A group of Idoma leaders have rejected calls by the Federal Government for a town hall meeting on the Agatu massacre by suspected Fulani herdsmen which led to the loss of hundreds of lives with at least nine villages completely sacked.
The leaders, Mdzough U Tiv (Mut), Idoma National Forum, Omi Ny’igede considers the proposed Town Hall Meeting by the Federal Government as not only being diversionary, but a deliberate ploy to downplay the degree of attention and seriousness that should be accorded the invasion of our land. We wonder why the same Government that promised to set up an investigation committee is now resorting to a mere ruse called ‘Town Hall Meeting.
Below is a full text of their communiqué:
COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED BY THE MDZOUGH U TIV (MUT), IDOMA NATIONAL FORUM, OMI NY’IGEDE FOLLOWING A COMBINED MEETING HELD AT THE ROYAL CHOICE INN, MAKURDI, BENUE STATE ON 28TH DAY OF MARCH, 2016 ON THE BARBARIC KILLING AND WANTON DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY OF BENUE INDIGENES BY FULANI HERDSMEN
PREAMBLE: We the leaders of the Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), Idoma National Forum (INF) and Omi Ny’Igede held a unity meeting at the Royal Choice Inn, Makurdi, Benue State with the Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Williams Avenya and that of Katsina-Ala Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Peter Adobo in attendance to give their fatherly advice. After thorough deliberations on the armed invasion and occupation of our land by Fulani Herdsmen and the wanton killing of our people, destruction of homes and farmlands, raping of our wives and daughters in 15 Local Government Areas out of 23 namely, Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Tarka, Buruku, Katsina Ala, Logo, Ukum, Kwande, Oju, Obi and Konshisha, we have come up with the following communiqué:
OBSERVATIONS: We have observed the following in respect of the escalating Fulani Herdsmen invasion in Benue State:
Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers conflict in Benue State started over two decades ago. Although successive governments have taken actions to stop the escalation of the conflict, these actions have not been enough. Consequently the crisis has escalated from mere conflict to an invasion and occupation agenda amounting to terrorism.
We observed with dismay the inability of both the Federal and State Governments to prevent the escalation of the occupation of our land since it started manifesting several years ago.
The delay in setting up the Presidential Investigation Panel promised by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is becoming worrisome.
The proposed Town Hall Meeting by the Federal Government is not only diversionary, but a deliberate ploy to downplay the degree of attention and seriousness that should be accorded the invasion of our land. We wonder why the same Government that promised to set up an investigation committee is now resorting to a mere ruse called ‘Town Hall Meeting’.
We observed that the Town Hall meeting held on the 24th day of March, 2016 in Abuja by 1 Idoma Initiative with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) during which some major decisions were taken as detailed in a communiqué did not have the mandate of major stakeholders in the crisis.
The Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps are poorly managed, and the IDPs are living in very deplorable conditions, with inadequate security arrangement and acute shortage of relief materials.
For the fact that the herdsmen armed attack and wanton killings have become a national threat, it should be declared an INSURGENCY and treated as such, with the aim of dislodging the insurgents from our occupied communities by the security/military operatives.
The inability of the President, the nation’s Army and Police Chiefs, and the Governor of Benue State to visit the worst affected communities of Agatu and the other aforementioned where recent mass murder attacks were carried out for on the spot assessment of the level of devastation indicates lack of seriousness deserving of the crisis. This assertion is supported by the careless utterances of Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nassarawa State that the attacks were mere “skirmishes” that could not be tagged genocide. This is also demonstrated by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase who, with neither evidence nor a visit to any affected area, claimed that the reported casualty figure of 300 dead people in the Agatu attack was exaggerated.
We observed that these invading Fulani Herdsmen have been allowed to bear sophisticated assault weapons unchallenged which is against all our extant laws.
OUR DEMANDS: We reject the Federal Government’s proposed Town Hall Meeting at this time but insist on Judicial Commission of Enquiry to unravel the root cause(s) of the gruesome massacre of our people.
While we appreciate the efforts of various concerned groups at resolving the Fulani herdsmen/Farmers crisis in Benue State, we strongly advise that major stakeholders are carried along when critical decisions are being taken by any such groups. We therefore reject the purported town hall meeting held in Abuja on the 24th of March, 2016 by 1 Idoma Initiative with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria together with its communiqué as same lacks the mandate of the major Idoma stakeholders in particular and the people of Benue State in General.
Our people are predominantly farmers with fixed land and growing population, we therefore, reject the idea of having open grazing lands and cattle routes on our land to avoid any conflict as we do not have sufficient land for that purpose. Government should encourage those engaged in cattle rearing business to establish private ranches in line with global best practices instead of the open and uncontrolled grazing that frequently results in violent clashes with farmers.
The invasion of our land by people under the cover of Fulani Herdsmen should be classified as an act of Insurgency and the perpetrators labeled as terrorists to be routed out by the military.
The perpetrators and sponsors of such heinous crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.
The Benue State Government should as a matter of urgency constitute an inclusive Judicial Panel of Enquiry for a public hearing on the state of security in Benue State.
The National Assembly should commence a public hearing on the Fulani threat to national security without delay.
The office of the National Security Adviser should as a matter of urgency address the nation on the state of insecurity in the country particularly as it relates to the activities of Fulani Herdsmen.
We advise that all relevant government agencies saddled with the responsibilities of home land security begin the process of disarming Fulani Herdsmen across the country to avoid a counter arms buildup by helpless communities in self defense.
All Herdsmen in Benue State should relocate immediately to allow our farmers go to their farms without fear of being attacked as the farming season approaches in order to avoid severe famine next year.
The Benue State and the Federal Government should intensify their efforts in protecting the lives and properties of the people of Benue State.
A Victims Support Fund should be established for rebuilding destroyed communities with adequate compensations to families of victims.
Our people and land owners particularly traditional rulers and chiefs should hence forth stop leasing our land for grazing purposes whether on a temporary basis or otherwise.
Since cattle are at the centre of these dastardly acts and are seen to be superior to our lives, we have resolved to desist from consuming beef or cow milk as an economic sanction and moral responsibility.
Our legislators should as a matter of urgency enact laws to criminalize open grazing as it directly conflicts with the livelihood of our people which is crop farming.
More attention should be given to the IDP camps with adequate security and relief materials.
Government should put in place infrastructure in form of good access roads to facilitate easy access of security operatives to these remote areas which are often subject of attack by these marauders.
We call on the International community to rise to our plight by enforcing our fundamental human rights in the face of this incessant invasion of our land and killing and maiming of our people.
We demand that the Federal government should immediately tighten security and put in place measures to protect our porous borders to prevent further continuous and uncontrolled entrance of international criminal elements, herdsmen and arms.
Issued at Makurdi this 28th day of March, 2016
CHIEF ENGR. EDWARD I. UJEGE, FNSE, MF (Zege Mule U KONSHISHA) PRESIDENT GENERAL, MDZOUGH U TIV (MUT)
ENGR. DR. OKOPI ALEX MOMOH, FNSE, FNI MechE, FNIM PRESIDENT, IDOMA NATIONAL FORUM (INF)
CHIEF ODE ENYI (Ogbodo Ukpa) PRESIDENT GENERAL, OMI NY IGEDE