By Barr. Femi Falana
Following the tragic killing of 73 people during the violent attack on Logo and Guma in Benue State January 1, 2018, Chief Paul Unongo, a former minister had accused former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of masterminding the crisis since he is a patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association. Although Alhaji Abubakar promptly denied the allegation and threatened to institute a libel suit in court the governors of Nasarawa and Plateau states, Governors Tanko Al-Makura and Simon Lalong respectively, have publicly blamed their Benue state colleague, Governor Samuel Ortom for the tragic killing. As far as both governors are concerned, it was the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition Law of Benue state which provoked the violent attack.
But the two chief executives did not explain the basis of the reckless killing of farmers in Benue state before the enactment of the law or the incessant killing of hundreds of farmers by herdsmen in other states of the federation. In fact, after the Benue incident, not less than 10 people have been killed by herdsmen in Kaduna state. Apart from the fact that Kaduna state has no anti-grazing law Governor Nasir El-Rufai once announced that he had paid an undisclosed sum of money to the herdsmen to stop further killing of unarmed farmers in the state! Even Governor Ortom has not been left out of the blame game. In his presentation to the visiting Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Security, the governor said that the authorities in Abuja should be held liable for the crisis for ignoring several warnings of the impending attack. However, upon realizing the futility of blaming the Benue state government over the tragic incident, Governor Lalong has displayed maturity by apologizing for his comments.
But in his reaction to the tragic incident in Benue State, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Patron of Miyeti Allah alleged that over 800 Fulani people were brutally killed by ethnic militias in Taraba state in one weekend last year. In denying the allegation the Taraba state government has said that in the violent clash which occurred between the Fulani and Mambilla people in Sadauna last year “both sides suffered casualties and the figure of death from both sides put together was nothing close to genocide.” With respect, the revered Emir ought not to have waited for the killing of 73 people in Benue state before crying out over what he has described as “these acts of ethnic cleansing” by some influential people in Taraba state. We ought to have built a nation whereby the killing of every citizen is viewed as an assault on our collective humanity.
On that note, the Taraba state government and the Nigeria Police Force should ensure the prosecution of all persons indicted by the Justice Nuhu Adi commission of inquiry which investigated the crisis and has since submitted its report to Governor Darius Ishiaku. However, in moments of ethno-religious crisis, traditional rulers, political office holders and religious leaders and should desist from making inflammatory statements which are capable of aggravating violence in the society. It is high time the political elite stopped the practice of blaming the victims of injustice in the land. Since the federal government has a legal duty to protect the life and property of every citizen it has failed to put an end to the perennial violent conflicts between farmers and cattle herdsmen which have needlessly claimed many lives and destruction of properties worth several billions of Naira in many states of the federation.
By Barr. Femi Falana