that the Fulbe have been part and parcel of Nigeria for ages. The Association, Billital Maroobe encourages an open border and free movement of the pastoralists or herdsmen among the member countries. They rely on the ECOWAS Treaty of Free Movement of Persons, which by itself does not encourage illegal and undocumented migration. The Nigerian Immigration Service and other relevant security agencies like the army, police, Civil Defense, and others have deliberately refused to enforce the law, choosing instead to sacrifice the lives and rights of indigenous Nigerian Communities. For the same reason, the  Agencies have played politics with and sabotaged the National Identification Card system. Today. no one can answer the question, “Who is a Nigerian”. Most of the Taureg Herdsmen though foreigners, falsely claim that they come from Adamawa, Yobe or Taraba.
The problem of conflict between the Fulani Herdsmen and indigenous Nigerian communities is decades old. See Abu Bakarr Bar, 2005, Breakdown and Reconstitution-Democracy, The Nation-State and Ethnicity in Nigeria. In the past few years however, it took on the cloak of a full- fledged invasion. In Nassarawa State, the running battle between the native Eggon Community and invading and occupying Fulani Herdsmen over the past several years cost hundreds of lives. In the early hours of February 24, 2016, suspected Fulani invaders attacked many communities in Agatu, Benue State. By the time the orgy of violence subsided, hundreds of  lives had been lost, property worth millions destroyed and thousands of people displaced from their communities. Adams Abonu, Nigeria: The Agatu Massacre, Thisday, April 4th, 2016. The Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom stated that porous Nigerian borders led to the influx of foreigners into the country. It was his belief that the invaders of Agatu were mostly from Mali, Senegal and Ghana. Nnenna Ibe, NAIJ.Com. The spoke person of the Agatu Community gave greater clarity to the sordid situation thus:
 “On his part, Akpa Iduh who spoke on behalf of the Agatu people, said the Fulanis were bent on taking over Agatu land hence their resort to recruiting mercenaries to wipe out his people. He lamented that the crisis had escalated to a war situation where women, children and the elderly were killed indiscriminately by the invaders and urged the authorities to stop the carnage in Agatu land.”  Vanguard, March 5, 2016.
On April 25, 2016, Fulani youth drawn from different parts of Nigeria staged an attack on the Nimbo Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government of Enugu State killing over a hundred persons, burning down the community and displacing thousands of persons. Unlike the Agatu killings, there was a forewarning of this attack which led to Security Agencies being drafted to the community. The police and the army guarding the community withdrew and paved the way for the heinous attack. If you read the Niki Tobi Report on the Jos Riots, 2001/2002, this was exactly how Jos was attacked and the report found that then Commissioner of Police allowed his Fulani ethnicity to impede his judgment. It has since been proven that Fulani invaders attacked Nimbo and captured the killings on video to show to their sponsors. Cephas Lorhernen, New Telegraph, May 28, 2016.
On May 20, 2016, large numbers of Fulani invaders attacked Oke-Ako Community in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State killing and maiming several persons. Since then, the State Governor, Ayo Fayose has banned all grazing of cattle in the state except on private ranches. He has also mobilized the vigilante group to attack any herdsman found grazing cattle in the state.
The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase stated boldly that the herdsmen who launch violent attacks on farmers in Nigeria are mostly foreigners. Seun Opejobi, Daily Post, February 15, 2016, See also, Vanguard, May 8, 2016, Premium Times, February 13, 2016. The Nigerian President, Muhammad Buhari has repeated this allegation while the Minister of Information has been mocked my Reno Omokori for stating that herdsmen are foreigners who sometimes drive their cattle from Mauritius. Reno Omokri Twitter Handle of May 29, 2016.
The rampaging of Fulani Herdsmen is not limited to Nigeria. In Ghana they have been accused of rapes, kidnappings, destruction of farm lands, killings and endangering the food security of Ghana. See irinnews.org, April 29, 2010. In the Volta Region of Ghana, the plan of containment includes:
“We are leading the attack and if they resist we will call in the military,” police commander for the Volta Region, which borders Togo, Deputy Commissioner of Police David Ampah-Benin told IRIN.
The herdsmen will be tried under a provisional charge of illegal entry into Ghana, he said. Individuals must have papers stamped, or cross at established border crossings to enter Ghana legally.”
For a detailed analysis of the Ghanaian situation, see Akosua Dosu, Fulani-Farmer Conflict and Climate Change in Ghana, ICE Case Studies, No. 258, December 2011.
The Nigerian case is very complex since many commanding officers and rank and file of the army, police, and other branches of the armed forces are  persons of the Fulani tribe or persons sympathetic to the cause or causes of the Fulani herdsmen. Even many those who are not of the Fulani tribe, like Middle Belt and Southerners  in positions of authority like State Governors, Federal legislators like Senators and Members of the House of Representatives and State Legislators have failed woefully to act on behalf of their people, some out of cowardice, others because they have been bribed by Billital Maroobe and the herdsmen, and  some out of political considerations not to be seen to be offending powerful Fulani interests. Meanwhile, their people are being massacred in their thousands.
The Nigerian Government must be upfront with its citizens and acknowledge that Nigeria is at war or at least,  under siege by the illegal occupation by  herdsmen of communities in the Middle belt and Southern Nigeria. Most security analysts believe that the conquering Fulani Herdsmen are more dangerous that Boko Haram. While Boko Haram attack the low and mighty, they espouse an ideology which is not popular with majority of Nigerians. The Federal Republic of Nigeria also brought out all its might to crush the Boko Haram insurgency. The Fulani Herdsmen on the other hand are conquerors seeking to take over the lands of other tribes, at the same time they are espousing a hidden agenda of jihad, which appeals to many Leaders of Thought in Northern Nigeria. The leadership in the country and the security forces lack the political will, zeal and appetite to fight this matter. Rather, they espouse the pacifist approach to peacefully expropriate communal lands and cede same to the Fulani Herdsmen as “Grazing Reserves“,  to avoid bloodshed. While the Governor of Ekiti was vocal in his approach,  other Southern Communities may be amassing arms to guard against the unproved massacre of innocent citizens by these attackers or the unauthorized expropriation of their ancestral lands. The World powers need to be put on notice of the magnitude of this looming calamity, the imminent displacement and extermination of thousands of people  South of the Sahel by Tauregs of the Sahel and Sahara. This emerging evil is still preventable if only statesmen in Nigeria will speak up and take immediate action. Unless, the full might of the Federal Government is brought to bear on the systematic and holistic clearance of these occupiers of all affected communities in Nigeria, (to borrow from Enoch Powell ) “I see the River Niger foaming with blood” .
* Next, “The Rivers of Blood flowing in the creeks of the Niger Delta”
* The Author is a Development Consultant  for Sub-Saharan, Africa

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