FULANI herdsmen’s body the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) has called on its members to be prepared to defend themselves against attacks from ethnic militia in the south of the country as opposition to their presence grows.
Over the last few weeks, the political temperature has risen significantly in Nigeria after the government came out with the ill-thought out Ruga policy that would involve states handing their land over to Fulani cattle herdsmen to rear their livestock. Apart from the fact that to work, the policy would require the abrogation of the Land Use Act with vests land ownership with state governors, Ruga is also seen as a security threat.
Fulani cattle herdsmen have been guilty of murderous attacks on farming villages across Nigeria lately, carrying out violent assaults on farming communities that protest damage to their crops by livestock. As a result of the security threat these herdsmen pose, many states have vehemently said they would not make land available for Ruga settlements.
With anti-Fulani sentiments on the rise, Macban has warned politicians against politicising the spate of killing across the country amid growing tension generated by the Ruga policy. Macban general secretary Saleh Alhassan, maintained that herdsmen have a constitutional right to movement across the federation and would not give it up out of fear.
He said: “We are Nigerians and we have a history. Anybody that thinks he can wake up and take on the Fulani pastoralist is making a grievous mistake and we are well prepared to defend our fundamental human rights of movement in this country.
“Herdsmen are Nigerians, so they are entitled to stay where they are. They should remain where they are and defend themselves against ethnic militia and assert their citizenship in this country.
“The only thing we would say is that we will hold all the governors of those states responsible for their safety and security but if any ethnic militia, by any name, attacks our members, they should defend themselves in a manner that nobody would try such again. We have been saying it that people behind insecurity are not herders as bandits are behind these killings and if the government is saying foreigners have infiltrated the herders, have they been arrested and what is their nationality?”
Mr Alhassan also berated the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) for calling on the herdsmen to vacate south region. He said Macban would hold the CNG responsible if any herdsman is killed as a result of their proclamation.
“Those so-called northern youths called the coalition of northern groups should note that if because of their action any herder is killed, we will first look for them before we go after our enemies. We are Nigerians and we are not going anywhere, so, if anybody is thinking that because he has cultivated the land in a particular place for long and he has rights there more than us, then we would ask where is the grazing area that the colonial masters created for us?”
“Politicians can play their politics but they should leave our people out of it because it is the desperate politicians that are causing this confusion and they are looking for anything to hang on to but we are watching them critically. If you threaten the herders, they react as they cannot be used for any political game because we have our way of defending ourselves,” Mr Alhassan added.