A Fulani socio-cultural organisation, the Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN) has said that the conflicts between farmers and herders in Benue State and other states is the Fulani way of fighting back over prolonged neglect and injustice.
It said the country had relegated the Fulani herdsmen to the background and were never allowed to exercise any right in the country like other citizens.
He called for the abrogation of the Anti-Open grazing Bill.
National Secretary General of GAFDAN Alhaji Saleh Bayeri told newsmen in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday: “There has been so much hatred against the Fulani by other Nigerians over the years and successive governments never cared to see to the challenges facing the Fulanis in this country, we have been pushed to the wall and the only option we have is to fight back, especially as states are beginning to enact laws to further strangulate the only means of livelihood of the Fulani herdsmen in the country”
Bayeri added: “The reason for the problem is obvious. The Fulani in this country are facing the toughest challenge of their lives, a kind of challenge that makes you to choose between life and death; they are facing serious economic depression.
“Historically, the herdsmen and their business have been neglected o by the people and government of Nigeria. It is therefore natural that for people that feel oppressed to want to fight back or resist oppression. As far back as I can remember, from 1970 till date, there has been no single government policy geared towards assisting herdsmen in any way.
“Naturally, the government should know that the Fulani that keep multiplying in human population and their animal, should know that they need a space to occupy and carry out their legitimate business. The Fulani are not being allowed any space in Nigeria and government does not seem to care, so they have to fight back.
He added: “There was the issue of grazing reserve, about 413 grazing reserves in gazette. Out of that number, you can’t count up to 20 that are functional. But farmers enjoy and keep enjoying all sorts of assistance from the federal government through the same ministry for agriculture. Government does not really care when it comes to the issue of herders.”
On the Benue killings, he said: “We expected the federal government to move in and stop the enforcement on this anti-open grazing law in Benue State, but since government does not care on any issue affecting the Fulani man, the governor was allowed to enforce the law and we can now see the consequences
“From the last check, it was reported that over 70 people have been killed in Benue State in attempt to enforce an unjust law of anti-open grazing. People should ask the governor, is the enforcement of any law worth the lives of over 70 of his people. Has that law succeeded?”
His suggested solution is that “the Benue State governor should withdrew the anti-open grazing law he enacted last year, let him look at Benue State as home for all irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation. The governor should be reminded that he swore to protect and defend the lives of all citizens of Benue State not minding their tribe, religion or political background.”