The Niger state government, last weekend, did the unthinkable by evicting some 200 Fulani herdsmen to Kaduna state. The Fulanis who were said to have relocated to Gulu village in Shiroro local government area were shipped back to Kaduna in about four trucks under heavy security by the Niger state government after the villagers were said to have raised an alarm after seeing a large number of people settling in their community.
The Niger state Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Nomadic Matters, Sadiq Abubakar, said the herders had to be evicted considering the state of insecurity in the country, insisting that whenever the need for such movement in huge numbers arose the herders should always liaise with their registered associations so that the government would be adequately informed. Isma’ila Rabe, the North-central zonal chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, however, condemned the action of the Niger state government, saying, “they are harmless; they were forced to relocate to the state after losing their grazing land in Rijana village in Kaduna state…They had to relocate to Biri in Niger state after their grazing land in Rijana was sold; they are harmless herders.”
What Governor Aliyu did may be excused perhaps in the light of the rising level of insecurity in many parts of the country and particularly the oft reported clashes between alleged Fulani herdsmen and Tivs in Benue state and the recent attacks allegedly carried out in Kaura, Kaduna state, where several villagers were killed. The attack on some villages in Katsina state which coincided with the president’s visit recently was also attributed to Fulani herdsmen.
We believe, however, that the Niger state government acted hastily in evicting these bona fide Nigerians who were in the state in pursuit of a legitimate means of livelihood. The government ought to have established first whether these herdsmen had any malicious intent before moving them out of the state like some criminals. Considering the difficulty the Fulanis face in finding land to graze their cattle, Governor Aliyu should have demonstrated more compassion by providing them shelter and ensuring they live in peace with their hosts.
Governor Aliyu’s ill thought out action is all the more distasteful considering the fact that he is the chairman of the Northern states Governors Forum. In that capacity, he should be seen to be building bridges amongst the different socio ethnic groups in the region rather than burning them as he has just done. What his action has also shown is that he has sadly fallen into the ongoing frenzy of stereotyping and profiling Fulani herdsmen as the perpetrators of the attacks that have been taking place in some parts of the country.
Recent eyewitness reports have indicated that some of these attacks were not carried out by the herdsmen but by nefarious individuals and groups that parade as herdsmen. Indeed, many ethnic and political groups have now formed militias who launch attacks on their opponents but such attacks are misconstrued to be attacks by Fulani herdsmen. We believe the Niger state government ought to have been able to make this distinction to avoid the regrettable action it took. Our federal Constitution provides Nigerians the protection to live peacefully in any part of the country they choose. The Niger state government had no right to deny these Nigerians that right.