Petition To National Human Rights Commission, NHRC
The Executive Secretary,
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
6th October, 2016
PETITION BY THE MOVEMENT AGAINST FULANI OCCUPATION (MAFO):
IN RE: BARBARIC KILLING AND WANTON DESTRUCTION OF BENUE INDIGINES BY FULANI HERDSMEN AND SUNDRY VIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF RESIDENTS OF BENUE COMMUNITIES BY THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
We the above captioned body being an organization of concerned Benue sons and daughters and other residents poised with the desire to legally and lawfully struggle for emancipation from the Fulani occupation in our State do hereby petition to your good offices as follows:
1. MAFO is an acronym for “MOVEMENT AGAINST FULANI OCCUPATION”. The Movement is a non-governmental, non-partisan and a pan ethnic collection of Nigerians who share the passion for security of lives and properties which is now threatened by violent Fulani Herdsmen particularly in Benue State. Our vision is to assert the various Fundamental Human rights of the Benue Residents as guaranteed by the Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria and The African Charter On Peoples And Human Rights particularly: the Right to Life as guaranteed by Article 4 of the African Charter, Right to Liberty and to the Security of our persons as enshrined in the Article 6 of the African Charter, Right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to our development as guaranteed by Article 24 of the African Charter, Right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health as guaranteed by Article 16 of the African Charter, Right to National and International Peace and Security as enshrined in the Article 23 of the African Charter.
We also aim to assert the right of Benue communities to carry out lawful and productive activities even in the face of outright invasion, killing of our kith and kin, and occupation of our lands. This we hope to achieve through a mission that is to promote peace and development of Benue communities through dialogue, advocacy and social actions. We have quite a number of noble objectives but we shall highlight two which agree with the purpose of our meeting here today: “to create a united platform for all relevant stakeholders and affected communities in the interest of constructive action” and “to partner with individuals, organizations, and institutions which share our passion for peace and development globally”.
2. Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers conflict in Benue State started over two decades ago. However, successive governments of the federal republic of Nigeria have failed to take action to stop the escalation of the conflict; consequently the crisis has now escalated from mere conflict to an invasion and occupation agenda amounting to terrorism which is being carefully executed by Fulani Herdsmen in the Benue Valley.
3. These attacks on our ancestral land have assumed increasing sophistication and clinical coordination of the group of mindless attackers in combat gears, armed with trademark AK-47 rifles and other sophisticated military grade weapons.
4. Sir, some of the attacks carried out on us and our hapless kinsmen by these Fulani Herdsmen within the last three years include:
i. On the 23rd day of April 2013, 10 (ten) farmers were attacked and killed in Mbasenge community in Guma LGA.
ii. On the 7th day of May, 2013, 47 were mourners gunned down in Agatu while burying two policemen killed Nassarawa State.
iii. Over 200 (two hundred) Fulani herdsmen surrounded Ekwo-Okpanchenyi, Agatu LGA on the 14th May, 2013 and killed 40 of the Applicants’ kinsmen.
iv. On the 5th day of July, 2013, 20 (twenty) of our kinsmen were attacked and killed by Fulani Herdsmen at Nzorov, Guma LGA, Benue state.
v. On the 28th day of July, 2013 Fulani Herdsmen invaded 2 villages in Agatu LGA killing 8 villagers in purported retaliation to a purported killing of 112 cows belonging to the herdsmen.
vi. On 7th November, 2013 these Fulani marauders attacked Ikpele and Okpopolo communities killing 7 and displacing over 6000 inhabitants.
vii. On the 9th day of November, 2013, 36 (thirty-six) of our kinsmen were killed and 7 villages overrun in an attack by these Fulani Herdsmen in Agatu LGA.
viii. On the 20th day of November, 2013 Fulani Herdsmen attacked communities in Guma LGA, killing 22 locals and destroying properties worth millions of naira.
ix. On the 20th day of January, 2014 Fulani gunmen again attacked Agatu LGA, killing 7 of our kinsmen.
x. On the 20th day of January 2014 Fulani Herdsmen attacked Adeke village and killed three persons.
xi. On the 20th and 21st days of February, 2014 Fulani Herdsmen attacked Gwer West LGA, killed 35 persons and displaced 80,000 Sacking 6 Council Wards.
xii. On the 24th day of February, 2014 Fulani Herdsmen attacked a Tiv community along Naka road, Makurdi, killing 8 people.
xiv. On 12th March, 2014 Fulani gunmen raided Ukpam village of Mbabaai in Guma LGA and killed 28 persons and burnt several Yam barns and farms.
xv. On 10th March, 2014. The convoy of then Governor of Benue State Gabriel Suswam was attacked by herdsmen at Umenger. He and convoy manage an escape.
xvi. On 12th March, 2014, Herdsmen attacked then Governor of Benue State Gabriel Suswam’s village in Logo LGA, slaughtered 22 persons and sacked the entire village.
xvii. On 23rd March, 2014, 25 persons were killed and over 50 injured by Fulani Herdsmen bearing sophisticated weapons in Gbajimba, Guma LGA.
xviii. On 25th March, 2014, 7 corpses were recovered following an attack on Agena village by Herdsmen.
xix. On 29th March, 2014, Herdsmen attacked 4 villages in Agatu LGA. 19 people were killed and 15 others abducted.
xx. On the same 29th March, 2014 Fulani Herdsmen used chemical weapons on Shengev community in Gwer West LGA leaving 15 people dead.
xxi. On 30th March, 2014, 19 persons were killed and 15 abducted in Agatu LGA.
xxii. On 10th April, 2014 over 100 herdsmen attacked 4 villages in Ukemberaga/Tswarev ward of Logo LG, killed 6 persons and destroyed several properties.
xxiii. On 15th April, 2014, Fulani Herdsmen attacked Obagaji, Headquarters of Agatu LGA and killed 12 youths.
xxiv. On 10th September, 2014, Fulani Herdsmen attacked five villages in Ogbadibo LGA leaving scores dead.
xxv. On 27th January, 2015, 17 persons were killed in attacks on Abugbe, Okoklo, Ogwule & Ocholoyan in Agatu LGA by Fulani Herdsmen.
xxvi. On 30th January, 2015, Over 100 Fulani attackers stormed 5 villages in Logo LGA, killing 9 persons in the attack.
xxvii. On 15th March, 2015, Egba village in Agatu LGA was sacked by herdsmen, over 90 persons, including women and children killed.
xxviii. On 27th April, 2015, 28 persons were killed by herdsmen in attack on 3 villages at Mbadwem, Guma LGA; houses and farmlands were also razed.
xxix. On 11th May, 2015, Ikyoawen community in Turan Kwande LGA was invaded by herdsmen, 5 persons killed & 8 others wounded.
xxx. On 24th May, 2015, 100 persons were killed in an attack by herdsmen in villages & refugee camps at Ukura, Gafa, Per and Tse-Gusa, Logo LGA.
xxxi. On 7th July, 2015, 1 person was killed and several others injured following an attack on mourners in Imande Bebeshi in Kwande LGA.
xxxii. On 5th November, 2015, 12 persons were killed, 25 others injured in Buruku LGA following an attack by Fulani Herdsmen.
xxxiii. On 8th February, 2016, 10 people were killed and over 300 displaced in another unprovoked attack by herdsmen at Tor-Anyiin and Tor-Ataan in Buruku LGA.
xxxiv. On the 24th day of February, 2016 hundreds of persons were killed in four Agatu communities in Benue State by marauding Fulani Herdsmen and militiamen in a single attack. A most disturbing aspect of the killings was that a helicopter which had taken off from neighbouring Nasarawa State was seen hovering over the area at the time of the killings. A large number of the attackers were seen crossing over to Agatu transported on motorcycles to Loco from where they crossed over to Agatu to unleash their mayhem.
xxxv. On 29th February, 2016, over 500 locals were killed and over 7000 persons displaced in an attack on Agatu LGA by Fulani Herdsmen.
xxxvi. On 9th day of March, 2016, 8 residents were killed by herdsmen in attacks on Ngorukgan, Tse Chia, Deghkia and Nhumbe in Logo LGA. The herdsmen, in a gorilla fashion like military maneuver, attacked residents of the village at dawn, hacking down any body in sight.
xxxvii. On 11th March, 2016 Fulani Herdsmen attacked convoy of Senator David Mark in Agatu LGA. No casualty recorded.
xxxviii. On 13th March, 2016, 6 people were killed by Herdsmen in an attack on Tarka LGA.
xxxix. In the afternoon of Thursday 17th March, 2016, Fulani invaders stormed Tombo in Buruku local government area of Benue state, killing no fewer than 15 persons. The marauders razed part of the community and took over the deserted villages. They continued to shoot sporadically and the villagers flee for fear of being killed. The situation in Tombo like in all communities was scary and the people were helpless as if they were in a war situation where the mission of the invaders is to occupy and take over their villages.
xl. On the 5th day of April, 2016 Fulani Gunmen invaded Tse Tia, in Tarka Local Government area and abducted and murdered four persons including the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, youth leader, Mr. Aondohemba Kasa. The APC youth leader was abducted in the early hours of Sunday and his lifeless body was found by the road side in the same village on Monday morning.
5. These atrocities and callous attacks have been reported in various news media including the print, online and electronic media and it is common knowledge in Nigeria now that our communities and indeed the entire Benue State is under siege by criminal Fulani Herdsmen.
6. In the wake of the sustained Fulani attacks on our communities, we and the vast majority of Benue rural communities where these attacks have been concentrated have been completely overwhelmed and are now desolate and devastated as they have suffered wanton destruction of their properties and lives including: burning down and general destruction of houses and homes, sundry household items, farms, crops, economic trees, vehicles, machineries, food stuffs, schools etc.
7. Over 1000 people have been killed, hundreds of thousands displaced and living in deplorable make shift camps and property worth billions of naira destroyed in our communities by these ravaging Fulani Herdsmen this year alone.
8. The unimaginable level of devastation in Benue communities was aptly captured by the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mrs. Angele Dikongue Atangana when she said on visiting Agatu community that the attacks in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State by Fulani militia left the area in total ruin. Further confirming in her words that: “In my 20 years of working as a humanitarian, I have never seen such a level of destruction. If steps are not taken, the crisis can affect the country as a whole.”
9. The location of Fulani Herdsmen that attack our communities are well known to agencies of the Federal Government but they have refused to accost them and prevent further attacks on our communities but have rather given seeming tacit approval to the large concentration of these Fulani militia in neighbouring communities particularly Nasarawa State which allows passage routes and has created safe havens for attackers of Benue Communities at the border especially coastal areas. For example:
a. The Ole-Alegu is an island settlement in Nasarawa State at the borders of Agatu and Gwer-West Local governments of Benue State. Similarly, the Otalu community which derives its name from Otalu River is conjoined with Alegu community. The Otalu River is a natural border line between Gwer-West and Agatu LGAs of Benue State. This location can be viewed from Gbaji settlement at the south bank of the River Benue in Sengev District of Gwer West LGA. Similarly, from Gbaji, one can see downwards towards Ocholanya settlement within a distance of about 2 to 3 kms and sight the aforementioned conjoined Ole-Alegu and Otalu settlements which is a safe heaven habouring these Fulani militia in their thousands and their arms and ammunitions in quantum. Yet the security agencies have taken no proactive steps whatsoever to apprehend these criminals from attacking the Benue communities.
b. The Oje-Ijamu Island is situated in the middle of River Benue formed as a result of river capture with a beach extending to the Doma LGA in Nasarawa State. From the Nasarawa side the river is dried up creating a habitable beach stretching to a distance of about 5 to 7 kilometers. This beach is heavily populated by these Fulani milita. Oje-Ijamu is situated directly opposite a settlement in Tyoughatee district in Gwer West LGA called “New Nigeria”. At the Northern beach of River Benue or at the southern portion of Doma LGA within Akpanja and Rukubi areas there is a very high concentration of these Fulani militia and their arms and ammunitions on the beach beginning from Gidan Bala down to Obendo to Achebe village extending westwards to Gidan Kulumi (forest village) to Ijowo close to Rukubi settlement in Doma South Constituency. Yet security agencies have never accosted these criminals at least to explain the source of their military grade weapons.
c. On or about the 2nd day of January, 2016, the Benue State Police Commissioner, Paul Yakadi, said after unsuccessfully attempting a tour of Agatu Local Government Area that over 5,000 cows accompanied by armed Fulani herdsmen were occupying part of Agatu Local Government Area of the state. Yet the security agencies have failed and/or wilfully neglected to apprehend these criminals.
10. Sir, the Federal Government and its security agencies have allowed these invading Fulani Herdsmen to bear sophisticated assault weapons unchallenged against all extant national and state laws.
11. Most of the attacks on Benue communities are predictable and have assumed ascertainable patterns to the knowledge of the security agencies but they neglected and or refused to take necessary proactive steps to provide security for the us and our communities.
12. The predictability of these attacks is such that every planting season is heralded by serial attacks by these Fulani herdsmen. They also return during the harvesting season and it is clear that the aim of these attacks is to deprive the good people of Benue state particularly the rural communities where these attacks are concentrated of their means of livelihood.
13. Some of our leaders including traditional rulers have brought the facts of these predictable attacks and location of these Fulani militia to the attention of the security agencies and other authorities at various times but they failed and/or neglected to take proactive measures to protect our communities from attacks by these herdsmen.
14. The Federal Government has openly claimed and acknowledged that the Fulani Herdsmen who have persistently unleashed mayhem on our communities and kinsmen are not Nigerians but migrants from neighbouring countries like Chad and Mali who gain entrance into Nigeria with their herds as foreign nomads, due to porous borders, but they have not taken any steps whatsoever to protect and defend the country including the us and our kinsmen from this purported foreign aggression.
15. Members of a certain Miyetti Allah (umbrella organization of Fulani cattle rearers in Nigeria) of which the our very President and Commander in Chief of the Federal republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari is Grand Patron have openly confessed to carrying out these dastardly acts on Benue communities but the the security agencies have never apprehended them or arrested and prosecuted them.
16. Sir, one of such occasions was on Friday 4th day of March, 2016 when one Ardo Boderi claiming to be a leader of the Fulani herdsmen, in the presence of the the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Solomon Araase at a stakeholders meeting organised by the IGP and held in Makurdi, claimed that over 10,000 cattle belonging to the Fulani marauders were allegedly killed by people of Agatu and that was why he and his members were attacking and killing people of the Agatu community. Despite this open admission of commission of crime in full glare of the public the IGP never arrested or ordered the arrest of the said Ardo Boderi or caused enquiry or investigation of any kind to be made into this bizarre claim.
17. President Muhammadu Buhari as Grand Patron of the Fulani Herdsmen is known to have fought for and sought protection of these Fulani Herdsmen in the past, one of such instances being when he then a private citizen was reported to have visited Lam Adesina, then Governor of Oyo State to complain to the said governor that his people, the Fulani herdsmen, were being attacked by the indigenous farmers. Hence the seeming explanation for why the Herdsmen are now taking advantage of his position as President to wreck havoc on the people of Benue State without being apprehended.
18. Following these persistent attacks on Benue communities the the Federal Government at different times set up and inaugurated different Peace Committees going by different names to interlia: determine the extent of destruction caused by the crises in order to enable government offer compensation to the affected persons/communities and to offer recommendations on ways of forestalling future occurrence of the crisis.
19. But even though these aforementioned committees are usually given 2 (two) weeks or such other short periods within which to submit their reports, the Federal Government is yet to publish the reports or white papers on the findings and recommendations of the committees thereby heightening the state of insecurity in the our communities and Benue State in general.
20. In the wake of the Fulani Herdsmen’s dastardly attacks on Agatu communities, Mr. President and his Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau (Rtd) who broke their unholy silence a week after over 500 people were killed and 10 villages razed in Agatu LGA announced they had set up an Investigative Panel to enquire into the atrocities committed against the community, but curiously up till today, the said Investigative Panel purportedly instituted by the President and his Miniser to enquire into the attacks has not been made public or inaugurated.
21. Failure of the Federal Government of Nigeria to set up and inaugurate an Investigative Panel to enquire into the atrocities committed against the Benue communities this year has heightened and exacerbated the state of insecurity in our communities and Benue State in general.
22. The Federal Government though aware of the impending attacks and after being intimated of the eventual attacks chose to give preference to protection of cows belonging to the criminal Herdsmen as against human lives by deploying heavily armed military men and mobile Policemen to the bushes who have remained there till date to protect the said cows while the people of Benue State, have been left unprotected and at the mercy of their assailants and have remained so unprotected till date.
23. Worrisome as it is Sir, the IGP carried out this discriminatory deployment of protection for cows above human lives by setting up a Task Force on Cattle Rustling and Kidnapping at the Nigeria Police Headquarters, Abuja and the said task force is responsible for protecting cows in the bushes and forests of Nigeria while the Benue Communities which are prone to Fulani attacks have no such priority dedicated to them thus the Nigeria Police do not respond to our distress calls in time of these Fulani Herdsmen attacks.
24. Similarly, the Nigerian Army has set up Task Forces which are also manning the bushes and forests vigorously protecting cows belonging to the Fulani Herdsmen who are the attackers of Benue communities but have refused to setup a similar mechanism to protect the us and our communities from the dastardly acts of the same Fulani Herdsmen.
25. Since the attacks on us, we and our communities have remained devastated, desolate, miserable, barely surviving and living in perpetual fear of being attacked by the Fulani militia or other assailants as we have till date no form of security provided by the Federal government and its agencies for our lives and what remains of our properties.
26. Since the unfortunate Fulani attacks and invasions which have wrecked our communities most of us and thousands of our kinsmen have been camped in primary schools and shanties under deplorable conditions unworthy of human life bereft of basic necessities such as food and medical care. In spite of this, the Mr. President has refused and or willfully neglected to provide us with relief materials to ameliorate their sufferings.
27. We have since the unfortunate Fulani invasion and occupation of our home lands made several representations to Federal Government with a view to securing compensation and security for the victims of the attacks so that they could pick up the bits and pieces of their lives and do so in a secure environment but such representations have all been rebuffed or ignored by Mr. President.
It is therefore, our contention on behalf of ourselves and the affected communities that the aforementioned acts of barbaric killing by Fulani mercenaries and wanton destruction of properties to wit; houses, farmlands, vehicles and other household items of defenceless locals constitute and the concomitant actions or inactions of the Federal Government constitutes a gross violation of the Fundamental Human Rights of our people as enshrined in Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as Amended, and the extant Articles of African Charter of Human and People’s Rights as well as the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
We therefore urge you to use your good office to do for the people the following:
i. To cause the Federal Government of Nigeria to deploy with immediate effect troops to the aforementioned Local Government Areas to forestall further attacks especially as the dry season during which their heinous crimes are heightened approaches;
ii. To cause with immediate effect the arrest and prosecution of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) perpetrating the act of barbaric killing in a frivolous claim of retaliation for the killing and/or rustling of their cows;
iii. To cause an investigation in the affected Local Government Areas with a view to having firsthand information of the hardship of the victims in various IDP camps and which will enable you advise the Federal Government of Nigeria adequately;
iv. Liaise with the international and local humanitarian bodies so as to bring succour to the IDPs in various camps;
v. Press on the Federal Republic of Nigeria to cause a legislation to be passed by the National Assembly banning open grazing activities which constitute the excuse for perpetration of such heinous crimes in Nigeria;
vi. And for such other things necessary to be done by your office to cushion the effect of the attacks on the aforementioned communities.
While we thank you for the anticipated cooperation in doing the needful, we assure you that MAFO as a peaceful organization will not rest in its struggle to bring to an end the incessant attacks on the above stated Local Government Areas and Benue State in general.
For MOVEMENT AGAINST FULANI OCCUPATION:
- Dr. Sam Abah
- Pastor Dave Ogbole
- VEMBE, Terence Terfa, Esq
- Inyom Doo Gideon