Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has attributed the unrelenting violence being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen to the refusal of the Federal Government to arrest and punish the herders for the serial killings across the country.
The renowned playwright described as a promotion of “undisputed impunity” the failure of the government to offer “legal, logical and moral response” to the spate of killings by the cattle rearers.
In his speech tilted, ‘The Killing Culture of the Neo-Nomadic’, which was presented at the National Conference on Culture and Tourism in Abuja on Thursday, Soyinka stated that it was shocking that the government had yet to make a terse statement against the killings done by the herdsmen.
Admitting that Boko Haram insurgents might no longer be as potent as the militants used to be, Soyinka argued that the terrorists already had worthy successors in the herdsmen, whom he alleged recently “invaded” his country home in Abeokuta while he was away.
He said, “It is not merely arbitrary violence that reigns across the nation but total, undisputed impunity. Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered.
“I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres that have become the nation’s identification stamp. I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial, and his cattle confiscated.
“Recently, however, I returned from a trip outside the country about to find that my home ground had been invaded, and a brand-new, Appian way sliced through my sanctuary. That motorable path was made by the hoofed invaders. Both the improvised entry and exit are now blocked, but interested journalists are invited to visit.”
Soyinka added, “In over two decades of living in that ecological preserve, no such intrusion had ever occurred. I have no idea whether they were Fulani or Futa Jalon herdsmen but, they were cattle herders, and they had cut a crude swathe through my private grounds.
“I made enquiries and sent alerts around, including through the Baale (community head) of our neighbourhood village. There has been no repeat, and hopefully it will remain the first and last of such invasion. What it portends however is for all thinking citizens to reflect upon, and take concerted measures against.”
Soyinka condemned the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari to end farmers-herdsmen clashes and arbitrary ranching across the country in 18 months, saying this was tantamount to appealing to the violent herders.
The playwright added, “The nation is treated to an 18-month optimistic plan which, to make matters worse, smacks of abject appeasement and encouragement of violence on innocents. Let me repeat, and of course I only ask to be corrected if wrong: I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscionable bloodletting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”
Herdsmen’s menace threatening Nigeria’s unity – Igbo senators
The South-East Senate Caucus on Thursday warned of imminent danger and possible threat to the unity of Nigeria if the Federal Government failed to urgently address the Enugu massacre carried out by Fulani herdsmen.
The Igbo senators stated this in a statement by the member, representing Abia South in the upper chamber, Enyinaya Abaribe, at the end of their emergency meeting held in Abuja.
They did not only condemn the attack, which left over 50 persons dead and scores driven out of their homes, but also called for a summit of the South-East and South-South states on the issue.
They said governors, members of the National and state Houses of Assembly, socio-cultural associations, traditional rulers and major stakeholders should mandatorily be part of the proposed meeting.
According to the lawmakers, the emergency summit will review and evaluate the very scary situation and proffer a coordinated response that will ensure the security of lives and property of their people.
The caucus added, “We can no longer sit and watch while our people are daily slaughtered like fowls without even attracting the cursory routine condemnation by the Presidency.
“We are even more appalled that despite the alarm raised by the Ukpabi Nimbo community of an imminent attack by the Fulani herdsmen and the associated vague assurances by the chairman of Fulani community in Enugu that such attack would not happen, yet the security agencies failed to prevent the attack that happened two days after the alarm.
“It is disheartening what is happening, and somebody has to take responsibility. That somebody has to be the institution of the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday set up an ad hoc committee to conduct comprehensive investigations into the attacks in Nimbo community and recommend ways of curtailing future attacks across the country.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North) at the plenary presided over by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who is also from Enugu State.
The senators, at the end of the debate, which lasted for about one hour and 30 minutes, also summoned the Service Chiefs to appear before them and brief them in a closed-door session.
They also urged the Nigeria Police Force to introduce stop-and-search of the herdsmen moving in the bush or on the main roads to detect those who could be carrying arms.
PFN blames police for attacks
Also, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Enugu State Chapter, blamed the Nigeria Police Force for failing to stop the attack.
The state chapter of the PFN spoke in a communique released after an emergency meeting in Enugu, which was convened over the Ukpabi Nimbo killings.
In the communique, which was signed by the state PFN chairman, Rev. Dr. Goddy Madu, and the Head of Security, Joseph Ajujungwa, the group described as “barbaric, wicked and inhuman, the attack on the people of Nimbo in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State by the Fulani-Hausa herdsmen.”
The Christian body noted that the attack had shown that the police were not reliable and should not be trusted.
“The Fulani herdsmen invaded the community with over 500 armed men, who were drawn from both Nasarawa and Kogi states, killing over 50 people in their homes and destroy some churches and buildings.
“This is not the first and the Nigeria Police did nothing, rather they filled the Enugu urban with vehicles that cannot respond to distress calls, but are busy collecting N20 and N50 from keke and motorists,” the communique read.
In a related development, the Enugu State Police Command has refuted reports that a fresh herdsmen attack was recorded in another Enugu community, Umuchigbo, on Wednesday.
The Police Public Relations Officer for the command, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, dismissed reports of the alleged incident in a statement.
“The command wishes to make it categorically clear that this is not only false but baseless and unfounded,” the PPRO said.
Meanwhile, the outlawed pro-Biafran group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, on Thursday said it was disappointed with the South-East governors for their inability to stop violent attacks by Fulani herdsmen on communities in the zone.
IPOB, which spoke through its Information Officer, Mr. Emma Powerful, said the recent attack on the Ukpabi Nimbo community in Enugu State, where over 20 persons lost their lives, would have been averted if the governors had taken steps to check the “imminent danger” posed by the herdsmen.
The secessionist group accused the governors of failing to understand that they were the chief security officers in their various states by virtue of the office they occupied.
The group stated, “The governors and the politicians used the lives of their subjects to play game and politics; if not so, why would they not summon an emergency meeting to deliberate on the impending dangers and condition of their people?”
It faulted the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for calling for two days of fast and prayers and donating money to the people of Ukpani Nimbo.
IPOB, in the same vein, urged Christians to “do something” to check what it described as a plan to Islamise the country.
In a related development, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Hosea Karma, on Thursday said his command was able to contain the activities of herdsmen in the state through an informal security method.
Karma stated this at a one-day security awareness dialogue, organised by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in collaboration with the office of the Secretary to the State Government at the Prof. Dora Akunyili Women’s Development Centre, Awka, the Anambra State capital.
The police boss said the method that had worked for his command was the use of Fulani herdsmen that were born in the state to checkmate the activities of others that were alien to the state.
He added, “We have told those Fulani herdsmen, born in the state, that any untoward incident that occurred in the state as a result of herdsmen activity, we shall hold them responsible.
“With this, they have helped us to police their fellow herdsmen because they understand both Igbo and Fulani languages. This system has helped us a lot,” Karma said.
“Our investigations have shown that if you resort to self-help in fighting these people (Fulani herdsmen) the situation would be catastrophic. They don’t forgive anything done them, even in three years’ time.”
In his opening remarks, the state Commander of the NDLEA, Mr. Sule Momodu, said the objective of the workshop was to make everybody in the state security conscious in the prevailing circumstance of the time.
ACF asks security agents to uncover perpetrators
The Arewa Consultative Forum on Thursday condemned Monday’s attack on Ukpabi Nimbo Community in Enugu State, describing it as most unfortunate and barbaric.
The ACF, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim, commiserated with the government and people of Enugu State “over this unfortunate and ugly incident.”
It called on security agencies to unmask the perpetrators of the heinous attacks, so as to end current “dangerous generalisation” of Fulani herdsmen as responsible for the attacks.
The group added, “Nigeria cannot afford to graduate from Boko Haram insurgency to an unwarranted attack by unknown gunmen alleged to be Fulani herdsmen.
“The traditional Fulani nomads have coexisted peacefully with their host communities and have been grazing their cattle for decades all over Nigeria without any such attacks.
“ACF is therefore disturbed and seriously concerned with this recent development.
“It therefore calls upon the security agencies to do a thorough investigation into the identities of the suspected gunmen in order to stop this dangerous generalisation of labelling certain tribe or people of certain faith as responsible for these attacks.
“Criminals hiding under whatever guise and committing heinous crimes against innocent people and the state should be treated as such and in accordance with the law.”