An elder statesman, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the extrajudicial killing of Fulani in South West to save Nigeria from disintegration.
Tofa spoke on Tuesday, hours after a fresh attack on a Fulani community in Ogun State that led to the killing of a herdsman and the burning of a settlement and a market.
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There was similar incident in Oyo State few days ago where Fulani settlements were destroyed and the herders sacked at the instance of a self-acclaimed Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho.
The recent attacks in the South West took place not long after a meeting of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in Akure, Ondo State, where some far-reaching decisions were taken, including stoppage of hostilities, registration of herders and banning of night grazing to stem insecurity.
While some observers hailed the method adopted by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo who called stakeholders meeting ahead of the NGF parley, they expressed reservations over the attitude of Oyo and Ogun governors who reportedly allowed Igboho to attack the Fulani.
‘Buhari should stop anarchy’
Tofa, who was the presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), said it would be a futile attempt to stop lawlessness when youths from the North take arms against people from other regions.
The elder statesman also took a swipe at some South West leaders, who he said looked the other way while some purported “freedom fighters” kept beating the drum of war, issuing eviction orders, attacking and maiming the Fulani.
In a message tagged ‘Statement of Serious Concern’, Tofa described attacks on Fulani in South West as “unacceptable.”
According to him, “The mayhem we see, almost every day now, of killings and maiming of people of Northern extraction, including especially, the Fulani, in some other parts of the country, is unacceptable.
“There is a nefarious plan by the enemies of this potentially great country to initiate a violent crisis that may lead to its destruction.
“Tension is beginning to brew, and if revenge attacks on Southerners begin here in the North, it will be difficult to control. Our enemies from within and outside, some well-known by our security agencies, are more determined than ever to set us against each other, so that we may get to a point of no return when the conflagration began.
“There is no part of this country that is at peace. Local and neighbouring, including foreign terrorist, are busy, fully armed, to cause whatever damage they can inflict on our dear country.
“I, therefore, call on the president to take this insecurity and the tribal lynching happening very seriously and put up urgent measures to deal with them without any more delays. I am sure, there is a concern at the Presidency and discussions are being held. But, urgent and decisive action is now necessary.
“If any Nigerian will not be allowed to live freely and conduct their lives and businesses in any part of the country without being disturbed or molested or even killed, then no one should be allowed to settle and prosper anywhere else.
“If that were to be the case, then, we have no country. That is how serious it is. And that is what our enemies desire. We must not allow them by our inaction,”
On continued eviction orders against Fulani by Igboho, and the apparent silence of some governors, Tofa said, “Those foolish leaders and their stupid hirelings who encourage the expulsion of other Nigerians from their states should remember that their people also live in other parts. They must stop, or the law should stop them by all means necessary.”
Don’t take laws into your hands, Northern elders beg Fulani herders
Worried by the developments in the South West, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Tuesday appealed to Fulani herders living in the region not to take the law into their hands.
It also argued that the Fulani, like all other Nigerians who can be found in every inch of the country, have rights to live anywhere they wish, adding that attempts to exterminate Fulani communities have a grave danger for the country.
In a statement made available to journalists in Abuja by the Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the forum urged President Buhari and state governors to take immediate and decisive steps to protect law-abiding members of Fulani communities.
“Northern Elders Forum is deeply worried by reports of ejections under threats and attacks on Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the South.
“The Forum has been receiving these reports since the night of Sunday, January 31, and had taken the responsible step by drawing the attention of authorities to the dangers, which these attacks represent for all Nigerians.
“We have also advised law-abiding Fulani communities to seek protection where it is available, and have appealed to other Fulani to resist the temptation to take the law into their own hands.
“It is necessary to warn people who threaten law-abiding Fulani communities in all parts of Nigeria, but particularly in some parts of the South, to desist.
“The vast majority of Fulani are law-abiding and have rights to live lawfully wherever they can find means of subsistence.
“Like all Nigerians who can be found in every inch of Nigeria, the rights of the Fulani will not be abridged by criminals hiding behind ethnic interests to exterminate them,” the statement partly read,” he said.
Baba-Ahmed also appealed to all Nigerians to exercise restraint and not to play into the hands of people who were out to achieve dubious political goals by pitching citizens against one another.
Don’t set South-West on fire, NANS tells Igboho
The Ogun State chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on Tuesday urged Sunday Igboho not to set the South West on fire.
The students’ body urged him to explore dialogue and consultation with relevant stakeholders in South West to find lasting solutions.
The Chairman of NANS/Ogun Joint Campus Committee (JCC), Kehinde Damilola Simeon also called on the state government to register all herdsmen within the borders of Ogun State and ban open grazing.
“It is our view that he (Igboho) should meet with Yoruba leaders, Afenifere and other stakeholders so as not to set the entire South West region on fire and cause anarchy.
“We observe that Igboho’s strategy if not reviewed may lead to ethnic or tribal war. We, therefore, urge him to liaise with the appropriate authorities to avoid a major disaster,” the student leader said.
One killed, houses razed, Seriki Fulani hospitalised
Hoodlums loyal to the self-acclaimed Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho, on Monday night, set ablaze the house of Seriki Fulani in Eggua, Ogun State, Alhaji Adamu Oloru, killing one person and scores of cows.
The seriki’s son, Suleiman Adamu in an interview with Daily Trust on Tuesday said one Alhaji Jiji Danmawale was burnt to death, while his father’s settlement was razed down in the attack where more than 40 cows were killed.
“Right now there is tension everywhere. We managed to get our father to safety during the attack,” Adamu said.
Adamu said the father was feeling unwell and has been hospitalised when our correspondent requested to speak with him.
The State Chairman of Miyetti Allah, Abdulmumin Ibrahim also confirmed the development to Daily Trust saying the attacks were carried out by Igboho.
“He (Igboho) was also at Oja – Odan but one good Samaritan called Dende did not allow him to set ablaze houses at Oja Odan. A formal complaint has been made at Effua Police station,” Ibrahim said.
How Alhaji Jiji was killed
An eyewitness, Rasheed Ilori, told one of our correspondents that Igboho’s visit took the Fulani unaware.
Ilori said the Fulani herdsmen who had been alerted of the visit of the Yoruba activist, miscalculated as Igboho arrived earlier than it was projected.
He said “the Fulani herdsmen had hidden their cattle immediately they got the hint that Igboho was on his way to Eggua. They continued monitoring his movement through their informants from Yoruba people, as he was advancing to Eggua.
“When he got to Oja-Odan, they got the hint and hid their cattle. They had calculated that it will take Igboho and his supporters one hour to get to Kara market from Oja-Odan. But it was a mystery how Igboho got to them unaware.
“When Sunday Igboho got to the Kara market they were still in the market and began running when they saw him and his supporters. They were pursued and one of them was caught and burnt to death,” he said.
It would be recalled that Igboho alongside his supporters had stormed Abeokuta, the state capital, on Monday, in continuation of his “campaign against killer herdsmen in the South West”. He stopped briefly in Abeokuta and headed to some areas in Yewaland in Ogun West Senatorial district.
Our correspondent gathered that Igboho also visited some other troubled areas including Eggua, Asa and Eseluland following their plights in the hands of herdsmen.
While addressing his followers in Abeokuta, Igboho insisted that “killer herdsmen must be flushed out of Yorubaland.”
Igboho also claimed that nobody died during his visit.
Meanwhile, Governor Dapo Abiodun has denied seeking Igboho’s help in the fight against insecurity in the state.
Abiodun in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Waheed Odusile, said he didn’t enlist Igboho to combat crime in the state.
The Commissioner of Police in Ogun State, Edward Ajogun, on Tuesday, led his men to the troubled areas as he held a consultation meeting with major stakeholders.
The CP also deployed some of his men to the troubled areas to ensure security and prevent the breakdown of law and order.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi confirmed the visit, saying the mob took advantage of Igboho’s visit to launch an attack on Fulani settlement at Eggua.
Oyeyemi said “He (CP) held meeting with the community and Fulani settlers. We have a very robust session and the two parties have resolved to work together to fish out those that are perpetrating crime therein.
Fulani from Niger Republic our problem – King
Meanwhile, the king of Iselu community in Yewa North of Ogun State, His Royal Majesty, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi, has said that Fulanis from the Niger Republic were the major threat in his community.
“The challenges we are having are the Fulani from the Niger Republic. Those called Bororo are very heartless,” Oba Akinyemi noted in an interview with the Pidgin service of the BBC, monitored by our correspondent. Oba Akinyemi, who had been on the throne since 2005, noted that it had been highly cumbersome addressing the frequent clashes between farmers and herders.
He noted that his community does not have a Fulani settlement but the herders usually come to graze there during the dry season.
“In the dry season, they usually come to our area to graze. The Fulani will take their cattle to the maize the farmers have stored in the silo for their cattle to feed. This always led to an exchange of words but the Fulanis are always armed with AK47. Aside from this, they rape a lot. There was this woman they raped seven years ago; they did not only rape her but also killed her in Oloparun axis,” he said.
He said in a bid to address the challenges, he and his colleagues approached the High Court where they got a restraining order against the Fulani from bringing their cattle to his community. He lamented that despite the restraining order, more herders brought their cattle to graze in the area.
He said the clashes have escalated in recent time as a result of the ban on open grazing imposed by the government of Benin Republic, which made herders from other areas find solace in his community.
He urged the government to intervene to address the challenges and prevent further clashes.
From Peter Moses, Abbas Dalibi (Abeokuta), Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan), Abiodun Alade, Yvonne Ugwuezuoha, Momodu Precious (Lagos) & Idowu Isamotu (Abuja)