10th January, 2018

Nine fully armed sponsored Benue militia were arrested yesterday at Arufu by soldiers from 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army stationed in Takum, Taraba State. The men, who had five fully loaded Ak-45 rifles, allegedly claimed to be members of government sponsored security volunteer group.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) expresses shock at this discovery. It is a dangerous precedent and a can of worms. It puts Nigeria at the edge of the precipice.

Among other things, it implies not just a tacit approval of organized killings by the government of Benue State but also state sponsorship of groups behind genocidal attacks. There is no doubt that the victims of these attacks who have been constant targets of the terror group are Fulanis, whether they are herdsmen or not. The revelation that their number is more than seven hundred (700) in the camp is equally alarming.

We strongly suspect that there is more than one camp and that those in the camps have been involved in inter-state killing operations, probably disguising as herdsmen at times in order to hang killings on the necks of herdsmen. There is an urgent need to dig deeper because those nine men are mere guinea pigs and they will not know what they are not supposed to know.

It exposes the deceitful game at play in the middle belt. While some state governments appear to have conspired albeit clandestinely to officially grant hoodlums the licence to kill Fulanis, a powerful anti-herdsmen propaganda machinery is set in motion churning out falsehood and inciting the populace against Fulanis. In the meantime the average Nigerian has been deceived into believing that herdsmen are killers. He took the propaganda hook, line and sinker.
The revelation that the arrested militia men were being trained by ex-service men is equally unnerving.

Those who blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for being behind the killings have also been deceived because clashes between herdsmen and locals in the region are of great antiquity. In particular, the killings rose dramatically during the tenure of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, as far back as 2013, particularly in the months of February, April, May, July and November of that year. For example, we recall the massacre of fifteen Fulani men by heavily armed men on 2nd April, 2014 when Fulani settlements at Kadarko and Rugar Ardo Sodangi in Keana Local Government, Nasarawa State were raided.

We note with grave concern that tension between herdsmen and locals are aggravated mostly in Christian-dominated communities while state governments in the South east and South West who have enacted anti-grazing laws and whose governors have openly demonstrated animosity towards herdsmen and Muslims are also mainly from such areas. Unless we are deceiving ourselves, there is a subterranean anti-Muslim sentiment under the guise of anti-grazing.

Nigerians get it wrong when they fail to separate criminals from their religion or ethnic background. Those who connect Fulani herdsmen to Islam and whip up anti-Muslim sentiment have chosen a very dangerous angle. Both history and faith have bound Fulanis and Nigerian Muslims together. Reading between the lines, anti-Fulani propaganda and hostile acts against the Fulani cannot be divorced from attacks on Muslims. By the same token, genocide aimed at the Fulani is indubitably mass killing of Muslims.

MURIC invites Nigerians to eschew tribal compartmentalization and religious profiling. We are all from Adam (peace be upon him) and Adam came from ordinary sand. It is the children of the same father who are attacking themselves when Christians and Muslims lock horns. Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him) would be most unhappy today if he were to witness how his children are killing each other. Most of us did not choose the religion we follow today. Neither did we choose our tribe by ourselves. We were born into them. We could have been born in China or Russia. Nigerians should ponder over this and give peace a chance.

MURIC charges the Federal Government to seize the initiative. The state government cannot be trusted at this stage to investigate the arrest of the militia men. They should be taken to Abuja for further investigations. Those found culpable (and this includes their sponsors, trainers, accessories before and after the fact, etc) should be dealt with according to the laws of the land. There should be no sacred cows.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here