Fulani favoritism could lead to civil war, Okoh warns

“These notorious activities of herdsmen are capable of dragging the country into another civil war,” warns Archbishop Okoh

The Archbishop of Nigeria has urged the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to drop plans to create grazing reserves for nomadic Fulani tribesmen in the country’s Central Belt and South, saying it would give the the Muslim nomadic herders “unwarranted special preference” over other groups. Speaking to reporters at the close of his diocesan synod in Abuja, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh said: “The synod hereby states unequivocally that the move to create grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen around the country does not have our support. This is because the move treats a set of people with unwarranted special preference, making them indigenes of all regions of the country.” Clashes between nomadic herders, driven from Northern Nigeria due to the predations of Boko Haram and the expanding Sahara desert have led to fighting with farmers. 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.  In February, about 300 people were killed and a further 7,000 persons displaced in four communities in the middle belt state of Benue. Upwards of 50 people were killed in clashes in the southeastern Rivers and Enugu states last month. The government has sought to resolve the conflict allowing Fulani to be given the right to graze across the nation, giving them the same rights as local farmers to the land. The government’s proposal was manifestly unfair, the archbishop said. “There have been countless isolated cases of herdsmen acting with brutality to their host communities. These notorious activities of herdsmen are capable of dragging the country into another civil war. The Fulani herdsmen are private businessmen who take away all proceeds of the business, not sharing with either their host communities or the government.” He urged the government to establish ranches for animal husbandry in the North. “In some parts of Nigeria, people are already grappling with high population growth and land does not expand. Nobody’s land should therefore be given forcefully given to anybody in any guise,” adding the synod “calls on the National Assembly to drop the bill on grazing reserves as it is only heating up the polity and will do no good to the herdsmen, their host communities or the government.”


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