By Isaiah Benjamin
A non-governmental organisation (NGO), Nature Trust International (NTI), has said that Fulani herdsmen are not behind the recent escalation of attacks on Nigerian villagers as widely suspected, saying the attackers are cattle rustlers.
A press statement issued by the NGO and signed by its executive chairman, Professor Mohammed Al-Amin said: “It is necessary to make this clarification to Nigerians to be able to distinguish these criminals from the law abiding Fulani herders. The current generalised opinion about the perpetrators of these raids as the entire Fulani tribesmen is dangerous.”
The statement which was made available to newsmen in Kaduna yesterday partly reads: “While engaging relevant authorities for an integrated solution to the environmental problems facing especially the Sudan and Sahel Savannah, we persistently over the years warned the authorities of impending crises due to the drying of Lake Chad on one the hand and the unhealthy competition over the scarce and fragile natural resources between Fulani cattle rearers and sedentary farmers in Nigeria.”
It remarked that cattle rustling was ancient and global, with the first suspected raids conducted over 7,000 years ago.
“However, the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring contributed to its exponential rise consequent upon the huge number of weapons that were let loose in the hands of non-state actors that got it widely circulated in Africa south of the Sahara,” it said.
The NGO also averred that the number of such weapons in the possession of the rustlers is more than the capacity of any single law enforcement agency, or the ordinary sticks of the Fulanis.
It, therefore, called on Nigerians to pressurise the government to sustainably articulate and execute policies and programmes that will stem this negative tide of the cattle rustling and other security challenges bedevilling the country.
He suggested that the Fulani herders should be incorporated in specially designed projects that could modernise their livelihood.
lamenting that “We expected Fulani herders to be part of the delegates for the upcoming National Conference, so that several issues could be resolved, but to our disappointment, none of the prominent actors was shortlisted.”
“It is the candid opinion of Nature Trust International that the Fulani herders are also victims of this organised armed banditry. In fact, our records show that the Fulanis are persistently being attacked by this group of criminals on daily basis in one remote Nigerian forest or the other.
“Billions of naira worth of livestock have been lost by the Fulanis and they bury their dead every day, consequent upon these attacks.
“We can confidently submit that these raids are being organised and executed by a syndicate of highly armed cattle rustlers. They have now expanded the crime to raiding other Nigerians residing in rural areas across the country”.