Miyetti Allah says if any herdsman is attacked anywhere in the south, the governor of the state would be held responsible.

The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella body for Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria has reportedly asked herdsmen to defend themselves against any militia group in the south, saying cattle herders should enjoy their rights to movement. 

The call by the body came barely three days after President Muhammadu Buhari urged herdsmen in the south to ignore the statement by northern elders asking them to return to the north.

In a telephone interview with Punch on Thursday, July 18, 2019, the National Secretary of the group, Saleh Alhassan said governors in the south would be held responsible if any herdsman is attacked in their region.

National Secretary, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Mr Saleh Alhassan asks herdsmen to defend themselves against ethnic militia groups (Punch)

You’ll recall that the South-East Governors Forum had recently warned that movement of cattle by foot would no longer be allowed in the region.

The governors forum, through its Director-General, Prof Simon Ortuanya maintained that cattle would only be allowed to be moved into the region through trucks to specific cow markets to avoid incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

Subsequently, Ohanaeze Youth Council worldwide supported the governors position saying as the council also warned herdsmen to stop moving around bushes and farmlands across the South-East.

According to Punch, the council’s President General, Okechukwu Isiguzoro had recently issued a warning that starting from Saturday, July 20, 2019, there would be severe consequences if herdsmen were caught moving around on foot with their cattle.

Okechukwu Isiguzoro, President of Ohanaeze Youth Council (Daily Time TV)

Also, the Oodua People Congress, the Yoruba nationalist organisation in the South-West region of the country had through its President, Prince Osibote Oodua, warned kidnappers and herdsmen, who engage in criminal activities to stop or they would be forced to vacate the region.

Moreover, the Ijaw Youth Council in the South-South has voiced out recently that they could no longer tolerate the killings and threats from herdsmen in their region.

Following the warnings from the ethnic based organizations, the Northern Elders Forum and the Coalition of the Northern Groups had on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, given a directive to herdsmen in the south to return to the north, where their safety could be guaranteed. 

President Muhammadu Buhari thereafter condemned the directive saying the norther elders were berating the drums of war.

President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the call by northern elders to herdsmen to return to the north, where their safety is guaranteed. [Instagram/@Buharisallau]

However, Alhassan, while speaking with Punch on Thursday, said herdsmen would remain where they were, adding that if any herdsman is attacked, the governor of the state would be held responsible.

He said, “We are Nigerians and we have a history. Anybody that thinks he can wake up and take on the Fulani pastoralist is making a grievous mistake; we are well prepared to defend our fundamental human rights of movement in this country.

“They (herdsmen) are Nigerians, so they are entitled to stay where they are. They should remain where they are and defend themselves against ethnic militia and assert their citizenship in this country.

“The only thing we would say is that we will hold all the governors of those states responsible for their safety and security, but if any ethnic militia, by any name, attacks our members, they should defend themselves in a manner that nobody would try such again.

“We have been saying it that people behind insecurity are not herders; bandits are behind these killings, and if the government is saying foreigners have infiltrated the herders, have they been arrested and what is their nationality? Anybody that is trying to destabilise this country should be dealt with.”

Reacting to a northern group’s directives to herdsmen to return to the north, Alhassan said “Those so-called northern youths called coalition of northern groups should note that if because of their action any herder is killed, we will first look for them before we go after our enemies.

“We are Nigerians and we are not going anywhere. Our attachment to the land is opportunistic; we don’t farm the land. So, if anybody is thinking that because he has cultivated the land in a particular place for long and he has rights there more than us, then we would ask where is the grazing area that the colonial masters created for us?

“Politicians can play their politics but they should leave our people out of it because it is the desperate politicians that are causing this confusion and they are looking for anything to hang on to, but we are watching them critically.

“If you threaten the herders, they react; they cannot be used for any political game because we have our way of defending ourselves. We hate injustice and we fight it. Anybody that thinks we can be squeezed is making a mistake.”

When asked to suggest solution to the incessant clashes between herders and farmers in their host communities, Alhassan said, grazing reserves that were carved out before the country’s independence should be developed to serve their purposes.