*Commiserate with victims of Plateau’s violence
By KEMI KASUMU
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), on Wednesday, came up with an open letter addressed to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu over their concerns about resurfaced insecurity in the country.
Through the letter, they declared that the unrelenting massacre, bothering on ethnic cleansing and armed occupation of territories of the indigenous peoples of the Middle-Belt and most parts of Northern Nigeria by ethnic militias, has shown without any doubt that the Nigerian state, its government and security forces have continued to fail in the fundamental duty of the security and welfare of citizens.
The Forum particularly warned that the current rabid territorial ambition and quest for alteration of demographic structures of the federation will lead to chaos and internecine wars, the end of which may be the dismemberment of the fragile Nigerian Federation.
This was as it said that the joy expressed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his New Year message cannot be understood or shared by several millions of countrymen and women, particularly the people of Mangu, Bokkos, Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State.
They said this because those were places where over 200 innocent villagers were killed by terrorists, with more than 300 persons injured, several properties destroyed and thousands of people displaced between Christmas eve of Sunday 24th and boxing day of Tuesday 26th December 2023.
The SMBLF stressed that the cycle of attacks, government inaction and provable official complicity engendered a situation where no less a personality than Lieutenant General Theophillus Yakubu Danjuma (Rtd), former Chief of Army Staff and former Minister of Defence, openly advised victims of terrorism to arm themselves, since the government appeared unwilling to stem the atrocities being committed against the indigenous peoples.
The Forum, in the letter jointly signed by Chief (Dr.) Edwin Clark, Leader; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere Leader; Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide; Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle-Belt Forum; and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, National Chairman, PANDEF; also said that Commodore Kunle Olawunmi, a former member of an elite group of intelligence officers in the Nigerian military, on national television posited that a list of sponsors of terror was in the hands of the government, with names of those behind the dastardly acts in the country.
It also said that in addition to the list, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) admitted to having received a list of terror sponsors from the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), adding however that nothing was done.
While commiserating with the affected families, and people of Plateau State, the SMBFL commended the United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, the Pope, and the International Community for their unequivocal condemnation of the killings on the Plateau and therefore urged that the world be conscious of the grave implications of these happenings on the corporate existence of the Nigerian Federation.
In the words of the SMBFL; “The audacious and reckless assertions by some prominent personalities of Fulani extraction like Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, immediate past Governor of Kaduna State, and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who ought to be more “civilized”, lent credence to the Fulanisation agenda.
“Nasir El-Rufai reportedly threatened that “whoever kills a Fulani herdsman, including the army, takes a death loan, repayable in 100 years” on an alleged plan by the military to dislodge a Fulani-occupied settlement on other people’s ancestral home in the outskirts of Jos, Plateau State. He warned that “if the Nigerian Army goes and removes the Fulani settlement, any person wearing Nigerian Army uniform in 14 Western African countries is at risk.”
“Governor Bala Mohammed, on his part, justified the possession of AK-47 weapons by the Fulani herders as self-defense in “practicing the tradition of trans-human, pastoralism” throughout West Africa with no regard for national boundaries not to mention ancestral lands of other groups, which has no affinity to the Fulani.
“The Buhari administration tried all the tricks in its wits to create Fulani settlements in other people’s territories throughout Nigeria by different strategies of “land grabbing” in the guise of RUGA, Grazing Routes, Cattle Colonies or contrived integrated agriculture Schemes, where new estates would be built for pastoralists with better amenities than the host communities whose lands would be acquired by the Federal Government, contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, which make land use regulations an exclusive state affair.
“The then Presidential spokesman betrayed the mind of the government when he advised the people that “it was better they released lands than lose their lives”.
“The horror of the Christmas Eve massacre in Plateau State is not different from the situation in Benue where several communities, particularly in Kwande, Gwer-West, Guma, Makurdi, and Logo Local Government Areas are perennially attacked by the pampered armed Fulani ethnic militias who have taken over other people’s lands and homes.
“In Kaduna State, and Southern Kaduna particularly, Chikun, Kajuru, Kachia, Zangon Kataf, Kauru, Lere, Birnin Gwari, and Giwa Local Governments are largely under the control of terrorists. The operations of these armies of occupation claimed to be foreigners were allegedly boosted by El-Rufai’s admission of payment of huge amounts of money to Fulani militants across West Africa only to end up lamenting that these associates of his invariably made Kaduna State ungovernable.
The situation in Niger State is not different, if not worse, as according to the immediate past Governor of the State, Abubakar Sani-Bello, terrorists (he called them bandits) have taken over 12 local government areas in Niger State as confirmed during his visit in 2022 to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Central Primary School, Gwada. The worst hit Local Governments in the state include Rafi, Munyan, Shiroro, Magama, Mashegu, Mariaga, and Wushishi some of which the terrorists not only have their flags hoisted but also collect taxes and levies, in a state bordering the FCT.
“In the Zuru district of Kebbi State, terrorists are so much in control that they audaciously opened fire and killed military men deployed to the area following an earlier killing of scores of vigilantes otherwise known as Yan-Sa-Kai by the terrorists.
“In Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina, peasant farmers of the Hausa as well as other non-Fulani nationalities can no longer access their farms as a result of Fulani terrorism. The case of Zamfara is worst having been virtually rendered ungovernable except for the State capital, Gusau.
“Former President Buhari deliberately handicapped himself by a deceitful mindset that people of the North-West were of the same tribes and religion and wondered why they were fighting amongst themselves.
“The truth however is that the north-west geopolitical zone is most diverse in ethnic content and the war therein is orchestrated by the desire for new territorial spaces for the Fulani both within and outside Nigeria against the other ethnic nationalities especially the Hausa majority which has for ages been falsely touted as being indistinguishable from the Fulani,” it asserted.
The SMBLF stressed that it holds as indisputably self-evident that all ethnic nationalities were and have settled in their portions of Nigeria before the amalgamation and establishment of Nigeria in 1914.
In light of the foregoing, the SMBLF said that moved by the patriotic desire for the corporate continuity of Nigeria and, the peaceful and mutually respectful coexistence of its diverse nationalities, urged President Tinubu to ensure that his government holds an honest and truthful security inquiry to determine communities wherein the original inhabitants have been displaced in the last two decades and enforce the immediate return and resettlement of the people in their ancestral homes.
It further recommended that; “Further to the above, the government should, in no distant future, close all IDP camps to end the shameful and sinful policy of building such refugee camps for the indigenous peoples while their ancestral homes are allowed to be occupied by the armed invaders.
“That the Security agencies, including the police, the Civil Defence Corps, and others be specially trained and equipped to rise to the challenges as Nigeria is fast becoming a banana or pariah state of its kid-gloves treatment of terrorism.
“That the Nigerian state which fought a tribal civil war to secure its corporate existence should not allow another internecine war of diverse tribes brought about by its permissive handling of provocative activities of local Fulani militias aided by collaborators from the West African sub-region and the Sahel.
“The desire of the Fulani to be treated as an exclusive “race” cannot be allowed to continue in a free and egalitarian Nation. They should seek land for their trade in the same way other Nigerians buy and manage land and stop this sense of entitlement.
“Urgent steps be taken to restructure Nigeria in line with the tenets of true federalism, to legitimize multi-level policing such that states and communities will provide commensurate security for their people.
“That you, Mr President, should rise to the occasion and dare the powers that be; decisively deal with the perpetrators of the spate senseless of killings, end the massacre, and guarantee the safety of lives and property of citizens in all parts of our country, especially the Middle Belt Region, and restore the dignity of citizens and national pride; for which you will ever be remembered!” the Forum leaders said.
The SMBFL noted told President Tinubu that unfortunately, and as it was with the Buhari administration, rather than accept the reality of the danger posed to the corporate existence of the federation by an extra-territorial agenda of the Fulani ethnic nationality, backed by organized and well-armed militias, which was, since 2018, declared by Amnesty International as the “4th most deadly terrorist organization in the world”, the Tinubu administration has also, now, in bad faith, dressed this evil in the false garb of “herders/farmers’ clash”, stressing that the blood-thirsty ethnic militias are mere bandits.
According to the SMBFL; “It is a conflict where one side, fully armed, continues to attack and kill the innocent, who are being deliberately defanged by agents of the Government.
“Mr. President, your predecessor had all the facts and evidence of an ideological Fulanisation agenda but preferred to pander and prevaricate than bring justice to the victims of oppression and genocide”.