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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Pastoral Terrorism: How Rivers Residents Pay With Their Lives

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The recent string of heinous killings of Rivers State residents by alleged Fulani herdsmen is appalling, despite the Fulani’s denial in the media that they had evolved into scandalous and persistent executioners. ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE reports that the victims’ only sin was asking why the Fulani herders’ cattle destroyed their crops. In the meantime, it was discovered on August 19, 2021, that Gov. Nyesom Wike had accepted Open Rearing and Grazing (Prohibition) Law No. 5 of 2021

Alhaji Muhammadu Kiruwa, a higher-ranking notch for the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, criticized media portrayals of Fulani herders as criminals and mass murderers.

The Fulani herders were upset by the recent spate of assaults between farmer communities and herders, according to the scribe of the Fulani, who are known as migrants and were recently described by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ ad Abubakar III, as a people who move from point A to point B and move everywhere.

In 2016, Kiruwa made that statement, possibly in an effort to absolve his kinsmen of the numerous alleged wrongdoings committed by Fulani herdsmen across the country, particularly in Rivers State.

Despite the fact that the 2015 Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigerian Fulani militants as the fourth most lethal terrorist organization in the world, Kiruwa may have been dishonest.

The source says, “The Fulani militant group operating in Nigeria and parts of the Central African Republic has been named as the fourth deadliest known terrorist group.”

Killings in Rivers communities are associated with Fulani herdsmen?

However, on March 12, 2020, a resident of Ikwerre was said to be inspecting his poultry farm in the Aluu community of the Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State when he was allegedly kidnapped and taken to an unknown location by alleged Fulani herdsmen.

The relatives of Soala West, who was running for governor in the 2019 election under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state were held mentally distraught by the captors, who demanded N30 million in ransoms initially for his release but later reduced it to N2.5 million.

West, who was from the state’s Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, was found dead on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at approximately 6 p.m.

Emmanuel, his older brother, expressed shock at the politician’s death at the hands of the suspected Fulani herdsmen.

“We are shocked by this. We are puzzled as to why they would kill our brother in this manner. Our entire family is reeling from the loss.” Emmanuel stated.

“We just hope that the police will arrest everyone involved in the killing of our brother.”

Devastation caused by Fulani herdsmen?

This was one of many stories of devastation in Rivers State caused by so-called Fulani herdsmen who would rather kill anyone who crossed their path while rearing their cows in open grazing than obey a given law.

On Nov. 20, 2022, the assumed Fulani herders didn’t leave their killing exchange as they alternately attacked the Agbeta II Tuabon People group in the Ebubu Faction, Eleme local government region of the state, killing two men and harming numerous others.

Local sources claimed that since March of this year, the community’s farmlands have been taken over by raging Fulani herdsmen who sacked the community and destroyed their farmlands.

The incident caused many people to leave the community, said the source.

“Fulani herders always arrive in the area armed with AK-47 rifles”

The community was informed that the suspected herders had raped women and injured others. The youth president of the community, Justice Kanikpo, addressed the media and lamented the invasion.

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He stated that residents of the area were relocating out of fear of additional herdsmen attacks and requesting assistance from the council chairman and security agencies.

“Because the herders always arrive in the area armed with AK-47 rifles every day, people are afraid for their lives and are packing outside the community.

“I am appealing to the government to come to our aid and save us from what we are facing because I am unsure why the chairman of the local government is not concerned about the situation,” he said.

Killed for resisting Fulani herdsmen’s cattle destroying farm crops

Two people were killed when suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked and killed them in Afam Ukwu, in the state’s Oyigbo local council.

That was in May 2017, and according to community sources, the attack was the result of the victims’ resistance to the herdsmen’s cattle destroying their farm crops.

It happened when Dr. Chisom Gbali was in charge of the Caretaker Committee of the Oyigbo Local Government Area.

According to Dr. Gbali, the suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked and killed the deceased, both men, on their farmland.

“We woke up this morning to hear the story of the Fulani herdsmen killing two people,” he said.

“The actual motive for the killing is unknown to me. However, I believe that is connected to the cattle’s destruction of farm crops.

“I learned that the victims had questioned why the herdsmen’s cattle had destroyed their crops.

“The victims and the herdsmen might have had violent arguments. According to the source, one of the victims belonged to the Tai community.”

Dr. Gbali, the Chairman of the CTC, made it clear that seven individuals had been detained in connection with the incident.

Omoni Nnamdi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) at the time and the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), informed journalists that he had not been informed about the incident.

Going after the unarmed farmers

At least two people were reported missing and a number of others were injured in an attack on the Ihuaba community in the Igbu Upata Kingdom in the Ahoada East Local Government Area of Rivers State that was carried out by Fulani herdsmen.

That was approximately four years ago, and Edith Lawrence and Chiemele Blessing, who was allegedly shot with an arrow while working on her farm on Akpaja farmland, were identified as the victims.

The victims committed no sin but had protested earlier against the herdsmen-led cows’ destruction of their crops.

Even the natives’ complaints to Alhaji Ahmadu, who’s said to be the area’s Fulani chief, were ignored; rather, he supposedly prepared herders to go after the unarmed farmers.

Turning a Rivers burial into a bloodbath

An invasion by herdsmen turned a Rivers burial into a bloodbath. Due to the alleged disappearance of their cows in the local governments of Ohali-Elu, Ogba/Egbema, and Ndoni, the Fulani herdsmen attacked the community.

This occurred on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The spokesperson for the state police, Ahmad Muhammad, stated at the time that the killings were unrelated to the missing cows and that only six people were reportedly killed, rather than the 12 that some community members had reported.

He said that only the pastor’s body, Geoffrey Ogagaghene, was found and that no other bodies were found.

“The command found it instructive to state that last Thursday, at approximately 5:30 a.m., the police in Egi Division received a report that on Wednesday, at approximately 10:00 p.m., unidentified assailants suspected to be herdsmen struck in Ohali-Elu town, leaving one Pastor Geoffrey Ogagaghene with severe cutlass cuts that later led to his death,” the spokesperson said.

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“It’s also important to mention that prior to the attack, unspecified numbers of cows belonging to some herdsmen were allegedly stolen by youths in the community, but the incident was never reported to the police.

“It is reasonable to believe that the herdsmen may have carried out the attack in retaliation for the theft of their cows. Six more people were killed in the attack, according to unconfirmed sources.

“The deaths of these six people are still unconfirmed due to the fact that the police did not find the bodies or see them when they responded to the incident.”

Schools also not spared

Villagers were not the only ones at the mercy of the supposed Fulani herdsmen militias.

The students of the Rivers State School of Nursing, RIVSON, Port Harcourt, laid blockade to the Government House, Port Harcourt.

They protested over the dilapidated condition of the institution’s infrastructure and the lack of security.

They claimed that it had placed their school at the mercy of both Fulani herdsmen and criminals who invaded their school to attack them.

This occurred in January of 2017. The students, who carried placards with various inscriptions, pleaded with the government of Rivers State to immediately intervene in restoring the school’s dignity.

The students lamented the fact that the School of Nursing and Midwifery had closed down two similar establishments due to certification failure: Bori in the Khana Local Government Area and Ahoada Town in the Ahoada East LGA.

“We have additionally sent letters to the public authorities, letting them know that Fulani herders come into this school compound, and when we attempt to stop them, they will utilize weapons to go after us.

“Through a broken section of the school fence, they enter the campus. The same entrance is also used by criminals to enter the school at will,” a student stated.

“Sometimes criminals escape through there when the security personnel chase them.”

Fulani praise Wike upon vague Open Rearing and Grazing (Prohibition)

In the meantime, Fulani people living in Rivers State said that they were loyal to Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike.

They said that Wike stands out from other governors in the country because he is always ready to fight violent immoral elements in the states.

This was in 2021, and Fulani cattle rearers in Rivers claimed that they had been safe and peaceful for over 53 years, particularly under Governor Wike.

Alhaji Yau Musa, senior scribe of the Fulani Cattle Rearers, a group that falls under the umbrella of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, reminisced about the state’s warmth and the peaceful progress of business, “despite the fact that the good times are waning as a result of the country’s current security challenges.”

Call for government to protect residents

Meanwhile, a group called the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Center (YEAC) urged the Rivers State government one year ago to enforce anti-open grazing laws.

This call was intended to put an end to the constant invasion of farms, murders, rapes, abductions, and violations of farmers’ rights by suspected herdsmen in some communities.

The group lamented that farmers continue to lament the herdsmen’s incessant attacks despite the passage and support of anti-open grazing laws.

On August 19, 2021, it was discovered that Wike had agreed to the Open Rearing and Grazing (Prohibition) Law No. 5 of 2021, for example.

Odimegwu Onwumere, Director, Advocacy Network on Religious and Cultural Coexistence (ANORACC), writes from Rivers state via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

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