In a week of violence that has rocked the North Central state of Benue, more than 71 people have been killed in the most gruesome manner possible. Fulani cattle herdsmen have been linked with many of the killings as they struggle for grazing space with the mainly farming population of Benue state.
The latest killings have been linked to the efforts of the state government to implement a law against open grazing in the state. This law has become necessary because it is obvious that in openly grazing their cattle, Fulani herdsmen come in conflict with farmers whose farmlands are often destroyed.
The law against open grazing is meant to ensure that herdsmen keep their cows confined to specific locations instead of allowing them to roam and destroy other people’s farms and sources of livelihoods.
This position of the state government seem not have gone too well with Miyetti Allah, an organisation that is positioned as the umbrella body for Fulani herdsmen in the country, and which have expressed their opposition to this law.
Sadly, the security operatives in the country have been woeful in preventing these attacks. The state government and many community leaders have told the media of how security agencies were warned in advance that these attacks were going to take place. Despite the warning, these attacks still happened, which is very sad.
The result is that many communities have lost fate in the security agencies and their capacity to protect them and are beginning to resort to self-help, a very bad signal that indicates an escalating crisis.
The response from the federal government especially President Buhari has also been very disappointing. There have been the usual expression of sympathies but the condemnation of the attacks has at best been lukewarm and unconvincing.
The same urgency with which less serious security issues were dealt with in other parts of the country has not been shown in the Benue crisis. In fact, government officials have described the issue as a communal crisis, which this is not. There is an ethnic based massacre going on in Benue and the government must sit up and stop it from spreading further.