Killings in Nigeria: The Crime of Fulani Herdsmen


“How is it possible for Fulani to attack settlements or communities to carry out killings of innocent people, destroy property and disappear without trace?”


In January 2018, Vanguard Newspaper published a piece about Sultan Abubakar III, who said the organisation has no control over any Fulani man. Thereafter, he made the statement in bold above.

For several years, there have been reports about Fulani Herdsmen killing innocents in several towns in Nigeria. For this reason, some have called for the proscription of Miyetti Allah, the organization to which the Sokoto Sultan belongs.

“Miyetti Allah doesn’t control any Fulani man. Calling for proscription of Miyetti Allah is equivalent to calling for the proscription of other ethnic organisations like Afenifere, ACF, Ohanaeze and others, the Sultan continued blaming the problem on economic issues. What can solve the issue? The Sultan advocates dialogue, saying that “As religious leaders, we have to be very careful with what we say, because it carries weight, our followers listen to us very seriously.”

In that month, the death toll of Fulani killings rose to more than 717 in two years but other sources put the figure at more than a thousand. Amnesty International waded into the matter, emphasizing that Nigeria’s response to the criminal killings was weak. AI revealed that Federal Government’s reactions were grossly inadequate, too slow, ineffective, and in certain instances, illegal.

As indicated by insights given by the Institute to Economics and Peace, 1,229 individuals were killed in 2014, up from 63 in 2013 and Benue State is by all accounts the hardest hit.

Scarcely five days to the end of Governor Gabriel Suswam’s administration in May 2015, more than 100 farmers and their relatives were apparently slaughtered in towns and displaced person camps situated in the Ukura, Gafa and Tse-Gusa neighborhood government territories of the state.

As per reports, in July 2015, suspected herders assaulted Adeke, a network on the edges of the state capital, Makurdi. Last December, six people were murdered at Idele town in the Oju nearby government territory. A backlash assault by young people in the network saw three Fulani herders executed and decapitated.

Nigerian Army Use of Force

In one month, several states of the federation lost about 168 people to death. The states were Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna. AI frowned on the fact that hundreds of people lost their lives in 2017 and the Federal Government remains unable to protect communities from the violent clashes, not to mention that perpetrators are daily getting away with murder. According to reliable sources, in some situations in which the Nigerian military responded, said AI, it was with excessive and unlawful force, which resulted in more deaths and destruction.

Villagers could still recall how on 4 December 2017, fighter jets arrived to fire rockets at villages as a “warning” to deter communal violence at a time hundreds of herdsmen attacked at least five villages in Adamawa State to avenge the killing of 51 of their members of their members in Kikan.

The residents, who said they were attacked by a fighter jet and a military helicopter as they attempted to flee said that launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone’s standard. Such reckless use of deadly force, said one of them, is unlawful, outrageous and lays bare the Nigerian military’s shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect.

Fulani Herdsmen: Who Are They?

By the end of January, a clearer picture came to light on how the Fulani Herdsmen work. A certain Factional leader of the Fulani herdsmen responsible for the killings in Benue and Nasarawa states was revealed, by the name of Laggi.

Laggi was captured by the Inspector-General of Police Monitoring Team led by ACP Abba Kayari. He is said to be responsible for all the attacks in Benue, in Tunga Forest, and Nasarawa State.

However, prior to capturing Laggi, several Fulani Herdsmen have been caught and tried in courts of law, giving Nigerians room to get a better understanding of who these people are. About seven of them were sentenced to death in April 2017.

There are three classifications of Fulani, two of these classes, the settled or town Fulani also called Fulani Ngida and the Bororo are well known in Nigeria. The Bororo, other than having no traceable locations, are additionally known for their wild nature. Notwithstanding these, they are seen as relocating unendingly with their herds, going from Mali and Niger Republic to Nigeria and other West African nations looking for greener field for their herds.

Despite the fact that a similar blood is said to stream in both the Fulani Ngida and the Bororo, the last mentioned have more wayward components in the shape of the road urchins in the Southern parts of the nation, the greater part of whom perpetrate crimes to survive.

The Bororo a large number of whom are said to be wild in nature attributable to their childhood, which sources assert is frequently without all types of training and religious introduction, to a great extent live in the hedge from where the criminal components among them dispatch their tasks.

Fulanis are nomads who go through towns with their cattle. These people dominate northern states, with a population of well over 30 million. Notably, people of the Fulani tribe can be seen in almost every state across Nigeria.

Killings perpetrated by these herders have dominated the newsreel in recent times, even overshadowing the bloody sins of Boko Haram. This makes people to wonder: How long will this menace continue?

The first thing to remember is that at the present time it is peddled around that not all Fulanis are killers. The herders are the primary instigators of killings. Could it be that one of the ways to stop this menace is by refraining from buying the ‘meat’ from them since Nigerians have alternate means to get meat? Would they resort to other forms of menace? What about the economic costs which at this time cannot be evaluated both on the side of the herders and those victimized?

Granted, the menace of the Fulani herdsmen is one that Nigerians compare to scourge of Boko Haram which still defies any solution up until this moment.

Going further, how does one start to sift out the peaceful Fulani from the hostile? Two, security operatives have done the best they could on the issue but the problem still lingers, which calls for better and innovative ways of solving the issue. Third, the use of force will also continue to mean more deaths; death of innocent people together with the culprits.

Dialogue seems to be the best way to solve the issue as the Sultan of Sokoto said. However, the likelihood of achieving peace through dialogue between Fulani Herdsmen and residents of the places where they operate can be as hard as passing a stick through the needle’s eye.

Jude Chukwuemeka

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