The Archbishop of Niger has warned that Nigeria is at risk of an ethnic civil war unless the government puts and end to the depredations of Fulani cattle herders against farmers in Nigeria’s middle belt and southeast.
The Archbishop of Niger has warned that Nigeria is at risk of an ethnic civil war unless the government puts and end to the depredations of Fulani cattle herders against farmers in Nigeria’s middle belt and southeast. Last week the Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, Bishop of Enugu and Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Niger in the Church of Nigeria led a march in Enugu to protest the killings of 40 farmers in the southeastern state by Fulani herders. While international media attention has focused on the depredations of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria in recent years that has claimed the lives of over 20,000 people and displaced over one million, the low level clashes between ranchers and farmers over the past twenty years may prove to be as serious a threat to Nigeria. According to SBM Intelligence, a socio-political consulting firm, there have been 389 incidents involving herdsmen and farming communities between 1997 and 2015, with 371 of these attacks happening after 2011 in the Middle Belt. On 29 April 2016 Fulani tribesmen shot at a car carrying Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, as he was travelling on a highway in Edo state. The clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers used to be confined to the northernmost regions of the country, but due to the increasing desertification of nomadic grazing land in those areas which are traditional cattle-rearing territories, overgrazing and lower rainfall; the nomadic herdsmen have been pushing farther and farther south in search of grass and water for their herd. In the last year attacks have been reported in Rivers and Enugu states, in the southeast, and Ondo, in the southwest, where a former presidential candidate, Olu Falae was abducted from his farm by herdsmen for days. In February, about 300 people were killed and a further 7,000 persons displaced in four communities in just one local government area Agatu, in the middle belt state of Benue. The intensity of the fighting has risen due to the flood of weapons into the country following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, with many herdsmen carrying automatic weapons. Speaking to reporters after the march, Archbishop Chukwuma called for prayer in response to the southern migration of the Fulani. “The Igbo people cannot stay in their land and become strangers,” he said. However he added that government calls to pray the problem away were not enough. “The state Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, said that we should pray and fast but prayer without action is nothing. So we are praying and matching it with action to sensitise our people to rise to this situation because enough is enough.” He added: “If these senseless killings continue unabated, we will not hesitate to go after the herdsmen anywhere they are and we shall declare serious war against them.” The archbishop said: “If Boko Haram subsides in the North, they cannot come down to the East and disguise themselves as herdsmen,” the News Agency of Nigeria reported. He further advised the government to try to control the security situation in the country. The Archbishop of All Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh on Sunday called upon the government to halt the violence. “The government should also avert a situation where individual communities will be forced to make security arrangements. No country can survive such situations so those in leadership position should do everything possible to take perfect control of security issues. There is no reason why a group of people will be carrying arms and roaming the countryside while others are at their mercy,” he said.