Pulse Explainer: Were Fulani herdsmen granted a Radio license?

Here’s all you need to know about the herdsmen Radio station that has generated plenty of controversy in Nigeria.

Fulani herder clutches a radio station somewhere in northern Nigeria (BBC)

There’s plenty of anger, anxiety and misinformation in the land over a Radio Station for “Fulani Herdsmen”.

What really is going on? This essay lays the situation bare in typically simplistic fashion.

On Tuesday, May 21, 2019 it was reported that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had announced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has granted a radio license to “Fulani Herdsmen”. 

This must have been where the problem begun, because the phrase “Fulani Herdsmen” often conjures all kinds of images in the minds of Nigerians down South, for obvious reasons of course.

The Minister’s words were: "The radio service will serve as a vehicle for social mobilisation and education, in addition to interactive radio instruction methodology that will be adopted to reach the very hard-to-reach segment of our target population.

"Additionally, it will enhance our capacity to address crisis between herders and farmers with attendant consequences to loss of lives, destruction of productive assets, nomadic schools, facilities teaching and learning resources."

Suffice to say, this announcement didn’t go down well with some sections of the Nigerian polity and the newspapers fed the outrage of the populace with hysterical headlines for days.

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum understandably got enraged by the news.

The group said granting a radio station to herders would only fuel the farmers-herders crisis in the region.

The group noted that the 1999 Constitution only recognises English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo as official languages.

The group also warned that the Fulani radio station could be used to promote hateful propaganda against other ethnic groups.

"We totally reject this insensitive decision of the government. The radio smacks of hypocrisy and deception, coming from a government that has in the last four years denied responsibility on behalf of Fulani herdsmen for crimes they (herdsmen) even owned up to," the group said.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also accused the government of pandering to the whims and caprices of herders, time and again. 

"Why didn't they set up a radio station for farmers too? Where is the radio station for the bandits in Zamfara, or for the Niger Delta militants? No single person has been prosecuted for the killings in the North-Central.

"Every adult in the North listens to the radio, so why can't they reach the herdsmen on the existing radio stations? Why do they need to set up a different radio station for them? They should stop fooling us," Bayo Oladeji, the special assistant to the President of CAN, Samson Ayokunle, said.

The Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, also came down hard on the federal government for the move.

Afenifere spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, told the Daily Post that “When the federal government of Nigeria acquires a license to promote a language (Fulani) that is not an official language in Nigeria, know that there is trouble.

“The constitution of Nigeria says that the activities of the National Assembly can be conducted in English, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Now, Fulfude is a language spoken by a minority in the North and most Northerners don’t understand the language. So when Federal government establishes a Radio to promote such language which has been alleged as to be for those who want to Fulanize West Africa, then there is a problem.

“With the provision of federal character in Federal Government establishment, will Fulani employ Igbo and Yoruba and other tribes that are not Fulfude to work in the station?

“We are worried because this was how Radio Rwanda was used to promote hate speech against the Tutsy and at that time, the then President of Rwanda and his wife set up a radio to speak only to Hutus on where the Tutsies can be located and attacked and this led to so many lives being lost”.

In a statement sent to Pulse on Sunday, May 26, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said it didn’t grant any license for a “Fulani Radio” station to anyone. 

The Commission said it only granted a license to the “National Commission for Nomadic Education for the establishment of a radio station to operate on the AM (Amplitude Modulation) band”.

According to the NBC, it is mischievous to brand the radio station a “Fulani” one since other nomadic herders, be they Ijaw, Igalas or Yorubas, would benefit from the services the station will offer.

The NBC also said the purpose of the radio station is purely educational. 

The statement from the NBC reads in parts. “The National Commission for Nomadic Education duly applied for Broadcast license in furtherance of its objectives to develop and maintain nomadic education outreach programmes, including electronically mediated ones.

“The letter of provisional approval dated September 28th, 2018, was issued to the National Commission for Nomadic Education. The duration of the license is from October 8th, 2018 to October 8th, 2023. 

“The station’s programmes, which shall be purely educational, are designed to cater for the interest of migrant fishermen, herders, hunters, farmers, and migrants. 

“Consequently, it is a misrepresentation for any person, or organization to imply that the licensed station was just for a particular group.

“The Commission wishes to state that similar educational broadcast licenses were issued to institutions of higher learning and other Governmental institutions with comparable needs, such as the Armed Forces of Nigeria, The Federal Road safety Commission, and related institutions”.

In a similar vein, the Director of Monitoring for NBC, Idachaba Armstrong, told the BBC that the Fulanis are not the only nomads in Nigeria.

“There are Ijaw Nomads too. The radio station will communicate to the nomads in their respective languages. In short, the station will broadcast in Nigerian language.

"If farmers apply for license to educate Nigerians, we will grant one to them as well. This is an AM station because nomads by their nature, move far and wide and FM won’t reach everywhere", Idachaba said.

In summary, the government wants you to know that there has been misinformation from the media on the subject of the radio station which is why we put together this explainer for you in the first place.

What’s your take on this story and the developments that have followed?

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