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Halt The Middle Belt Killings Now!

FROM the central parts of Nigeria are gory tales of wanton killings that should elicit shock and urgent action from all Nigerians. Indeed a sizeable part of the area has for years remained a killing field where hundreds of lives have been wasted, no thanks to the frequent clashes between local farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen. In fact, no week passes without media reports of fresh attacks resulting in the killing of several innocent individuals, especially women and children.

While most states in the area are affected, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and, to some extent, Taraba are major flashpoints. For instance, between May and July this year, no fewer than 140 persons were reported killed when suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked some communities in Benue State. About 70 persons lost their lives during similar attacks in Taraba State, while 30 persons were reportedly killed in another attack in Plateau State.

Perhaps the most horrendous of these killings was the reported massacre of over 500 Berom people in Plateau State in 2010. There have also been claims that about 400 lives were lost at Barkin Ladi and Riyom areas of the state between January and July this year.

The frequency of the attacks and the high death toll which go on unchecked only reinforce the growing impression that human life now counts for very little to the government and law enforcement authorities.

At the root of the recurring clashes between farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen is the nagging issue of the availability of land for farming and grazing cattle. While the farmers have consistently accused the herdsmen of often encroaching on their farmlands and destroying their farms in the process, the latter have in turn responded with claims that their cattle were often rustled by the farmers or natives of the communities along their grazing routes. They also accuse each other of initiating attacks which more often than not attracted bloodier and more chilling reprisals.

We strongly feel that the time has come to put a permanent halt to this recurring decimal of wanton killings. The Federal Government is constitutionally duty-bound to move in decisively and stop this carnage.

Apart from urgently deploying more troops to the vulnerable communities, government should also come up with permanent solutions to keep the herdsmen from wandering aimlessly into people’s farms. The time has come to settle the nomads in ranches, or at least create grazing reserves for them all over the country.

Both the herdsmen and the farmers are important parts of the agricultural value chain. We must move in to check the criminals among the nomads and give the law-abiding ones the atmosphere to live peaceful, settled and profitable livelihood. (Vanguard Editorial)

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