Herdsmen Menace: 3.7 Million Lives Lost In 16 Years In Adamawa
Adamawa State, located in north-east of Nigeria has recently become a centre of bloodshed and destruction, not by the nefarious Boko Haram terrorists, but by another terror group: the herdsmen. Based on a recent report by the Civil rights Liberty Organisation (CRLO) released last year, herdsmen clashes with farmers have resulted in 3.7 million deaths from 1999 to date.
In 2011, herdsmen invaded Lamurde local government in Adamawa state. This took place during the administration of the impeached Governor, Murtala Nyako, and over four thousand people were killed in a bloody operation that lasted for eight hours. All the 21 local governments in the state have recorded series of herdsmen attack at different times, especially during the harvest season.
Last Sunday’s attack in Geire local government, left over 60 people dead including a police officer and this has raised more questions on why government and security agents are finding it difficult to bring to an end these clashes.
The dreaded herdsmen invaded five villages in the said local government and after seven hours of uninterrupted killings, all the villages were reduced to rumbles and human lives were lost. The affected villages are, Densare, Wonamo, Dwajam, Tabongo and Noyine.
A survivor Mr. John Dauda, confirmed to The Guardian, that the attack, which started at about 3 am lasted till 10 am before security operatives arrived the villages. Alas, it was too late.
According to Dauda, “I managed to escape narrowly into the bush, and I saw over 20 dead bodies while running through the bush. I was shot at several times, but God helped me to escape. They came in vehicles and motor cycles,” he said.
Geire local government is home to the Federal University of Technology.
Some of the injured victims are presently receiving treatment at Federal Medical Centre and Specialist hospital all in Yola, the state capital. A community leader from Geire and former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Adamawa state secretary, Mr. Phineas Elisha, who spoke to The Guardian, confirmed that his village was among the villages attacked. Another eye witness, Alhaji Abubakar Sokoto, told this reporter, that suspected herdsmen, stormed about four villages, wrecking havoc to lives and properties of the villagers.
“The assailants have in the wake of their attacks, raided Demos, Wunamo, Dikajam and Taboungo villages. We suspect that they were on a revenge mission over a protracted land dispute,” the eyewitness claimed.
Investigations reveal that the suspected herdsmen laid an ambush on the DPO, late CSP Okozie Okereofor, who was just two months old in the Geire police command, while he was leading his men to the disputed area in order to restore normalcy. The herders were said to have engaged the police team in a fierce gun battle, resulting in the death of the DPO. The corpse of the slain Police Officer, as well as the bodies of the other victims have been deposited at the Federal Medical Centre’s morgue and the Specialist hospital in Yola, the state capital.
Confirming the killings, spokesman of the Adamawa State Police Command, DSP Othman Abubakar, said the DPO and his team were attacked while on official duty in the affected villages.
Abubakar added that the report at his disposal indicates that the attackers looted foodstuff and livestock of the villagers before razing the villages.
“The suspected Fulani herdsmen raided four villages in Geire local Government area on Sunday morning around 5:30 am killing scores of people including the late DPO,”Abubakar reiterated. Commenting on the gory incident, Acting Brigade Commander of the 23 Armored Brigade, Yola, Col. Aba Popoola, noted that normalcy has been restored in the area, adding that officers have been sent to the affected areas to ensure that law and order was sustained.
However, residents of Yola and leaders of the affected communities are accusing the government and security agents of failing to contain the bloody attack before it escalated and snowballed into horror. Dr. John Ngamsa, a senior lecturer at Federal University of Technology Yola, located in Geire local government, blamed the state government for not putting proper security checks in place to detect early signs of the clash.
“This problem between the herdsmen and farmers which has been going on for several years is a clear indication that we are yet to have leaders that adequately prepare themselves for the offices they struggle to get. I received a call at 4: 25 am, that an attack was going on and I tried to contact security agents, but it took over four hours before security men were mobilised to the area.
This is a place that is less than 40 minutes’ drive from the headquarters. This people have failed in their duties and if those that gave them these responsibilities do not ask them to explain their inaction or total failure, the country may be heading to total collapse”, he said.
Ngamsa, who has asked the Federal government to come out with a clear policy on grazing areas, as well as striving to resolve the clashes between the two warring groups; pointed out that government was playing politics with the matter at the detriment of the farmers. “Cattle is the livelihood of the herdsmen and farming is the livelihood of farmers, so if the cattle eat or destroy the crops planted or harvested, how do you want the farmer to survive? If you take away the land of a farmer and use it as a grazing area, where will the farmer plant his crops? If the government fails to give this issue serious attention, one day, the country may find itself in a crisis worse than Boko Haram,” he warned.
Ngamsa has called on all the tiers of government and the security agents to come together and produce an effective master plan to tackle the herdsmen and farmers yearly bloodshed. He also noted that quick response to security reports would also help in reducing the deadly attacks.
In a petition by Koh community elders dated January 12 2016 which was made available to The Guardian, the elders accused the late DPO of neglecting and abandoning his constitutional duties of protecting lives and property.
Part of the petition read, “You will also recall that Kalifa Koh was directed to bring the head of the bull that was killed by unknown youths and you were also directed by both the Head of service of Geire local government and the District head to go to Koh village and arrest the youths that were accused of killing the bull, but you refused to do so”.
“You are aware of the efforts of Koh elders Forum who volunteered to assist the police in arresting the suspects and Kalifa Koh called you on phone yesterday, requesting you send down some men to come and effect arrest, but you failed to do so, even after assuring the Kalifa and the elders forum that your men will come,” part of the petition stated. The question that the police must provide an answer to is why the Adamawa police command behaved indolently over the issue in Geire, which later resulted in bloodshed? Will the command or police headquarters effectively react to these allegations? Was the state government giving the security agents in the state enough financial support to complement the Federal government’s efforts to tackle insecurity? Will the herdsmen and farmer’s war ever come to an end?