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In Plateau Miyetti Allah says mass murder is revenge for stealing 300 cows from herdsmen

The group's north-central zone chairman said the ethnic Berom people have been stealing cows from herdsmen for a long time.

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Miyetti Allah says herdsmen armed with guns are criminals play

Armed herdsman (illustration)

(National Daily )

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has explained why herdsmen were allegedly involved in the recent attacks that led to the death of at least 86 people in 11 communities in Barkin-Ladi, Riyom, and Jos South local government areas of Plateau State on Saturday, June 23, 2018.

Even though eyewitnesses have reported a death toll of well above 120, the state's police command said on Sunday, June 24, that 86 people were killed in the wave of violence with 50 houses also reported to be burnt.

The attacks took place in Xland, Gindin Akwati, Ruku, Nghar, Kura Falls and Kakuruk in Gashish District, as well as Rakok, Kok and Razat in the Ropp District, leading to subsequent retaliation by locals who reportedly targeted Muslims in some communities.

According to a report by Daily Post, MACBAN, Nigeria's premier pastoralist body, has responded to the tragedy, claiming that it is a retaliation for the surge in cattle rustling in the state.

The chairman of the association's north-central zone, Danladi Ciroma, alleged that the indigenous Berom youths have been stealing cows from herdsmen, with about 300 cows lost to cattle rustling in the last few weeks.

He said security agencies can only stop the incessant clashes between herdsmen and the local communities when they bring cattle rustlers to justice.

He said, "These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don't support the killing of human being, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission.

"There have been recent reports of cow rustling and destruction of farms between Berom farmers and Fulani herdsmen. The people carrying out these criminal activities are well known to the communities but the communities are hiding them.

"Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks - 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled and the criminals disappeared with them to Mangu.

"Since these cows were not found, no one should expect peace in the areas. Even soldiers that went after the criminals to recover the rustled cows were shot by the armed rustlers and eventually escaped with all the cows.

"The government of Governor Lalong has done a lot to restore peace, but the criminal elements hiding among their people are the ones frustrating these peace efforts.

"Though the security agencies have tried, they need to do more by being fair to all parties; they should not neglect any report presented by Fulani of Berom because such report can lead to attacks and deaths if not properly handled.

"Criminals thrive a lot in Berom communities, but when the Fulani, who are always victims of their crime, react with attacks, they blame the government.

"These communities have leaders, why hide the criminals? They should fish out the criminals and hand them over to security agencies to avoid death of innocent ones.

"As it is today, the Berom man cannot go to farm, the Fulani cannot breed his cows in Berom Land.

"This can be stopped if the security agencies do more than what they are currently doing. The attacks will stop as soon as the security agencies stop Berom youths from stealing Fulani cows."

Some reports have noted that five Fulani herdsmen were killed by ethnic Berom farmers on Thursday, June 21, leading to the reprisal on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Plateau State government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos south local government areas of the state, in the wake of the attack.

On Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari also blamed the escalation of the herders-farmers conflict on politicians who are taking advantage of the crisis for political gains in the upcoming 2019 elections.

UPDATE - "I was misquoted" - Miyetti Allah's Ciroma

While Nigerians have been calling for the questioning of MACBAN's leadership after Ciroma's statement, he said he was misquoted.

While speaking during a phone-in interview on People's TV Online on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, he said his initial statement had nothing to do with the Plateau State killings but about cattle rustling in another district of the state.

He said, "The paper quoted me, but I called the paper. I told them, 'How manage you misquoted me?' So I don't know of this.

"He called me and said he just wanted to equalise his speech, I said, 'No, what I said is not what you've written. Try by all means and write a rejoinder and apology. If not, within three days, I'll sue you.' I told them this.

"The information I passed is about those cattle with the rustlers but that thing happened in a different district; that district is not even close to where this thing happened. So I don't know and I didn't hear of any cow rustling in that district where those killings occured. I don't know what happened there and I don't know who are the people that did that."

He said the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and the indigenous Berom people in Plateau State is due to a culture of mistrust between both groups. He urged leaders of both groups to fish out the criminal elements among them so that peace can reign.

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