Curbing The Protracted Herders-farmers Hostilities On The Plateau

In Plateau State, like other states within the North-Central region of the country, renewed impasse between Farmers and Fulani Herders in villages has seen some of the deadliest clashes, especially during farming and grazing seasons.

Peace-building efforts and the recent inauguration of a committee by the state Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State to tame the menace of farmers-herders clashes are hoped to mitigate the trend of senseless killings in the state. Accusations of farmlands being destroyed and stealing of cattle are a major problem in most villages of the six council areas of Plateau North senatorial district including, Jos North, Jos East, Bassa, and Jos South. While the Beroms accused the herders of bringing their cattle to graze on their inherited farmland, thereby destroying the crops, the herders on their part have accused the Beroms of stealing/ rustling and selling off their cattle.

Against this background, Plateau State governor, Hon Simon Lalong, has at various times met with the state leaders of the Fulani herders and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association to end the feud between the warring parties in the state. Some of these meetings have had in attendance, Fulani community leaders and other stakeholders of the Fulanis particularly in Riyom, Jos South, and Barkin Ladi, as well as the state Police commissioner. Expectedly, all the committees that have been set up have promised to work out practical solutions to the lingering crises. Sadly, these skirmishes have continued almost becoming unstoppable!.

The peace building and community consultation on security which was held at the Government Lodge in Rayfield, Jos, was at the instance of the governor who is concerned about the resumption of hostilities between Fulani herdsmen and the Beroms of Riyom and Barkin Ladi local government areas resulting in series of reprisal attacks. Although all stakeholders have emphasized the need for peaceful coexistence and tolerance, not much success has been recorded.

Instructively, the state Governor has at various times pleaded with both the Fulani delegation who in most cases, is the first to be consulted in his community consultation and peace-building effort to key into his open-door policy and register their grievances and to also suggest recommendations which government would look into to allow peace reign in these communities. The governor has further informed the delegation at various times that he would be just and fair in dealing with issues of concern raised and that he would do all that is possible to ensure reconciliation and the restoration of peace.

It's a sympathetic scenario as countless killings occasioned by these attacks from both sides have continued to heighten. Non-governmental players in the peace-building process in Jos, the Plateau State capital have remained resolute, assuring at various times and occasions of a success story in no distance time.

Currently, the ongoing peace and security consultation will involve all communities and relevant stakeholders in the hope that a lasting solution to the problem is reached and appears to indeed usher in an end to the menace. Berom communities in Riyom and Barkin Ladi local government areas appear to be making efforts towards a genuine reconciliation with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), whom the Beroms once accused of orchestrating politically motivated attacks on their communities, only to turn around later and heap blames on Fulani herders. Alh Haruna Boro Hussaini, MACBAN chairman in Plateau State, who has at various times opened up to the public while responding to an alleged attack on some communities in Barkin Ladi LGA by suspected herdsmen said, “They are fond of attacking one another, especially when they disagree politically, and later blame it on Fulani herdsmen.”

It would be recalled that a community leader in Barkin Ladi, Barrister Ezekiel Mandyau, had after a recent attack, accused Fulani herdsmen of stealing cattle belonging to fellow Fulani cattle owners only for such owners to descend on the natives in misdirected reprisal attacks. MACBAN chair in Plateau however denied this, saying, “ If this is true, then it means they know the so-called herdsmen responsible for stealing the cattle, and they must have sold the cattle to them because Fulani herdsmen do not slaughter and sell cow meat. We only rear them.” He accused Berom leaders of conspiring with their youths to steal cattle, stressing that “they cannot shield themselves from the blame. Why are the cattle moved to places like Vom, Fan, Foron, etc where no Fulani herdsman dares to enter?’’ He further stressed that “There is a conspiracy to chase us out of Plateau, from Makera to Farin Lamba, where we used to live; now you will not find a Fulani man there. From Kasa to Foron, it is the same thing but we cannot leave Plateau State because our grandparents, parents, and children were born here. So, I think it is better to learn to live together instead of conspiring to chase us out because we are not going anywhere,” he said.

In the same vein, the leader of the Fulani people in Barkin Ladi LGA, Muhammed Adams said, “Some of our boys went for grazing with cattle one evening, and while grazing, some armed men suspected to be Berom youths shot and killed eight cows. Adams said, “Apart from shooting our cows, the herdsmen were killed. We have found a corpse of one of the herdsmen killed, but the other four are still missing.” Similarly, the acting national chairman of Berom Youth Moulders (BYM), Samson Tsok, said at least four people have been reported killed in a clash involving Fulani herdsmen and Berom in Foron village of Barkin Ladi local government.

According to him, one Berom village, Foron, was attacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen and two boys were killed in the attack while four persons are still missing. He said, “Early in the morning, some soldiers of the special task force (STF) stormed the village without notice; we were embarrassed and fell under siege. “The soldiers came to ransack our village without informing us; our community leaders and youth leaders were not informed of the search. We don’t even know what they are searching for. They came in the company of some Fulani herdsmen who were pointing out houses to be searched. At the end of the so-called search, they did not tell us if they found anything incriminating. When contacted by members of the Press, the spokesman of the Special Task Force (STF) ‘Operation Safe Haven’, Captain Ikedichi Iweha said, “We did not go to the village for anything. It all started when about 400 cows were rustled in Foron. We followed up on the report and recovered the cows,” Capt Iweha said.

“Apart from the cows rustled, eight cows were shot, six died and the other two were injured. “In addition, the herdsmen who were grazing the cows could not be found. So, early the following day, we went to the village to search for the missing herdsmen. We later found the body of one of the missing herdsmen and we are still searching for five missing Fulani herdsmen at this moment.

“But while our men were searching, some youths regrouped and attacked men of the STF. They shot three soldiers who are on a peacekeeping mission. Two of the men shot are in critical condition but the other one is stable. “Now, our frustration as soldiers on national assignment is why the people we are protecting are attacking us? Why should we be the subject of attacks? asked Capt. Iweha.

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