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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Army Have Acknowledged Fulani Herdsmen Responsible For January Killings – MUT

Army Have Acknowledged Fulani Herdsmen Responsible For January Killings – MUT

Soldiers, Army

Even as criticisms have begun to trail the commencement of Operation ‘Ayem A’Kpatuma”, the Mzough U Tiv (MUT) has said the Nigerian Army may have openly acknowledged that Fulani herdsmen are directly responsible for the January 2018 massacre in which about 73 persons were murdered by herdsmen.

The MUT also said that it is a ploy by the military to assist the herders to take over the land of Benue people.

President of the Tiv Socio-cultural organisation, Edward Ujege made this known while addressing newsmen in Makurdi on Thursday, during which he raised concerns over a publication by the Department of Civil Military Affairs, Army Headquarters.

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He said by the publication, the Army has also concluded that the target of the operation (‘Ayem A’Kpatuma) was the Tiv nation, adding that while the military was yet to tackle the issues that led to the supposed deployment of the military to the state, it was already asking farmers in the state to accommodate the herders.

Ujege was also worried that in the pamphlet being distributed by the military, it made no reference to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law 2017.

He said, “We wish to express our profound displeasure at the emerging trends of the military operation tagged Ayem A’Kpatuma.

“The general public may recall our initial apprehension about the real mission of troops deployed to Benue state. True to our predictions, the flag off of the exercise yesterday confirmed our fears. A pamphlet circulated by the Nigerian Army has defined the real intention of the military in Benue state.

“The pamphlet confirmed that the military had come to provide cover for armed Fulani herdsmen to take over our land. Here is a translation of the message on the flyer which had a picture of a farmer and a herder conversing.Fulani herder:  I’m your brother, I move with cattle which are as important as your farm produce.

Tiv farmer: I’m your brother and a farmer; my farm produce is just as important as your cattle.
Fulani herder: I will no longer destroy your farm produce and no longer kill your people. You are my brother, we should live in peace. Tiv farmer: I too will no longer rustle or kill your cattle. You are my brother, let us live in peace.”

According to Ujege, “The message in the flyer which is issued by the Department of Civil Military Affairs, Army Headquarters underscores basic assumptions and erroneous impressions.

“It is clear from the flyer that the military has acknowledged that the Fulani herdsmen are responsible for the large scale massacre and massive destruction in our land. Yet, without addressing issues of justice, reparation and compensation, they are compelling Benue people to accommodate the perpetrators of the heinous atrocities.”

The President General of MUT said the people were more worried when they discovered that “there is no reference to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law 2017, which addresses the fundamental issues of making both the farmers and the herders to co-exist in peace.

“The military is not only silent on the law, but has encouraged open grazing with all its concomitant consequences. This silence on the law points to the fact that they are not in its support and are not ready to ensure its enforcement.

“The military has also assumed very wrongly that Benue people are responsible for cattle rustling which is not the case as rustling can only be undertaken by professionals in cattle rearing.

“It is basic knowledge that only herdsmen engage in that business. From the pamphlet’s message, it is clear that the military exercise in Benue State is to provide cover for herdsmen to take over the land. This is unacceptable.”

He argued that if the military are to be relevant in the scheme of things, “they must assist in chasing away the invaders and restoring peace which can only be possible through the enforcement of the Anti-open grazing law” adding that the publication of the pamphlet in the Tiv language gives the impression that the Tiv are the target of the exercise, whereas the herdsmen attacks cut across the entire Benue State which is multi ethnic.

Responding to the allegations raised by the MUT, Spokesman, 707 Special Forces Brigade, Makurdi, Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, Major Olabisi Ayeni said, “All that the army needs to do here is to ensure that no Benue resident is killed or displaced from their homes, that is all we are doing.

“We want to ensure peaceful coexistence among the herders and farmers. We are not saying the Fulani herdsmen should not obey the Anti-Open Grazing Law enacted by the Benue State government.

“The Nigeria Army is a Federal Government agency saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and property of Nigerians as well as protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria.

“Let me inform you that we had arrested some Fulani herdsmen that wanted to attack Governor Ortom’s farm in Guma and with all these success you should know that Operation Ayem A’Kpatuma is not in support of any group and is not in the pursuit or criticising any group.

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“Our role is to make sure that Benue State is peaceful and one of the ways we are going about it is for the herders to know that a Tiv man or an Idoma man or Igede man is a Nigerian like him and a herder who is not violent now is their brother.

“However in the course of the military exercise if we found a violent herdsman that want to kill or displace any person in Benue State, yesterday we get him arrested and is why we arrested some herdsmen for preventing the Tiv people from been peaceful in their own environment.

“The way and manner we go in achieving a peaceful environment in Benue State especially in Guma and Logo and Katsina-Ala local government areas of the state is by using this psychological method to test these people that we are friends, don’t fight or pursue the other because we are one family.

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