As Nigeria is still reeling from the Boko Haram insurgence, their numerous atrocities and the fact that the Nigerian military has been unable to defeat them, there is more bad news; the country plays host to another terrorist group yet unrecognized – nomadic pastorists. The Fulani herdsmen – cattle grazers – have been named one of the deadliest terror groups in the world amongst Boko Haram, Isis, Taliban and al-Shabaab.
Although they are overlooked in Nigeria and in certain parts of the Central African Republic, the group has wreaked enough havoc to be acknowledged by the global community as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. The group of “Fulani militants” as they have come to be known as, is made up of individuals from the Fulani or Fula ethnic group, a tribe of over 20 million people – 70 percent of whom are nomadic grazers – who exist in at least seven West African countries.
In Nigeria, there has been ongoing tension between Fulani communities and farming communities for many years, but this tension has seen dramatic escalation in recent times to include attacks, kidnappings and killings by the nomads. Between 2010 and 2013, Fulani militants killed about 80 people in total, but by 2014, they had killed 1,229 people.
Unlike Boko Haram which only operates in northern Nigeria, the nomadic militants dominate the middle belt region. The Global Terrorism Index of 2015 states that over 90 percent of the attacks carried out by the group are on private citizens, accounting for 81 percent of deaths in the area. And these attacks have mainly been through armed assaults, killing an average of 11 people per attack.
Before the report, the largest attack was two years ago when the group killed over 200 people – community leaders and residents that were meeting in a remote village in Zamfara state, Nigeria. But their recent activities have surpassed this; last week, no fewer than 300 persons were killed following a series of attacks launched by Fulani herdsmen in Benue state. According to reports, several villages were razed with decomposing remains of people in sight. The number of internally displaced persons is also on the rise in these communities as people desert their homes for neighbouring towns.
On the 24th of January last month, Fulani militants were responsible for the death of 30 people in Adamawa State, including a Divisional Police Officer. They were also responsible for the kidnapping and killing of His Royal Majesty, Akaeze Ofulue III of the Ubulu-Uku kingdom in Aniocha, Delta state. The nomads brought about enough destruction in the south west of Nigeria to cause leaders in the region to convene an emergency meeting resulting in a call for government intervention.
Am so pained to hear of the renewed killings going on within the Middle-Belt region. But its WORRISOME dat GMB is silent. #WhereIsTheChange
— Makji Dajwal (@Gmacgee) February 29, 2016
Where is d change they promised us. They said they wud secure our lives but pple kip dieing daily #WhereIsTheChange https://t.co/TPMESOnVrZ
— Governor Kaslas CEG (@GovernorKaslas) February 29, 2016
Unfortunately, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is from the Fulani ethnic group, has not said much about the activities of these deadly nomads, a behaviour that is seemingly typical of the 73 year old. And while Nigerians are growing familiar with his constant behaviour of silence, it is definitely not something they are willing to condone. Part of the ongoing conversation on social media with #WhereIsTheChange has disgruntled Nigerians asking why the President is silent regarding this prevailing issue, particularly with the recent attacks of the past week. Nothing has been heard from the Office of the President since the attacks in Agatu community, Adamawa State.
In January, President Buhari did say that a plan to map out grazing areas for the herdsmen was underway, and will be presented to the Nigerian Governors Forum as a temporary solution to the long standing conflicts between farmers and herdsmen until these herdsmen are persuaded to adopt other means of rearing their cattle. This has been the most heard from the president on this issue; and quite disappointing for a man who promised change, especially regarding the prevailing issue of insecurity in Nigeria.
The recurring attacks and increased level of carnage committed by these nomads have led many to question whether or not there’s a larger issue at play, something other than their widely acclaimed quest for land, resources and justice. Whatever the case, these men clearly need to be stopped. The already destabilised country cannot afford to entertain anymore issues of insecurity and terrorism alongside the unquelled activities of Boko Haram.