Fulani herdsmen on Monday accused the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, of being the architect of the clashes between them and the Tiv.
They also claimed that they had lost 134 of their colleagues and 11,915 heads of cattle to the clashes in the last three months in Benue, Plateau and Taraba states.
The herdsmen, under the umbrella body known as Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, specifically traced their woes to Suswam whom, they claimed, stoked the hostilities against them not only in Benue State but in Plateau and Taraba states.
Suswam’s convoy on Tuesday came under attack from some gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen at Tse Akenyi, in Benue State. The governor was on his way to a camp of displaced persons in the Guma Local Government Area of the state when the incident occurred.
The National Vice-President of the cattle breeders association, Alhaji Hussaini Bosso, told journalists in Minna, Niger State, that their problem in Benue State started when Suswam announced that he did not want them in the state.
He claimed that the announcement caused the massacre of their members in the three states.
Bosso said that in Benue State alone, the association lost 82 herdsmen and 6,700 cattle and 43 Fulani and 4,682 in Plateau State.
Nine members of the association and 533 cattle, according to him, were lost in Taraba State.
Bosso claimed that the killings in Benue and Taraba states were carried out by the Tiv and the Beromo in Plateau State.
He said, “All these atrocities were perpetrated by Tiv people. To our surprise, the police were aware, but did not do anything to avert the ugly developments. Not only that the Police felt unconcerned about the matter, the respective governments of the affected states did nothing.”
Bosso appealed to the governments of the three states to, as a matter of urgency , bring an end to the killing of innocent Fulani herdsmen.
However, there was outrage on Wednesday over violent activities of the herdsmen, particularly the attack on Suswam’s convoy.
Repeated calls to the mobile telephone number of the Director of Press to Suswam, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, failed to connect. Response to a text message sent to him did not come as of 11pm on Wednesday.
But prominent groups and Nigerians, including the Arewa Consultaive Forum, the Catholic Church in Benue State, the Middle Belt Forum; the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, and a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr. Abubakar Tsav, urged the Federal Government to check the activities of the cattle rearers.
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Ubong Udoh, described the attack as morally condemnable, barbaric and callous.
The minister noted that the intention of those behind the attack was to create unnecessary tension ahead of the 2015 elections.
He added that it was meant to slow down the progress the Jonathan administration had recorded in the fight against terrorism and other forms of violence across the country.
The minister, however, expressed confidence that the war against terrorism would become more intense as the government would never give in to the forces of terror.
The Catholic Church, in a statement in Abuja, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently intervene and stop the attacks by the herdsmen.
It recalled that the herdsmen had carried out repeated attacks on the Tiv and farmers in other parts of Nigeria.
Also, Tsav urged government to deal with the attacks on farmers by herdsmen.
Tsav, who is a member of the Security Committee set up by the Northern States Governors’ Forum, stated that government was not doing anything tangible about the crisis in Benue State.
He said, “The problem here is very dicey because now if the Tiv should rise and begin to retaliate, it will eventually degenerate into a religious conflict because people will begin to read such meanings into it.
“Already, people are accusing the Hausa of aiding and abetting the Fulani. Very soon, they will start saying the Hausa too are involved and when this happens, it will begin to spread and when it starts spreading ,only God knows where it will end.
“Government must take a decisive action to stop this thing from spreading because it started from an attack on the Tor Tiv, and now the governor. We are appealing to our leaders to be very rational in dealing with this matter.”
ACF, through its spokesperson, Mohammed Ibrahim, described the attack on the governor as “disturbing” and condemnable.
It said, “The ACF is greatly disturbed by the recent attack on the convoy of Governor Suswam despite the security around him. The situation is really disturbing.
“We therefore urge that security be intensified in the affected areas so as to halt further loss of lives and the destruction of properties in the area.
“We also appeal to the two communities (warring tribes) to sheathe their swords and embrace peace as only peace can guarantee the unity of the North.”
The Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Benue State, Bishop William Avenya, said that the Catholic Bishops of Makurdi, Otukpo, Gboko and Kastina-Ala Dioceses had met over the attacks.
He stated that they had resolved that “government should monitor the influx of pastoralists into the state, check the activities of traditional rulers and security agents.”
While admitting that the crisis might be political, the cleric advised all stakeholders both in the state and outside, to also help solve the problem in the state.
He said, “We have observed that the co-existence of pastoralists and farmers has always been problematic when not properly handled. This is seen in countries such as Chad, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and the Sudan.
“In Nigeria, this crisis has affected states such as Katsina, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Gombe, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto in the North; Oyo and Ogun in the South-West; Abia in the South-East and Delta and Edo in the South-South. This problem is indeed widespread.
“From 2010 to date, Benue State in particular has witnessed endless conflicts between Fulani pastoralists and Tiv, Idoma and Agatu farmers. We called on Dr. Jonathan and the Governor Suswam as well as chief security officers to take responsibility of security in Benue State.”
Also, the Middle Belt Forum said that attacks by the herdsmen were part of a plot to destabilise the North-Central.
The Coordinator of the forum in Plateau State, Mr. Manasseh Watyil, said in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jos, “The Middle Belt views the attack on the governor of Benue State as a calculated attempt to destabilise the entire North-Central.”
Watyil, who called on the President to protect the people of the zone , added, “Jonathan should know that he cannot do without the Middle Belt for him to get to where he is going.”
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