The lingering crisis between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv local farmers in Benue state “which has been on for three years and has caused damage of monumental proportion prompted Uche Nnorom, from Makurdi, in this report, to investigate whether the police can find a lasting solution to the seemingly unending crisis.
The Tiv farmers/ Fulani herdsmen clash took a frightening dimension last week Tuesday, February18, when the home country of the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, Orchivirgh Alfred Akawe Torkula, TorTiv IV, Tse-Torkula ullage, local government area was attacked.
The invaders, who numbered over 100, were said to have used sophisticated weapons and murdered more than 8 persons and destroyed lots of property.
On Friday, February21, at about 9 pm, heavy gunfire was heard at Adekaa, a suburb in Makurdi, the Benue state capital. One person was reportedly killed during the incident which lasted for over four hours. Residents of the area scampered for safety, with most of them evacuating their children and some property and relocating to safer areas.
Adekaa had been under siege for quite some time now, following the recent ugly incident during which youths of the area were said to have attacked some Fulani settlements in the area and carted away 50 of their cows. Subsequently, in a reprisal attack, the Fulanis reportedly stormed the area and killed more than 4 persons.
Adekaa houses the Mobile Police barracks but it was gathered that when the incident happened, the police allegedly turned a blind eye. The DPO of Zone ‘D’it was further alleged, he deliberately refused to send his men to the troubled area to quell the fighting. Rather, he was reported to have sent them to assist the Fulanis evacuate their Fulani members, an act which was viewed asnon-chalant and a conspiracy which negates the police laws.
It was later learnt that the action of the DPO stemmed from the fact the relationship between the police officers and the host community was strained because of a confrontation both parties some time ago that has remained irresolvable.
In Guma local government area, the same scenario had played out, whereby the Chairman of the council Frank Usa Adi, it was gathered, complained bitterly that the Police failed in its responsibility to safeguard the lives of the people who had constantly been attacked by the suspected Fulani herdsmen.
“Most times when they are called upon, they will complain that their vehicle needs to be fueled and they require other logistics to work”, the chairman regretted.
Credit should however be given to the military, especially officers of the 72 Battalion, who have staked their lives to fight the insurgents. At a point, they lost some of their soldiers during combat with the invaders who are usually heavily armed with AK-47 guns.
Worried by the inability of the security men in the state to fight the invading Fulani marauders, Governor Gabriel Suswam cried out last week, during a press conference, that the state was at the risk of experiencing an inter-tribal war if drastic steps were not taken by the Federal government to nip it in the bud. He therefore, requested for more police officers from Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, believing that the move was akin to a last resort to resolving the lingering crisis.
On his part, the Governor, since assuming office, has shown so much commitment and determination in halting the crisis between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers.
He had reportedly held meetings with the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar who wasin Benue last year as well as his Nasarawa state counterpart, Tanko Almakura in Nasarawa, the state capital, during which a resolution was agreed upon to stop hostilities between the two parties.
Suswam has also done a lot towards restraining his people, especially they ouths, from taking the laws into their hands.”I passionately appeal to you people to talk to your sons not to take the laws into their hands but allow the law enforcement agencies do their job. I have confidence that they can do it”, Suswam also said when he addressed the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), in the state, who staged a peaceful protest at the local government area.
In swift response to the Governor’s request, the IGP dispatched a team, led by the DIG Operations, Force Headquarters, Michael Zuokumor on a fact-finding mission. DIG Zuokumor had served briefly in Benue state as AIG Zone-4 Division, which also comprises Nasarawa and Plateau states. His good performance in fighting crime in the state and the zone reportedly earned him a promotion and the assignment.
The DIG Operation, on arrival in the state last week, held meetings with state government officials, including major security stakeholders, security agencies as well as critical incident management meeting with top police officers on the crisis.
Addressing newsmen at the Officer Mess in Makurdi, DIG Zuokumor expressed absolute confidence that the police is equal to the task in stopping the constant clashes and enhance peaceful co-existence between the two parties.
According to him, “I want to emphasize with all sense of professionalism and commitment to the transformational agenda of the present government, and guided by democratic principles believe that this problem does not defy solution and so, with the cooperation of all stakeholders, the problem will be solved”.
He averred that the police will carry out the operation within the ambits of the law and in accordance with democratic principles.
Furthermore, the DIG urged the parties to lay down their arms, embrace peace and dialogue as a way of resolving the crisis. He also called on residents of the areas where the crisis was intense, not to take laws into their hands as, according to him, the government, police and other security agencies are capable of settling the feud.
“We should all note that security is a collective responsibility. The police are equal to the task and will not tolerate anyone who would want to take the laws into their hands. The magnitude of the crisis is worrisome; it has assumed a situation that it has become a threat to the people of the state.
We have mobilized officers and will ensure that areas inhabited by persons other than indigenes of the area would be pushed out. We have adopted strategy of moving from unknown to known”, the IGP representative said.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the flash points have been identified and over 5,000 heavily armed and fierce-looking police officers are said to have been drafted to these areas to ensure security of the people, most of whom are still afraid to return to their homes.
Also, there is heavy presence of security operatives in Makurdi, the state capital, in a bid to check any possible invasion.
The crisis between the Tiv farmers/Fulani herdsmen, which has been raging on for a long time, has seen the death of thousands of persons especially women and children, in a very gruesome manner and the displacement of hundred others. This is even as their source of livelihood of the people, that is the farming activities, has been cut-off resulting in food shortage, hunger and starvation. Every part of the state has had some sort of a bitter pill of the Fulani herdsmen invasion and perhaps, now is just the right time to end it. Many observers are of the view that it is time for the Fulani to heed to appeals of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar for a ceasefire, as these continuous fighting is not doing any of the parties any good.
It is hoped that the Police can find a lasting solution to the feud so that the people in Benue state will once again enjoy peace and engage in their farming activities for the good of all.