We won’t stop reprisals on killer herders, Afenifere warns
• Cattlemen seize 17 in Taraba, bandits kidnap three on Lagos-Ibadan road
• ACF knocks Obasanjo over comments on insecurity
The leaders of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, yesterday ordered killer Fulani herdsmen to vacate the southwest or face consequences.
The group disclosed at a press briefing in Lagos that failure by the herdsmen to heed the advice could result in a confrontation with the Yoruba people.
In a statement read by one of the leaders, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the group also warned the National Assembly not to amend the Land Use Act with a view to empowering the Federal Government to allocate state lands for the controversial RUGA settlement project for herders.
Afenifere chieftains at the event included Prof. Banji Akintoye, Dr. Femi Okunrounmu, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Chief Supo Shonibare and Alhaji Sola Lawal.
“We are miffed that those who will not allow our elected governors to have police are now setting up Fulani bandit-vigilantes on our soil in addition to the Fulani militias terrorising our land. We demand their immediate exit from Yoruba land. And if they refuse to leave in a reasonable time, we will not stop our people from confronting them.
“We cannot continue to live under these conditions. The blood of our people will no longer be used to water the tree of a dysfunctional unitary order. We demand an immediate timeline for a return to a federalist Nigeria so that we can have the autonomy to run our internal affairs. Failure to do so will constrain our capacity to continue to restrain our people from embracing self-determination.”
Besides, the chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdullahi, yesterday said he would not retract his statement calling on Fulani herdsmen in the southern part of the country to return to the north if they feel unsafe.
He disclosed this in Kaduna State while receiving Shehu Sani (who represented Kaduna Central in the Eighth Senate) at his residence.
Sani had visited Abdullahi, urging him to rescind the forum’s advice to the herdsmen, saying it was capable of generating turmoil.
“Our nation has passed through a series of crises,” Sani said. “It is therefore imperative that we speak with caution. I appeal, as your son, that such recommendation or position was taken by you for such demands should be rescinded in the interest of peace and progress of this country so that normalcy might return to Nigeria and miscreants won’t see this as a reason to exploit things for their personal agenda.”
Replying, Abdullahi reminded Sani that southeast governors had already issued a statement saying they don’t want to see cattle on hooves, except in lorries.
He nevertheless clarified: “There was an ‘if’ in my statement. I was only advising the herdsmen to return if there is no protection for them. Everything in Nigeria is politicised. In addition to politics, religion has filtered in. And now, every headache you have in your house is now caused by herdsmen. The insecurity in this country in every nook and cranny is now caused by herdsmen. This is clearly political.”
He said further: “The main concern is the wellbeing of herdsmen that are living in the southern part of the country. If the herdsmen feel threatened and there’s no guarantee by a constituted authority to provide protection for them, our advice is for them to leave the hostile areas and come to safe ground. But if they are protected, they should remain.
“It was when I said this that this useless government woke up from its sleep and said that everybody is free to stay wherever he is. They knew for weeks that these (threatening) statements have been coming from the south and they didn’t react.”
Meanwhile, herdsmen have reportedly taken over 17 villages in the Kona region of Taraba State.
“More than 12 hectares of my own farm has been completely destroyed. People cannot go back home or to their farms because the herdsmen have taken over these places and are bringing in other herdsmen to settle on the ancestral lands,” the traditional ruler of Kona, Chief Augustine Njanmeng, told reporters yesterday.
He added: “This is not only barbaric and deliberate provocation of war but also a harbinger of serious food crisis ahead. When food crops are turned to grazing grounds, it simply means we are making way for hunger.”
But the chairman of the Taraba State chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Sahabi Tukur, declined to comment, saying he has instructions from the national office not to speak on the herders-farmers crisis in the state.
As at the time of filing this report, residents of Jalingo, the state capital, and its environs are still observing a curfew following deadly attacks by herdsmen.
Also, suspected bandits allegedly kidnapped three persons on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Tuesday.
The chief medical director of Lafia Hospital, Ibadan, Dr. Oladipupo Sule, said his son, Kayode, and two staff, Opeyemi Abifarin and Dele Adigun, were abducted by 15 men.
“The driver said one of the kidnappers communicated in English and that the others spoke Hausa or Fulani,” Sule said.
In a related development, leaders of the northern-based group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), faulted former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent comments on insecurity in the country.
They said Obasanjo’s letter on the poor handling of insecurity and alleged Islamisation of Nigeria was meant to whip up ethnic and religious sentiments to promote crisis.
In a communique read yesterday by National Publicity Secretary Mohammad Ibrahim Biu following their two-day meeting in Kaduna, the ACF said: “The issues are not new to Nigerians as he (Obasanjo) had raised them in his previous open letters to the president.”
It added: “It is our candid opinion that Chief Obasanjo, being a former president and an elder statesman who has unfettered access to the president, should use a better and most civilised way of communicating his views to a sitting president rather than going public to create unnecessary scene and trying to bring down the roof.”