The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has accused some communities of depriving herdsmen their indigenous rights, saying this has contributed to the crisis surrounding herdsmen and farmers across the country.
In various states including Benue, Plateau and Zamfara, clashes between the herders and farmers/locals as well as attacks by suspected herders have led to the death of hundreds, the most recent being in Plateau where at least 100 were killed.
Speaking with TheCable, Mohammadu Nura, chairman of the MACBAN state chapter, said contrary to speculations that the herdsmen are attacking residents in communities where they graze their cows, the herders are usually on the receiving end.
In the case of Plateau, for instance, he said some portions of the lands in contention were inherited by the Fulani herdsmen “who are indigenes of the state”.
According to him, “the Fulani villagers were ransacked by the Biroms (the locals). They are very many villages that were ransacked. Like in Kuru Janta, when they went there, they killed over 150 persons including women and children. This was in 2010. In Heipang, 83 persons were killed including the chief imam of Heipang. In Sabongida Kanan, 78 persons; in Kim Kim, 28 persons; in Waram, 19 persons.
“So many of the Fulani villages were ransacked, and now they have occupied the lands, claiming they are their own lands, whereas they are hereditary lands; customary lands belonging to the herdsmen. Some of the lands they are accusing Fulanis of chasing them away from belong to us and some of them belong to Biroms. I must not be biased. The larger portions of the lands belong to Biroms, but there are portions that belong to Fulanis. And Fulanis should not be denied their rights.
“Those that are not in Plateau think that Fulanis are not indigenes of Plateau. We have the history of Plateau state. Fulanis were one of the people who originated from Plateau state. Depriving Fulanis of their rights will never help us in Nigeria. It will never help peace in this country.”
He also denied reports that the villagers in Plateau were attacked by the herders, saying those killed in the crisis were herdsmen and not villagers as is being reported.
He said: “We had a privileged information before that Saturday that people will block roads and search for Fulanis. So we informed our people that they should be alert and nobody should use those roads. Unfortunately, on that very day, at 6am, they started blocking roads and were holding sophisticated weapons including riffles, machetes, and shouting that they must kill a Fulani man.
“They were there till around 1pm (when) they went on rampaging, moving into the hinterland; looking for Fulanis in their villages and cows to kill. They went into the bush and started killing them and their cows. That is the genesis of the crisis. And I said this thing before the vice-president and the community leaders. Nobody disputed the fact.”
Nura also spoke on several other issues including how the government can address the crisis, ranching as a way out, ensuring peaceful co-existence between the two groups among others.
Below is a video of the full interview