Are Nigeria’s security forces colluding with herdsmen and Boko Haram?
By Priye S. Torulagha
Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), the former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence raised a firestorm against the armed forces, particularly the Nigerian Army, when he alleged that they are colluding with herdsmen to kill Nigerians. Based on the view that the armed forces are colluding to kill Nigerians, he advised Nigerians to arm and defend themselves to avoid being killed (Afolabi, Ahovi and Akpeji, 2018, March 25).
As soon as he made the statement during a convocation ceremony at Taraba State University in Jalingo, Nigerians reacted swiftly in a predictable manner. Some former military officers were in utter disbelief concerning the proposition that the armed forces are colluding with herdsmen to kill Nigerians. Some felt disappointed that Gen. Danjuma, quite contrary to the principle of espirit de corps, decided to go public with his suspicion, instead of quietly contacting and speaking with President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a former military general. Some supporters of the Buhari administration criticized him for attempting to cause anarchy in the country by suggesting that Nigerians should arm and defend themselves, instead of relying on the government to protect them. The Nigeria Army reacted by discounting the view that it is colluding with herdsmen. In fact, the Nigerian Army instituted a 10-member Special Military Probe Panel that conducted an investigation and determined that there was no evidence of collusion with herdsmen to kill Nigerians (Erunke, 2018, May 19). On the other hand, Nigerians who are alarmed by the unnecessary killings of innocent people by herdsmen and those who support restructuring of the country supported Gen. Danjuma for making such a bold declarative statement about the collusion of the security forces with herdsmen. Similarly, the victims of the killings and destroyed communities, especially those in Benue and Taraba States, also supported him.
Gen. Danjuma, it should be noted, is one of the most influential military personalities that have shaped and influenced the direction of the country, starting from the second military coup of July 1966, through the Nigerian civil war and continuing with various changes of military regimes in the country. Thus, the view by the retired general that the Nigerian military, intelligence and police forces are no longer capable of providing security to Nigerians continues to reverberate throughout the country. Hence, after suspected herdsmen attacked and killed two Catholic priests and 17 others in a Catholic church in Benue State (Daka et all, 2018, April 25), the political leadership of various indigenous ethnic groups in Benue and Taraba States started calling upon their members to arm and defend themselves. The urgent need for self-defense increased significantly when suspected herdsmen killed 120 people in Plateau State in late June 2018 (Ajijah, 2019, June 24).
Purpose of the Write-up
The purpose of this article is to explore the issue of whether Nigeria’s security forces, particularly the Nigerian Army, Airforce, Department of State Service (DSS) and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) are colluding with herdsmen to kill Nigerians, in an attempt to implement a political agenda with a strong ethno-religious undertone. The task requires identifying and explaining various actions, inactions and circumstances which tend to create the impression, whether truly or falsely, that the security forces or some elements within the security forces, are tactically colluding with herdsmen and Boko Haram to kill people and destroy indigenous communities in Nigeria.
For purpose of this write-up, Nigeria’s security forces include the Nigerian Army, Airforce, Navy, Police, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defence, DSS, Immigration, Customs, Nigeria Security aand Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA). All of these national organizations contribute to the national security of the country. Some individuals might not view Immigration and Customs as national security outfits but they are. If the borders are not secured, then, mischievous outsiders might pour into the country to commit crimes and engage in violent acts. Similarly, if the borders and entry points are not secured, large quantities of illegal arms could flow into the country to threaten the national security.
Thus, to determine whether Nigeria’s security forces or some elements within them are colluding with herdsmen and possibly Boko Haram to inflict death and destruction on Nigerians, the following 41 specific actions, inactions and circumstances are identified and examined:
First, without going too far into history, the actions and circumstances concerning the situation in Bama in Bornu State in 2014 might be an excellent starting point. As the Boko Haram grew in strength and started to carry out massive bombing campaigns, it decided to confront the Nigeria Army directly in combat in Bama. As a result, after a particular clash between the two forces, a Nigerian soldier informed the world through a media report that some of the Boko Haram fighters he fought against were Nigerian soldiers who had trained with him in Kontagora. He was shocked to realize that some of his former military training colleagues were fighting on the other side against the Nigerian Army. The soldier’s statement was corroborated by the fact that the Nigeria Army “arrested several soldiers fighting in the north-eastern part of the country for alleging giving vital security information to members of the terrorists group, Boko Haram” (AllAfrica, 2014, October 14). This meant that some Nigerian soldiers actually transferred their loyalty to the Boko Haram and crossed over to join the group to fight against Nigerian troops in 2014.
Second, in another military confrontation between a contingent of the Nigerian Army and the Boko Haram in Bama, a Nigerian soldier, during an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service, stated that some Nigerian Army commanders were working for Boko Haram. He narrated a story in which a Nigerian military officer whose unit was stationed in Bama tricked his own unit into an ambush in which many of his comrades were killed. According to him, “the commander of a nearby military unit, based in the town of Bama, recently sought assistance from his unit in carrying out a raid. When the two military units joined up, they were given different uniforms. The Bama unit commander gave his own troops green uniforms. The soldier said that his unit received tan “desert camouflage” uniforms. When the troops reached the battle area, the soldier said the commander of the better-equipped Bama unit suddenly withdrew his troops, leaving the remaining soldiers to fend for themselves against Boko Harm fighters. Speaking in Hausa, he said “we had only light arms and our men were being picked up one after the other.” (Dockins, 2014, April 5). It should be noted that during this time in the Islamic North, Boko Haram was viewed by many Moslems as a freedom fighting organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing the interest of Moslems in Nigeria. With such a positive characterization of the Islamist group, some soldiers crossed over and fight for Boko Haram.
During the same period, some Nigerian soldiers mutinied because they feared being slaughtered since they were not sufficiently equipped to fight Boko Haram. The soldiers felt that Boko Haram fighters were better equipped than Nigerian troops, so, it was suicidal to engage the Islamists. The BBC reported:
A group of soldiers in northeastern Nigeria is refusing to fight Islamist Boko Haram militants until they received better equipment, one of the mutineers has told the BBC.The soldier who requested anonymity, said at least 40 of his colleagues would refuse orders to deploy (2014, August 19).
During this time of the war, Boko Haram attacked Nigeria military formations repeatedly and drove many army units out of the region. This enabled the militants to capture a large chunk of territory. In fact, at one time, 54 Nigerian soldiers were sentenced to death for “for mutiny, assault, cowardice, and refusing to combat Boko Haram” (The Telegraph, 2014, December 18).
Third, around the same time in 2014, Boko Haram appeared to have penetrated deeply into the Nigerian security network, so much so that it was able to obtain first-hand intelligence that enabled it to capture many parts of the Northeast. Boko Haram was able to attack and capture many military and police posts, thereby, boosting its arms supply from captured Nigerian weapons. Feeling hopeless and betrayed, more Nigerian soldiers continued to desert their posts to escape death. It is inferable that during this time, some Nigerian military, police and intelligence officers actively supported Boko Haram in order to embarrass President Goodluck Jonathan. In other words, it appeared that some security personnel on the Nigerian side worked cooperatively with Boko Haram in order to ensure that President Jonathan did not succeed. In fact, Al Jazeera reported “Ten generals and five other senior military officials have been found guilty in a court-martial of providing arms and information to Boko Haram, several Nigerian newspapers reported” (2014, June 4).
Fourth, the kidnapping of the Chibok secondary school girls in April 2014 provided circumstance leading to doubt about the war against Boko Haram. It also increased the feeling that some sections of the security forces were colluding actively with the Boko Haram. The reason is that in terms of military logistics, it was impossible for Boko Haram to have successfully carried out the abduction of over 270 students in an area that was under military emergency without the ACTIVE assistance or involvement of some security personnel in the area. Even a regular military unit would find it exceedingly difficult to move around 270 human beings and keep them without creating logistical problems for itself. It is inconceivable that Boko Haram was able to abduct the students, load them up in vehicles and drive away without detection by any of the military, police, and DSS units posted to various locations in the region.
Apart from that, the idea that Boko Haram was able to abduct and keep over 270 human captives, feed them regularly and provide healthcare to the sick without being detected is too unconvincing. To keep in custody over 270 human beings by an unconventional force that must move from place to place in order to avoid detection, makes it implausible that Boko Haram actually carried out that operation without the active participation of very important political and security personalities in the area. The report by Al Jazeera that “ten generals and five other senior military officials have been found guilty in a court-martial “(2014, December 18), buttresses the argument that it was impossible for Boko Haram to abduct the Chibok school girls without active support from some political tycoons and security personnel. In other words, it was a staged operation to score political points against the Federal Government.
Fifth, after the abduction, the fact that the Nigerian Army, Police, NIA and the DSS were not able to locate the whereabouts of the girls also created the impression that some elements of the political and security forces were involved. The other explanation would be that the abduction was staged to score political points, so, there was no need for the security forces to look for the girls. In a normal military operation, the intelligence units of the security forces would have done everything possible to locate the whereabouts of the girls. After doing so, a special forces’ unit would have been deployed to rescue the girls or keep watch over the area.
The doubt about the credibility of the Chibok abduction is enhanced by the fact that Nigerian, Nigerien, Chadian and Cameroonian forces under the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) too were not able to locate the Chibok girls. The failure to rescue the girls portrayed the security forces of these countries as being incompetent. This kind of failure would have resulted in a court-martial in some countries.
Sixth, due to the publicity that the Chibok abduction generated throughout the world, the United States, Britain and France volunteered to join the effort to locate and possibly rescue the girls. These countries deployed various high-tech equipment, including drones to search for the girls. Then, without informing the world about the result of their search effort, they withdrew from the operation without saying a word. They left hurriedly and the world still does not know why they left suddenly. The sudden departure created a feeling that perhaps they might have found out that the abduction was more than what they thought.
It is inconceivable that Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad and assisted by the United States, Britain and France were not able to locate and rescue the Chibok girls. The incredulity of the abduction, perhaps, prompted the Labor Party in Nigeria to reject “the believe that some girls of Government Secondary School, in Chibok town, Borno State, were kidnapped after all. Rather, the party said that it was a ploy to oust former President Goodluck Jonathan from office. The Chairman of the Labor Party, Abdulkadir Abdulsalami, said the APC should expect the wrath of God for deceiving Nigerians and manipulating the parents of the Chibok girls” (Odili.net, 2017, May 24).
Perhaps, the mystery surrounding the Chibok abduction might be unraveled following the report that “22 suspected Boko Haram members including those who allegedly participated in
the abduction of the Chibok school girls” ( Haruna, 2018, July 18) have been arrested by the Nigerian Police Force in Borno and Yobe states. However, there is a tinkling feeling that the sudden police announcement of the arrests of eight suspected participants in the Chibok abduction sounds too convenient, like a staged event, considering the ease with which the suspects confessed their roles in the Chibok affair.
Seventh, in 2017, the Nigeria Army and the Police provided an armed escort to a convoy of Nigerian oil workers, university researchers and those supplying food materials to IDP camps in the Northeast. As the convoy was heading to its destination, Boko Haram launched an attack which killed more than 50 people. After the attack, the speculation was that someone who was probably involved with the security arrangement worked with the militants to set up the convoy in such a manner that enabled Boko Haram to know the movement of the convoy. In fact, due to a feeling that someone in the army was spying for the militants led the military authorities to suspect “that moles were feeding terrorists with movement of its personnel, government workers and vulnerable villages” (Odunsi, 2017, July 31). Apart from this ambush, Boko Haram has been able to successfully attack other convoys and important facilities in the Northeast region of the country.
Eighth, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State made a very interesting statement when he noted that the war against Boko Haram always seems to progress much better when a Southern military officer takes over the command of the war effort. By implication, he was saying that something fishy was going on in the sense that whenever a Northern military officer leads the war effort, progress against Boko Haram always seems to slowdown. The Daily Nigerian reported: “Mr. Shettima said he was disappointed to observe that the previous commanders, who are from the Southern states of Nigeria, did much better than the last occupants of the office who are from the North” (2018, June 28).
It is possible to interpret the governor’s observation by saying that there might be some sort of collusion between some senior Northern military commanders and Boko Haram due to religious affinity. Another way to explain the observation is that Southern military officers feel discriminated and marginalized so much so that they always have to prove that they are as capable, if not much better than their Northern counterparts who seemed to enjoy a favored status in the Nigerian armed and police forces today.
Ninth, when the Nigerian Army declared operation Cat Dance exercise in the Middle Belt, particularly in Benue and Taraba States, the indigenes thought that the military would help to prevent herdsmen from further attacking them. However, instead of feeling protected by the presence of the security forces, the indigenes actually felt more threatened. They reacted negatively against the military exercise due to a feeling that some military units were actually assisting the herdsmen to carry out attacks.
Likewise, some citizens of Adamawa State alleged that the Nigerian Air Force used helicopter gunships and jet fighters to bomb their villages and towns, thereby, killing at least 35 people (Carsten, 2018, January 29). The air force action took place exactly at the same time that the cattle herders were also attacking them. The fact that the Nigeria Air Force dropped bombs at the same time that herdsmen were attacking the villagers created the impression that some elements in the air force were colluding with the herdsmen to attack the communities. The Nigerian Air Force denied the allegation but Amnesty International agreed with the residents of the villages and towns by accusing the military of violating human rights.
Tenth, while Nigerians continued to be killed, almost on daily basis, by herdsmen, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) ordered Nigerian citizens to give-up certain categories of weapons. PM News listed the prohibited arms as:
Artillery, apparatus for the discharge of any explosives of gas diffusing projectile, Rocket weapons, Bombs and Grenades.
Others are: Machine-Guns and Machine Pistols, Military rifles, those of caliber 7.62mm. 9mm, 300 inches, revolvers and pistols, whether rifled or unrifled (including Flint-lock pistols and cap pistols), Pump action gun of all categories and any other firearms/lethal weapons fabricated to kill (PM News, 2018, February 22).
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Police Force, CSP Jimoh Moshood explained further by saying:
No license will be given or recognized in respect of prohibited firearms and ammunition except granted by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria upon the recommendation of the Inspector General of Police.
The police will not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law on any individual or group under any guise whose conduct runs contrary to the law of the land
The IGP order was seconded by the Minister of Interior, retired Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, who insisted upon the “strict enforcement of the law against the possession of illegal firearms in the country” (Ibid).
Ordinarily, it made a lot of sense for the IGP to launch a program to reduce the availability of illegal firearms in the country. It also made sense for the interior minister to support the reduction of illegal firearms in the country. Indeed, no country would tolerate the uncontrollable flow of illegal arms into its territory since such could threaten the peace and national security. However, the timing of the order at a time many Nigerians are facing insecurity and violent death due to unprovoked attacks by herdsmen, kidnappers, and armed men tended to create the impression that the IGP took the action so that indigenous Nigerians might not be able to fight back against the herdsmen. Those Nigerians who doubted the sincerity of the IGP went further by alleging that the IGP is following a well-executed plan that would make the country conquerable by those who want to Fulanize and Islamize it. Thus, the timing of the IGP order further created the impression that collusion is taking place between herdsmen and some elements of the security forces, otherwise, the chief of police would not have given an order that tended to make Nigerians defenceless in the face of continuing unprovoked aggression by herdsmen and other armed killers.
While the possibility of an arrest for the possession of illegal firearms is much higher against members of host communities, such is not the case against herdsmen. It seems that the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police Force and the DSS have no desire to stop the marauding herdsmen with their arms. On the other hand, these security organizations are more likely to focus their attention in making sure that indigenous Nigerians do not possess illegal firearms by arresting and detaining them. This is why herdsmen continue to wield their A K 47 assault rifles openly without being arrested by the police.
Eleventh, when the Niger Delta Avengers and other armed elements in the oil belt decided to blow up oil and gas facilities, the Nigerian Army and Navy did not waste a minute in mobilizing their forces to counter the threat. As a result, many youths were arrested and detained by the security forces. Some of them are still in detention today. Thus, in the South-South, the slightest threat to security is countered by the full deployment of military units. However, the armed forces have been lukewarm toward fully deploying military units to counter the rampaging herdsmen that are inflicting unbelievable carnage on the country. If the rampaging herdsmen were from the Southwest or South-South or Southeast or Central Nigeria, the armed forces would have been fully mobilized to deal with them. By now, a Joint Task Force (JTF) would have probably been established to deal specifically with the threat. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, President Buhari and the heads of the armed forces, police and the DSS are not eager to mobilize security forces against herdsmen. They also do not want to create a large scale special security task force to deal with the situation.
Twelfth, when Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) attempted to organize a referendum in Southeastern Nigeria, the Nigerian Army, Police and DSS immediately deployed their forces to stop them. Some people were killed and many more were detained. Apart from that, the Nigerian Army branded IPOB members as terrorists and proscribed the organization. The Attorney General of the country put meat into the Army’s effort to destroy IPOB legally and have all members of the organization detained. Even today, the Federal Government does not want to hear anything about IPOB. The government reacts as soon as IPOB is mentioned. On the other hand, the Nigerian Army, Airforce, Police, and DSS have no desire to clamp down hard on herdsmen and other unidentified armed gangs because the president’s body language does not support a security crackdown.
Thirteenth, instead of clamping down on herdsmen, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Internal Affairs insinuated that the herdsmen are on a warpath because of anti-open grazing laws. Basically, these security chiefs believe that the rights of the cattle herders to roam from place to place in order to feed their cows have been violated, hence, their attacks against farming communities. It is on this basis that they suggest the revocation of the anti-open grazing laws. These security chiefs made the remark without taking into consideration the fact that herdsmen and farmers have being clashing for decades, even before the anti-open grazing laws were passed in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba states. They also ignored the fact that herdsmen have killed people in states that have no anti-open grazing laws. Thus, the statements uttered by the three security chiefs create the impression that there is some understanding between herdsmen and sections of the security apparatus in Nigeria.
Fourteenth, it is a sad commentary that very important high government officials insist on supporting nomadic cattle herding system in a country that is highly populated. The nomadic system is associated with the past, yet, these officials argued in its favor, instead of encouraging cattle owners to adopt ranching, which is the most prevalent method of herding cows in the world today. Thus, instead of looking forward, these officials are looking backward, thereby, indirectly encouraging herdsmen to continue their attacks.
Perhaps, the three high government officials are influenced by or share the views of Professor Angho Abdullahi who believes that herdsmen have a right to move their cattle around any part of the country. According to the professor, the British established cattle corridors throughout Nigeria to allow cattle herders to move about with their cattle. However, they can no longer exercise the right to engage in their cattle business by moving freely from place to place, hence, the anger and the resultant killings of members of host communities (Nwachukwu, 2018, February 18). Thus, the professor believes that herdsmen have a right to kill in order to claim a right of free passage to do their cattle business. Likewise, it could be said that the three high federal officials are probably also influenced by Prof. Umar Labdo Muhammad, who believes that Benue State belongs to the Fulani by right of conquest since half of the state is part of the Bauchi Emirate and the other half is part of Adamawa Emirate. By implication, according to the professor, Benue State is part of the Sokoto Caliphate, so, the indigenous ethnic groups have no right to stop herdsmen from using land in the state to feed their cows. (Opejobi, 2018, January 18).
Fifteenth, the unwillingness to deploy security forces in large scale could be influenced by the views of Professors Agho Abdullahi and Labdo Mohammad, as indicated above. These two intellectuals have a great impact on the thinking of Fulanis in Nigeria. Their views on the right of herdsmen seemed to be shared by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Association and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which believe that herdsmen are fighting back by killing members of host communities in retaliation for the rustling of their cattle and killing of their own members. It could also be inferred that President Buhari, like the Inspector General of Police and the ministers of Defence and Internal Affairs, seems to share the same thoughts as those of the two professors. Hence, he does not see the reason to use security forces to crackdown on herdsmen. The unwillingness to deploy security forces in full scale leads to half-hearted measures that fail to guarantee security, hence, Nigerians are paying an intolerable price. For instance, in Zamfara State, Amnesty International noted that over 371 people have been killed since January 2018 and thousands of people now live in fear daily. Villagers in the state complained that whenever they received threatening letters from the armed gangs, they take the time to inform and plead with the security authorities to intervene to no avail (Amnesty International, 2018, July 31).
The president seems to dance around the fact that thousands of Nigerians have been killed and numerous communities destroyed. Perhaps, he regards the herdsmen as victims, rather than aggressors, hence, he even pleaded with the leaders of the Middle Belt when they visited him by saying “ I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation” (Usigbe, (2017, January 16).
Sixteenth, the perception that the Buhari administration is not keen about taking proactive measures to clamp down on violent herdsmen that have killed thousands of people is evidenced by the fact that the administration has given different explanations for the ongoing attacks. First, President Buhari blamed the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya for training and arming the herdsmen (Sahara Reporters, 2018, April). Second, the administration’s spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, blamed politicians for sponsoring and encouraging violent attacks (Aziken, & Oyadongha, 2018, April 23). Third, the administration indicated that the attackers are foreigners who sneaked into the country to carry out the attacks. Fourth, the administration blamed ISIS for spearheading the violence. Fifth, the Minister of Defence, Col. Mohammed Dan-Alli (rtd.), blamed the anti-open grazing laws that some states have enacted for causing herdsmen’s attacks (Ogunmade, Obi and Okoh, 2018, January 26). The different explanations given for the attacks simply show that the administration has not committed to finding a solution to the problem. It is impossible to take a proactive measure when government officials give different explanations for the cause of a problem. The other explanation could be that by giving conflicting explanations, the administration is buying time for the completion of a targeted plan.
Seventeenth, the fact that President Buhari appointed mostly members of his ethnic group and Moslems into very critical national security positions in a country that has about three hundred ethnic groups automatically creates the impression that the president has a hidden agenda, even though he might not have such a sinister plan. Even if there is no sinister plan, the fact that the president has made statements in the past that tended to support Islamization adds to the doubt about his sincerity. After all, the president had previously acted and made statements that created the impression that he is committed to Fulanizationn and Islamization. For example, he went to Oyo State on October 13, 2000 to express his anger concerning the alleged killing of 68 Fulani herdsmen in Saki, Oke Ogun Area of the state. He took the trip to confront the governor of the state at the time, Alhaji Lam Onalolapo Adesina, in the company of Gen. Buba Marwa, former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Aliko Muhammed, Alhaji Abdulrazak and Alhaji Hassan and truck-loads of his ethnic members to the governor’s office. President Buhari allegedly accused the state governor of complicity in the killings and perversion of justice in the sense that the culprits were alleged to have been released without court trial. The president insisted upon the stoppage of the killings and demanded compensation for the Fulanis (Olaosebikan, 2017, November 18). After making the charges, the Commissioner of Police and the Director of SSS in Oyo state countered by saying that the indigenes were actually the victims of Fulani provocations and killings (Ibid). In another ocassion, President Buhari, in 2001, promised to spread the Sharia throughout Nigeria when he declared:
I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of Sharia in the country.” (Omokri, 2018, January 17).
Perhaps, the desire to Sharianize the country prompted him to strategically hire mostly Moslems to occupy critical national security positions. It also probably contributed to his efforts to nationalize the cattle business and water resources in the country. Otherwise, he would not have been so emphatic in trying to establish cattle colonies and ranches throughout Nigeria at a time Southern and Central Nigerians are demanding a restructuring of the country. It is obvious that restructuring does not fit into his plan for Sharianization and national colonization of cow ranches.
Eighteenth, when some Yorubas and Hausas clashed, resulting in the deaths of 46 and wounding of 96 people in Ife in Southwestern Nigeria, the Nigerian Police Force did not waste time in sweeping in to arrest the culprits. Surprisingly, the suspects were taken to Abuja, instead of being kept and tried in the area in which the conflict had taken place. Even though the violent confrontation involved some Yorubas and Hausas, only the Yorubas were paraded by the police on television as the suspects in the case.
Nineteenth, increasingly, the impression is being created that all Nigerians are equal, however, some Nigerians are more superior, hence, are ‘sacred cows.’ Otherwise, what is going on in Nigeria is unacceptable. When herdsmen kill Ancestralists and Christians, the police do not rush in to arrest and try them for murder or any other serious crime. On the other hand, whenever a cattle herder is killed, the police immediately swings into action to arrest and try the culprits. For instance, in Yola State, five Nigerian Christians were sentenced to death for killing a cattle herdsman. The judge rendered judgment based on “criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide which contravened Section 96 (1) (a) and Sections 79 and 221 (b) of the Penal Code of Laws of Adamawa State, 1997” (Yusuf, 2018, June 13). It should be noted that in Abia State, some Igbos were arrested for allegedly killing herdsmen. While, other Nigerians are easily arrested by the police and army for threatening, attacking and or killing of herdsmen, it is rare to hear of herdsmen being sentenced to death. Of course, hundreds of herdsmen have been arrested. Of all the Nigerians that have been killed in Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, and Zamfara states, how many herdsmen have been sentenced to death? The unwillingness of the NPF and other security organizations in dealing with organized killers in a decisive manner, perhaps, prompted the governor of Zamfara State, Abdul’aziz Yari to give up his position as the Chief Security Officer of the state (Sahara Reporters, 2018, June 16). He realized that he does not have the political and legal authority to compel the chiefs of the security agencies to act decisively and apprehend rampaging killers in his state.
Twentieth, while there is hesitancy on the part of Nigeria’s security forces to deal decisively with marauding herdsmen, it is not the case with groups in other parts of the country. For instance, as soon as some criminal elements (Oyawerikumo , alas “Kareowi” and his dreaded gang) who were engaged in piracy in Bayelsa and Delta states were finally caught by a unit of the Nigerian Army attached to the Joint Task Force (Amaize, et al, 2018, January 13), they were summarily executed and their bodies thrown into the river. In Rivers State, when a notorious criminal gang leader (Don Wani) who was alleged to have masterminded the killing of 22 people in Omoku was caught, he was executed on the spot and his house was destroyed. Thus, in both Bayelsa and Rivers States, criminal elements who are caught are summarily executed by the army units sent to apprehend them. However, the security forces are very cautious in dealing with herdsmen who are rampaging throughout the country. This statement is not intended to support criminality but to show how the security forces act differently, depending on the group or element they are dealing with at any particular time.
Twenty-first, when leaders of sixteen northern youth groups met in Kaduna and issued an evacuation notice to the Igbos to vacate the North, the NPF, DSS, and the Nigerian Army did not threaten to arrest them on the basis of national security (The Guardian, 2017, June 7). The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) justified police inaction on the ground of “security implications” of doing so (Nnochiri & Mic-Braimoh, 2017, August 29). Thus, the northern youth leaders were not even invited for questioning by the police or DSS while IPOB leaders had to run for their lives. If youth leaders in the Middle Belt, Southeast, Southwest and South-South had given any eviction notice, the Nigerian Police, Army, Navy and the DSS would have gone after them. The Airforce too would have deployed its helicopters to hunt them down.
Twenty-second, many Nigerians might not pay attention to the fact that it was the leadership of the sixteen northern youth groups, which originally demanded that members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) should be declared as terrorists by the United Nations and Nigeria. In justifying the need to declare IPOB as a terrorist organization, the spokesperson of the coalition of northern youth groups, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman stated: “We became concerned that Kanu has finally crossed the boundaries of Nigerian laws and has blatantly breached international laws that specifically frown at the use of terror to achieve a goal” (Ibrahim, 2017, July 13).
It did not take long after the coalition made the demand on Nigeria and the United Nations before the Federal Government decided to act proactively to stop IPOB demonstrations. The Nigerian Army poured into the Southeast zone and arrested IPOB members. Then, it branded IPOB as a terrorist organization and proscribed it. The army action was immediately followed by that of the Attorney General, who legalized the proscription and branded IPOB as a terrorist organization. The action by the army and the Attorney General tended to create the impression that the northern youth leaders were working closely with high-level federal government officials, hence, the government decision to take action based on the recommendation of the northern youth coalition.
On the other hand, the Nigerian Army, Police, DSS, the Attorney General and President Buhari have not been willing to declare the marauding herdsmen as terrorists despite the effort made by prominent Nigerians to persuade the Federal Government to do so. The governments of Taraba and Benue States have pleaded repeatedly for a proactive federal intervention to stop the killings of citizens to no avail. The lack of political will to deal with the matter compelled Taraba State Government to raise an “alarm that more people may be killed in the state by herdsmen in the coming days unless the Federal Government and the military changed their tactics (Daniel, 2018, March 29). Likewise, leaders of the Middle Belt, Southeast, Southwest and the South-South have repeatedly called upon President Buhari to declare the herdsmen as terrorists and take proactive measures to prevent the killings but the president is not willing to regard herdsmen as terrorists. Prof. Wole Soyinka “urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop Nigeria from sinking by putting a stop to the recurring killings in many parts of the country, which he described as ethnic cleansing” (Ndujihe, 2018, Apriil 29). Sensing no positive response from the Federal Government on the need to stop the senseless killings, the European Union (EU) too called upon the Federal Government to take action to prevent the killings. The EU stated:
While we welcome the visit of President Buhari to affected states, we encourage the government and all stakeholders to engage decisively in order to promote a constructive dialogue with the aim of finding viable solutions and sustainable policies that would permit all to live in peace, whatever their ethnicity or religion” (Adeyemo, 2018, March 13).
Increasingly disturbed by the killings, the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar, “queried the competence of the security agencies and their inability to stop the attacks and killings by herdsmen in Benue State (Adeseun, 2018, Apriil 26). Based on the legal standard used by the northern youth coalition to characterize IPOB as a terrorist organization, it is puzzling why the same standard is not being applied to characterize herdsmen who have done far worse than IPOB, as terrorists by the Nigerian Army and the Attorney General of the Federation?
Twenty-third, the Nigerian Army, DSS and the Police do not seem to have tolerance for any group that does not tow the line of President Buhari and the All Progressive Congress Party (APC). As a result, when elders of the South-South decided to meet and strategize under the auspices of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in Port Harcourt, the Nigerian Police stormed the venue of the meeting and prevented the elders of the region from holding a peaceful meeting (Akasike, 2017, October 17). The NPF took this action, disregarding the fact that the elders of the South-south have been primarily responsible for pleading with the youths not to attack oil facilities. Thus, the Federal Government even considered a peaceful meeting held by regional leaders in the South as a threat to the national security. Yet, it finds it very difficult to use proactive measures to deal with herdsmen.
Similarly, it was alleged that the leaders and elders of Southern and Middle Belt groups were technically prevented from flying into Makurdi Airport from Abuja to attend a summit on restructuring of the country. This happened when a plane that was supposed to fly the regional leaders to the capital of Benue State was denied landing by the Nigerian Airforce. However, the Nigerian Airforce responded to the allegation by explaining that the official procedure required for allowing a civilian plane to land in a military field was not followed, hence, the denial of permission to land in Makurdi military airport (Fabiyi, 2018, July 18). Despite the prompt response by the Nigerian Airforce to clear the air about the allegation, the reason given does not douse the feeling that the current administration and its supporters are not supportive of the need to restructure the country. Therefore, whether knowingly or not, an impression is being created that any activity, regardless of its harmlessness, that is viewed as a threat to the strategic interests of the president and the APC is treated as a threat to the national security.
In this regard, when rumors spread that some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party were about to defect to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP and other political parties, the police mobilized to stop the Senate from meeting by blocking the residences of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Senate Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu (Ayitogo, Ogundipe & Busari, 2018, July 24). This action was immediately followed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) charging of the Deputy Senate President for corruption. At the same time, probably to punish Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State for attempting to defect to the PDP, the police sprung to action to arrest some members of the Benue House of Representative. Similarly, the EFCC decided to charge the governor for corruption involving the use of the state’s security vote. Many Nigerians viewed the police actions in Abuja and Benue State as efforts to clamp down on those who do not support the president and the APC. The actions portrayed the NPF as a partisan organization intended merely to protect the interests of President Buhari and the APC party.
Thus, while the police are very proactive in clamping down on groups that oppose the president and the ruling party, the NPF does not take threats issued by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore as threatening to the national security of the country. Hence, the leadership of the associations are not afraid to justify why herdsmen carry out violence against host communities. If any Southern business group were to justify the use of violence to achieve its goal, the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and the DSS would most likely invite the group leaders for questioning. Here again, the standard used by the northern youth coalition to characterize IPOB as “having crossed the line” is not considered for application against the Miyetti Allah Cattle Association and the Myyetti Cattle Kautal Hore by the Federal Government.
Twenty-Fourth, while Nigerians and members of the international community were still scratching their heads in bewilderment over the abduction of the Chibok girls, suddenly, the news struck the airwaves that 110 students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College had been abducted in Dapchi on February 19, 2018 (Sahara Reporters, 2018, March 7). As the media probed the circumstances surrounding the abduction, they discovered that an army unit that was posted to the area to provide security was removed days before Boko Haram invaded the school and abducted the students. In reaction, people wondered why the Nigeria Army removed the unit from the area knowing that a girls’ school is located in the area and Boko Haram could attack. Nigerians wanted to know who gave the order to remove the army unit from the area. In response, the Nigerian Army stated that the army unit was removed from Dapchi and redeployed in Kanama to provide security since the Dapchi area was considered safe and secured at the time. The army further added that the police unit in the area was formally given the responsibility to provide security for Dapchi. The Police countered the army story by saying that it did not receive any official handing over notice to bear responsibility for providing security to the community (Onani, 2018, February 27). The sudden removal of the army unit and the sudden abduction of the school girls tended to create the impression that the Dapchi affair was an inside job. This meant that there was some kind of collusion between Boko Haram and some elements of the security forces.
Just like in the Chibok affair, questions started popping up about the capability of Boko Haram to move so swiftly in a security zone and abduct more than one hundred students without any inhibition. Thus, how was it possible for Boko Haram insurgents to get to the school with two or three vehicles without being seen by any unit of the Nigerian Army or Police or DSS? How was it possible for Boko Haram insurgents to drive away from the scene and disappear into the unknown with over 100 students without any unit of the security forces stopping them along the way? The ease with which Boko Haram carried out the operation led some Nigerians to speculate that the organization worked directly with the army, hence, the army unit in Dapchi was removed to make it easy for Boko Haram to carry out the mission. Some Nigerians went further in speculating that, perhaps, a unit of the Nigerian Army was directly responsible for staging the event in order to boost the sagging image of President Buhari.
As wonders never end in Nigeria, about three weeks after the abduction, the insurgents surprisingly returned 105 of the kidnapped girls back to Dapchi. In doing so, they received a hero’s welcome from some members of the community. After dropping the girls off, the abductors drove off again without being stopped by the Army or Police or DSS. Under normal circumstances, police and other members of the security forces would have tracked or trailed the abductors to find out their hideout and then plan an operation to round them up later. This did not happen, meaning that there was a sort of agreement between the security forces and the Boko Haram, which guaranteed the insurgents a free and safe passage. Consequently, the insurgents drove into Dapchi with their flags openly displayed to return the girls and then drove into the sunset without being accosted. It is generally believed that the insurgents returned the 105 girls because they are Moslems (Maclean & Abrak, 2018, March 21). However, Leah Sharibu, one of the kidnapped victims, being a Christian, was left behind because she refused to convert to Islam and still remains in captivity today.
Twenty-fifth, one of the most disturbing aspects of the actions, inactions and circumstances that compel some Nigerians like Gen. Danjuma to say that Nigeria’s security forces are colluding with herdsmen and Boko Harm to kill Nigerians is the issue of HERSDMEN ATTACKS. It is a fact that herdsmen and farmers have through the years clashed violently about the right to own or use land for farming or grazing. However, the attacks increased threefold since President Buhari became the political head of an elected government in Nigeria in May 2015. Some Nigerians inferred that the herdsmen are embolden to launch attacks all over the country because President Buhari intentionally hired mostly Nigerian Moslems to occupy important national security positions. Some Nigerians further add that among the Moslems hired from the multitudes of ethnic groups, the Fulanis seemed to occupy the most critical positions, thereby, reinforcing the view that this is the Fulani time to fully control Nigeria. Due to the overwhelming representation of the Fulanis in Buhari’s administration, many Nigerians are increasingly using “sacred cows” to refer to them. By implication, since they are treated as sacred cows, the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police and the DSS cannot and do not go after them. Perhaps, this is why herdsmen openly carry guns without being arrested by the police for carrying illegal firearms.
A worrisome aspect of the actions and inactions of the security forces is that even when they know that herdsmen are about to attack a particular community, they do not take proactive measures to prevent the attack. Hence, time after time, community leaders and state officials alert the public and inform the security forces about impending attacks, yet, the security forces rarely act on the information until after the attacks have taken place. This contributes to the reason why many Nigerians are convinced that the Nigerian Army and the Police are colluding with herdsmen and other violent gangs. In places like Benue, Enugu, Kogi, Plateau, Taraba, and Zamfara states, security officials are most often informed about impending attacks. For instance, in the Plateau State killings, which took 120 lives, a witness stated: “We informed members of the Special Task Force (STF) on Jos crisis. They went to one of the villages but the attackers had committed the havoc and left” (Ajijah, 2018, June 24). Thus, the security forces generally do not act decisively to prevent the attacks until after the attacks have taken place. For instance, Da Sambo Chollom (Mai Angwa), a Ward Head in Dorowa Babuje narrated the ordeal of his community by saying:
The herders have plucked virtually everything from our farms; we don’t know what to do. To enable us to scavenge the few crops they left, we had to seek the assistance of the Mobile Police Force to go to the farms as we were tired of going to the Operation Safe Haven who would not respond to us when we sought their assistance (Polycarp, 2018, July 21).
The unwillingness to respond in a timely fashion when informed about an impending attack probably contributed to the death of 120 people in Plateau State in June 2018. To be able to kill 120 people, the attackers took the time to plan and reinforce before carrying out the operation, yet, not the army or police or DSS heard about the intended operation until after the mass killings had taken place. The same could be said of the January 2018 killings which took 73 lives in Benue State. The lack of response by the security forces led to the attacks in Nimbo in Enugu State and Agatu in Benue State.
Twenty-sixth, the Nigerian military tend to apply different standards even when carrying out military exercises in the country. In Southeast, Southwest and the South-South, it seems that military exercises are designed to intimidate and arrest or kill potential troublemakers. Thus, during such exercises, like during Crocodile Smiles 1 and 2 and Python Dance 1 and 2, the military adopt aggressive posture by arresting and detaining alleged troublemakers. This means that military operations in these zones are intended as sweeping operations to clear or weed out alleged trouble-makers and would-be-trouble-makers. However, in the Cat Dance military exercise in the Middle Belt, it appeared that instead of carrying out sweeping operations to stop or deter or prevent militants and herdsmen attacks, the indigenous communities seemed to feel the pressure of the military presence more than the killers. This accounted for why despite the presence of the military, herdsmen continued to launch attacks and kill people without the military reacting forcefully to stop them. Yinka Odumakin of Vanguard noticed the different standard when he wrote:
Given the recent Operation Python Dance which allegedly inflicted horrors in the South east and “Operation Crocodile Smile” in South West and South-South, which has reportedly claimed some casualties in South West, the rumours became some referendum on the loss of faith in the Nigerian state (2017, October 24).
Twenty-seventh, it could be said that members of the Nigerian armed forces have established a reputation for dealing with civilians who provoke them. Thus, going back to the pre-civil war years, Nigeria’s military men have never hesitated in ganging-up and beating up civilians who allegedly provoked them in one way or another. Even police officers have been beaten up for having an altercation with a member of the armed forces. In some cases, entire communities have been raided and destroyed to “pay back in kind” for assaulting members of the armed forces. Some of the most notorious cases of military overkill included Odi, Zaki Biam, Odiama, Gbaramatu, Oyakoromo and a host of other communities. In Benue State recently, soldiers stormed Naka, the headquarters of Gwer West Local Government Area and burnt houses in response to the killing of a solder by some members of the community. Even though the suspects who killed the soldier were arrested, soldiers still decided to pay back in kind by burning down an entire section of the community. A resident, Francis Ayagah narrated what happened:
A soldier was killed by hoodlums yesterday, but I met the brigade commander around 4:30am today.” … He gave me a list of suspects and we arrested five of them overnight. It was while we trying to take them to the brigade that soldiers stormed the town and started burning houses. A whole part of the town has been completely burnt down and we’re appealing for help and understanding from the soldiers. (Ogunipe, 2018, April 19)
Due to their reputation, Nigerians expect Nigerian soldiers and police officers to react towards the killings of their members by paying back in kind to herdsmen who did so. Surprisingly, the members of the armed and police forces have not shown any inclination to “pay back in kin”’ when marauding herdsmen kill their members. However, it is quite noticeable that solders have not been eager to carry out reprisal attacks against herdsmen or their communities for killing any member of the armed forces. Why are soldiers not eager to “pay back in kind” when herdsmen kill their members? Could it be that herdsmen are treated as “sacred cows” by the current administration, hence, soldiers do not want to risk their careers by paying back against herdsmen for the killing of their members? It is amazing how soldiers swiftly reacted when members of an indigenous community in Benue State killed their member compared to the general lack of interest in taking on herdsmen for killing members of the armed and police forces. Even though the residents of Naka demonstrated good faith by arresting the individual who killed a soldier, soldiers still poured into the community to avenge the death.
Twenty-eighth, even though the actions and inactions of the security forces tend to create the impression that there is collusion going on, none of them have made serious attempt to probe the conduct of its members who have been involved in suspicious circumstances since the Buhari administration came into power. Not until Lt. Gen. Danjuma (rtd) accused the Nigerian armed forces of colluding with herdsmen to kill Nigerians before the Nigerian Army decided to establish a committee to probe whether some of its officers are colluding with herdsmen or not. Vanguard reported: “The Nigerian Army has set up a panel of inquiry to probe allegations by some Nigerians that its personnel were colluding with Fulani herdsmen in the killing of people in Taraba and Benue States” (Erunke, 2018, April 9). The internal investigation committee eventually cleared the army of any collusion. Some Nigerians criticized the army report and insisted upon an independent investigation of the matter, due to the seriousness of the allegation.
It is assumable that if Gen. Danjuma had not spoken publicly, the Nigerian Army would not have conducted an internal probe of the allegation that its personnel were colluding with Boko Haram and herdsmen to kill Nigerians and destroy communities that oppose cow grazing in their lands. This view is necessitated by the fact that before Gen. Danjuma made his thought-provoking declaration, other Nigerians, including Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Dr. Paul Unongo had made similar allegations against the security forces but none of the branches of the security forces took the allegations seriously. It might be interesting to know whether the Nigeria Airforce too would develop a plan to probe the allegation that some of its planes were used to attack some villages and towns at the same time that herdsmen were attacking the same communities in Taraba State.
Twenty-ninth, the actions and inactions of Buhari administration create the impression that it is doggedly committed to nationalizing the cattle industry and spreading the Fulani people all over Nigeria. Hence, the administration wants to use taxpayers’ money to subsidize the establishment of ranches in Nigeria even though cattle owners are some of the richest Nigerians. In other countries, cattle owners do not want to invest their own funds to buy land and establish private cattle ranches. In Nigeria, the Federal Government of President Buhari wants to spend about N179bn to establish ranches for the rich owners of cows, even though they are engaged in a private business.
Thirtieth, apart from trying to establish cattle ranches, the Buhari administration also wants to nationalize water resources in Nigeria by proposing a bill which is intended to take away the right of indigenous communities to make decision about the rivers, creeks and lakes in their territories (Adesomoju, A., Baiyewu, L., and Aluko, O. (2018, May 25). Some Nigerians regard the water bill as another effort to reward cattle owners while depriving indigenous groups the right to make decisions about resources in their territories. If such a bill passes the National Assembly, Nigerians would no longer be able to use the waters in their communities freely without first getting approval from some government agencies. On the other hand, it would allow the Federal Government the right to remove, relocate, settle and resettle people whenever it wants. In such a scenario, Nigeria would end up looking like a communist country where the national government has total control over the management of the state.
While the Buhari administration is committed to rewarding cattle owners and herders generally, he has not spoken fervently about rehabilitating farmers whose farms have been destroyed by cattle herders. There is also no plan so far to rehabilitate Nigerians whose communities have been destroyed in Benue, Bornu, Enugu, Plateau, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara States. Of course, the presidency has not made a statement about compensating the families of those killed by cattle herders and other unknown gangs that are terrorizing the country. The Buhari administration has also not made any statement concerning the rehabilitation of those whose farms and fishing waters have been devastated in the Niger Delta/South-South zone through oil pollution and gas flaring.
Thirty-first, it is most likely that the war against Boko Haram would not end soon. The reason is that the war has political, military, religious and financial dimensions. It seems that whenever Boko Haram is militarily degraded by the Nigerian Army and Airforce, something always happens either by design or unintentionally to rejuvenate it. Quite, often, the actions and inactions of the government greatly contribute to the rejuvenation of the organization when it runs into trouble. This observation is supported by the fact that the Federal Government has announced many times that Boko Haram has been defeated. Yet, Boko Haram always come back to counteract the government statement. Similarly, the Federal Government has announced at least twice that the Sambisa Forest has been retaken from Boko Haram. Yet, Boko Haram always get back into the forest to destabilize Northeastern Nigeria.
The failure of intelligence in locating the whereabouts of the remaining Chibok girls has forced the Nigerian Government to negotiate and pay ransom to Boko Haram. Quite often, part of the negotiated agreement includes financial payments and releasing of important Boko Haram’s field commanders and fighters in exchange for the release of some of the school girls and other captives. The problem is that whenever the national government pays money to have some abductees released, Boko Haram uses the money to buy more sophisticated weapons and recruit more people into its ranks to fight the Nigerian military. Apparently, the government approach in dealing with Boko Haram leads to a catch 22 situation whereby the government either intentionally or unintentionally rejuvenates the organization through its own actions.
In addition, perhaps, due to religious affinity, the Federal Government occasionally releases hundreds of Boko Haram fighters that were captured as prisoners by Nigerian security forces. The government always justify the release on the ground that the ex-fighters have reformed. Allegations have been made by some Nigerians that some of the released fighters eventually go back to rejoin and fight for Boko Haram again. Obviously, it is like a revolving door thing in the sense that the security forces fight so hard to capture Boko Haram fighters and the Nigerian government then releases some of them to go back and rejoin their comrades to continue the war against Nigeria. It is, therefore, not surprising that Boko Haram attacked a Nigerian military base in Jilli in Yobe State recently (Moritz-Rabson, 2018, July 17). This is in addition to the recent Boko Haram ambush of Nigerian troops in Bama Local Government Area of Borno State (Haruna, 2018, July16). In fact, Boko Haram is becoming very adept at attacking military and police bases now. In other words, it is repeating in 2018 what it did in 2014 when it overran military posts and carted away weapons to enrich its arsenal. Boko Haram is tactically becoming very efficient in targeting soldiers, police officers and civilian members of the security forces. The fact that Boko Haram, especially the Abu-Mus’ab Al-Barnawi faction, is attacking military and police bases, indicates that the organization is gaining strength.
Thirty-second, concerning the marauding herdsmen and unknown armed gangs, the Federal Government of Nigeria does not want to concede the fact that they operate as terrorists by terrorizing Nigerians. As a result, the president avoids speaking about the issue and taking actions that might put a dent on the senseless killings. The killers are keenly aware that the Federal Government is not committed to dealing with them. This is why they are able to invade, kill and destroy communities even when soldiers and police officers are around in the neighborhood. In other words, the herdsmen and armed killers are not afraid of the security forces, perhaps, convinced that they have a political godfather to protect them. Since there is no political will to take proactive action, the security forces maintain the view that they cannot do much to prevent attacks since they have not been given the “MARCHING ORDER TO ACT DECISIVELY.” Evidently, the army folds its arms, the police looks the other way and the DSS feigns ignorance of the gruesome killings. It is ironic that the Nigerian Army that went to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Balkans to stop bloody conflicts heroically cannot quench bloody fires in its own territory. It is sad that the NA is now a mere shadow of its former self. The Nigerian Police Force look increasingly like a security outfit for the president and the APC party and not as a professional national law enforcement organization. Law enforcement decisions are made through political calculations of the ruling political party and the president.
Thirty-third, in an attempt to explain the cause of herdsmen attacks, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State explained that illiteracy is responsible for the violent attacks against farming communities. He states that “the average Fulani herdsman is not literate and because of the nature of their activities they were prone to violence” (Ogbolu, 2018, March 5). Well, if illiteracy is a contributing factor, then the leaders of the ethnic group and northern political and military leaders should be held accountable for not making the effort to send their youths to school in sufficient numbers for decades. It is a fact that the Islamic North has produced most Nigerian leaders since October 1, 1960. Yet, it never occurred to them to institute a vigorous regional educational program to educate the youths of the region. Now, the entire country is bleeding for the lack of foresight in the educational sector. However, the reason advanced is not very satisfactory considering the fact that youths in the Middle Belt are sufficiently educated compared those in the Upper Islamic North. How was it possible for Middle Belt leaders to send their youths to school in large numbers and those in the Islamic North failed to do so for decades?
Thirty-fourth, since the coming of this administration, Nigeria’s security forces have never hesitated to mobilize fully to squash activities or demonstrations that are targeted at the administration or the APC political party. Hence, the Inspector General of Police did not hesitate to mobilize 30,000 police officers in Ekiti State during the recent gubernatorial election. The army and DSS also mobilized their forces in the state. Some Nigerians felt that the heavy-handed security presence was intended to intimidate voters who wished to vote for the opposition and ensure the victory of the APC candidate. If the IGP can mobilize 30,000 police officers to a single state during an election, why is it so difficult for the IGP to mobilize 30,000 officers to prevent killings in Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba Yobe and Zamfara states?
Thirty-fifth, obviously, the actions, inactions and circumstances surrounding the manner in which the Federal Government of Nigeria responds to the killings is compelling the Amnesty International to say that the government is encouraging the killings. Premium Times reports: “Rights group, Amnesty International, says the failure of Nigerian government to hold murderers to account is encouraging them and fueling rising insecurity” (2018, June 28).
Thirty-sixth, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina is credited to have made a statement indicating that Nigerian communities should give up land for cattle colonies and or ranches in order to save themselves from being killed (Akinrefon, 2018, July 5). The notion of giving up land for life creates the impression that the Federal Government does not want to act proactively to stop the killings, hoping in the process that after thousands of Nigerians might have been killed, those who resist giving up their lands would finally agree to allow cattle colonies or ranches to be established. This further creates the impression that the president’s inaction and the unwillingness of the security forces to act decisively are part of a calculated strategy designed to achieve a particular goal.
Thirty-seventh, the view that Nigeria is gradually disintegrating due to a feeling that President Buhari is Fulanizing, regionalizing and Islamizing the country is leading to a distrust of the Federal Government among Southern and Central Nigerians. Even ethnic groups in Upper Northern Nigeria too are increasingly concerned about the direction of the country since the uncontrollable killings are also taking place in Adamawa, Bornu, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states. The concern translates into a distrust of the government and the national security organizations. The increasing distrust of the Federal Government was ably demonstrated when the Nigerian Army launched a vaccination program for school children in the country. When parents heard about the program, they rushed to the schools and hurriedly picked up their children to avoid the army vaccinating them. Yinka Odumakin of Vanguard described the panic that ensued:
From the entire South East through Rivers, en route Ondo and down to Borno states we have seen worrying images of school children “pick am for race” at the rumours that soldiers were approaching their schools to vaccinate them. Parents are not left out as they rush to schools to take their children home. I saw a woman scaling a fence that even men will have difficulty climbing in order to get hold of her child (2017, October 24).
The Nigerian Army eventually stopped the program on realizing that Nigerians were distrustful of the effort (Adebowale, 2017, October 14).
Thirty-eighth, while the Buhari administration and some northern Islamic and political leaders attribute the violent attacks on the struggle for land space between farmers and cattle herders, it seems that the herdsmen are not hiding their actual intention. A group known as the Fulani Nationality Movement, according to Rev. David Oyedepo, the founder of the Living Faith Church, Worldwide, sent him a letter saying that “there will be no peace until cattle colonies are established in all states in Nigeria (Daily Post, 2018 .” According to him, the group added “We have asked all Fulani herdsmen all over West Africa to move to Nigeria and penetrate every corner for the upcoming jihad” (Ibid.). However, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), through its National Secretary, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, recently made a statement disassociating itself from any kind of violence in the country (Opejobi, 2018, July 18).
Thirty-ninth, the fact that all critical positions relating to the national security of Nigeria are held by mostly Moslems of Hausa-Fulani ethnicity, adds to the suspicion that something strange is going on in Nigeria. Indeed, the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Airforce, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs, National Security Agency, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), Chief Security Officer, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Prison, Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Special Protection Unit, Nigeria Customs, Nigerian Ports Authority, etc., are led by Moslems from the Islamic North (Ogbeche, 2016, August 11). The only exceptions are the Nigeria Navy and Defence Staff, which are led by Southerners. This is taking place in a country, which is multiethnic and multi-religious with about 200 million people. Likewise, the director general of the DSS has just been replaced by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo after the agency blockaded the National Assembly to prevent the members from holding a meeting.
Fortieth, Apart from the fact that all national security-related positions are held by Moslems, President Buhari compulsorily retired many senior army officers. Most of the retired officers came from the South (Southwest, Southeast and the South-south). This means that a large proportion of senior Christian and Ancestralist army officers have been pushed out of the army. Due to the forced retirement, the Nigerian Army is no longer a national army but a regionalized force with all critical positions held by Islamic officers. This is why military officers from the Southern and Central Nigeria (Middle Belt) are no longer visible. They perform their duties behind the limelight and remain quiet.
Forty-first, it is inferable that a certain degree of conspiracy intended to achieve a particular goal, which is contrary to the national security of Nigeria is going on among some of the security chiefs in the country. This inference can be attested to by pinpointing certain circumstances. (1) The NPF deployed 30, 000 officers during the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State. Other security agencies, including the Nigerian Army and the Department of State Service also mobilized their forces. (2) As soon as it was made known that Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State might defect from the APC, trouble started brewing up in Benue State House of Assembly. A group of eight legislators, which are loyal to a former governor of the state and backed by the NPF and DSS, decided to impeach Governor Ortom and the Speaker of the State House, Mr. Terkimbir Iyange. (3) Then, the DSS and the NPF mobilized their forces to blockade the State House of Assembly so that the eight legislators could carry out their impeachment exercise while preventing other 22 state legislators from entering the State House of Assembly. (4) This action was followed by EFCC’s announcement to file charges of corruption against Governor Ortom over alleged misuse of the state’s security vote. (5) When the story of the likely defections of some APC legislators in the National Assembly spread, the NPF sent officers to blockade the residences of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President. (6) The EFCC decided after the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State to charge Governor Peter Fayose of Ekiti State and his wife for corruption. (7) Some APC legislators decided to impeach Senate President Bukola Saraki. (8) Then, on August 7, 2018, the DSS blockaded the National Assembly to prevent the leaders of both houses to meet and discuss pertinent national issues. (9) The EFCC freezes the accounts of Benue and Akwa Ibom States. Even though the Inspector General of Police stated that the police were not involved in the blockading of the National House of Assembly, the actions of the NPF, DSS and EFCC indicate a coordinated effort to achieve a certain political goal.
It looks like the Ekiti show of force by the NPF and the DSS was reenacted in Benue State. Benue State eventually became the laboratory from which the blockade of the National Assembly took place. These actions indicate that the NPF, DSS, and EFCC coordinate their actions. If that is the case, then it means that the security chiefs work from the same template in dealing with security in the country. This further means that probably the security chiefs strategically decided to go soft on cattle herdsmen who go on violent rampage in the country in order to achieve a particular goal. The reason is that these security organizations have no hesitation to mobilize their forces and act decisively when certain political interests are threaten, yet, decline to act decisively against herdsmen and other organized armed militias that are killing Nigerians aimlessly.
Consequently, whether there is collusion or not, the distrust of the Federal Government and its security institutions are very high in the the country since President Buhari ascended the national political throne. Similarly, there is a feeling among indigenous ethnic groups throughout the country that a jihad has been launched through violence that is similar to what happened in Darfur, Sudan, to eliminate them and take over their lands. Therefore, it is not by accident that Nigerians are being killed in Benue, Bornu, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamafara states and there is not much response from the appropriate authorities.
The saddest part of the Nigerian story is that while the Islamic countries of the Arab world are steadily developing, modernizing, and innovating their scientific and technological capabilities, Nigerians are busy debating whether cows should still be allowed to roam all over the country. While the Arabs are turning their countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain etc.) into centers of science and technology, Nigerians are being killed for not allowing cows to roam all over the place and destroy farms. Instead of turning Nigeria into a 21st century country, there is a debate about turning the country back to the 18th or 19th century so that cows can roam free. It is not an overstatement to say that Nigeria is going backward, instead of forward. This is why citizens who have gun-shot injuries are expected to have police reports before they are treated by the hospitals. Many Nigerians have died because the hospitals refused to treat them without police report. This is taking place in the 21st century. Who in this world does not know that any gun-shot injury requires immediate medical attention to avoid death?
Based on the identified actions, inactions and questionable circumstances generated by this administration and the security forces in dealing with Boko Haram and marauding killers, the following implications are drawn:
- There is no doubt that there is a farmers–herdsmen conflict over the right to use land, resulting in violence and the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, including members of host communities and the Fulanis.
- There is also no doubt that cattle are being rustled in large scale by criminals who prey on pastoral cattle herdsmen and their communities. This forces cattle herders to become proactive in protecting their cattle and defending themselves, resulting in undue use of violence by the herders.
- However, the spate of killings, starting from 2016, cannot be attributed to farmers vs. cattle herdsmen conflict alone. The reason is that the killings and destruction of host communities by either herdsmen or unknown militias showed an organized framework intended to achieve a strategic political goal of reordering or rearranging the right of land ownership in the country.
The tactics deployed to kill people and destroy communities are eerily similar to the tactics that the Janjaweed militia used in Darfur, Sudan.
- The Federal Government’s lethargic approach in dealing with the gruesome killings of people and the destruction of host communities eerily resembles the response of the Sudanese Government to the Janjaweed killings in Darfur, Sudan. In fact, the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for war crimes and crimes against humanity over Darfur killings (Rice, 2009, March 4).
- Thus, the actions, inactions and tendencies of the Federal Government under President Buhari, create a feeling that the administration has an agenda quite contrary to the national security of Nigeria.
- The excessive recruitment of Moslems into high-level national security positions in a country that is multi-religious creates the impression that there is an agenda towards Islamization of Nigeria.
- The excessive recruitment of Fulanis into high-level national security positions by a president who is a Fulani in a country that is multiethnic, creates the impression that there is a Fulani agenda to dominate Nigeria in totality.
- The repeated efforts of President Buhari to establish cattle colonies and ranches throughout Nigeria in a country that is multiethnic with diverse business interests, creates the feeling that there is a plan to Fulanize and Islamize Nigeria.
- The fact that thousands of people have been killed and scores of communities destroyed by herdsmen and unknown armed gangs or militias without the security forces taking proactive measures to stop them creates the impression that there is a secret code of conduct for treating cattle herders. In other words, cattle herders are “sacred cows” and cannot be touched by the security forces.
- The fact that Nigerians have been killed in Abia, Benue, Bornu, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara states by unknown herdsmen and or assailants/militias while the security forces look on, creates a feeling that host communities are tactically being eliminated to make way for settlers to take over.
- The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Minister of Defence, Minister of Internal Affairs and the Director General of DSS blamed anti-open grazing laws for the killings despite the fact that people are also being killed in Nasarawa, Kaduna, Plateau, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states that do not have anti-open grazing laws, creates the impression that herdsmen are being encouraged and protected.
- The fact that the EFFCC only fights its war on corruption against members of the opposition and those who do not agree with the president and the All Progressives Congress (APC) indicates that there is an agenda to control the country.
- An implication could be drawn to say that the coordinated efforts of the NPF, DSS and the EFCC to achieve a certain political goal in the country could be interpreted as the reason why these security organizations, including the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Airforce have not been proactive in curtailing violence perpetrated by herdsmen and other armed militias. It is also responsible for the lack of decisive action in defeating Boko Haram.
Based on the aforementioned actions, inactions and circumstances, the following recommendations are made to ameliorate the perception that Nigeria’s security forces are colluding with herdsmen and Boko Haram to kill Nigerians
- President Buhari urgently needs to Nigerianize the chiefs of security in the country. This means that he must choose the heads of the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Airforce, Nigerian Navy, the Minister of Defence, Minister of Internal Affairs, Director of Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Director of State Service (DSS), Director of Immigration, Director of Customs, and … from different zones of the country. Currently, the heads of these organizations are mostly Moslems and mostly Hausa-Fulani in a country of about 300 ethnic groups. The only exception right now is that the head of the Navy and the Chief of Defense Staff are from the South. There is not a single individual from the Southeast zone serving as a security chief.
- The National Assembly needs to pass a law banning undue recruitment of people into high-level national government positions from members of the president’s family, ethnic group and region. Currently, President Buhari is surrounded by his family and tribal members, thereby, inhibiting his ability to function effectively as a president of a multiethnic and a multi-religious nation. Thus, it is a threat to the national security of Nigeria to have a president who surround himself/herself with only members of his family, ethnic group and region in a multiethnic and multi-religious society.
- The Federal Government must apply the same standard in treating all Nigerians. There can be no sacred cows. If IPOB is treated as a terrorist organization, even though it is not, then, herdsmen and the unknown armed gangs must also be treated as terrorists. This also means that the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association and the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore too should be proscribed.
- The head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must not come from the same ethnic group and religion as that of the president. If the president is from the North, then the EFCC chair must come from the South or Middle Belt. If the president is from the South or Middle Belt, then the chair of the EFCC must come from the Upper North.
- Similarly, if the president comes from the North and is a Muslim, then, the head of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) must come from either the South or the Middle Belt and must be an Ancestralist or a Christian and vice versa. If a Christian becomes a president, the head of the INEC must be a Moslem or an Ancestralist.
- The president should stop trying to nationalize the cattle business and water resources in the country because Nigeria is not a Communist country and neither is it a dictatorship. The states and local governments must be allowed to generate economic activities and ensure the safety and security of their citizens. Nigeria is an African country with a communal culture.
- The actions and inactions of the president and the heads of the security chiefs are creating the impression that herdsmen are killing other Nigerians so that they can take over the country and dominate West Africa. This is why there is apprehension in the region about what is going on in Nigeria. The situation is so tense that in Mali, members of the Dogo group attacked a Fulani village in Mali and killed 31 people. Thus, the Nigerian situation could actually expose Fulanis throughout West Africa to a greater danger. President Buhari must act fast to stop the killings and destruction of communities.
- It is inappropriate to compare Nigeria and Ghana, as Ishaq Akintola, the director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) did when he said:
But Ghanaians did not crucify their president because of the clashes but solve the problem by establishing their first cattle ranch last week at Afram Plains in the eastern region. It is time to face realities. We must borrow a leaf from Ghana (Premium Times, 2018, July 16).
The reason is that Ghana is not as tribalized, regionalized and religionized as Nigeria. Ghanaians worked very hard, right from the beginning to build a united country while Nigerians were tribalized, regionalized and regilionized even before Nigeria gained independence. Nigeria had a bloody civil war due to the distrust emanating from the injustice of the Nigerian system. Ghana had never had a bloody civil war. In Nigeria, whenever the federal and state governments take land from the people under public domain, they rarely make effort to properly relocate and appropriately compensate them. The people of Maroko and Abuja can testify to this fact. Since Nigeria nationalized oil and gas resources, the Federal Government has never made a serious effort to clean the environment. Due to the failure, the Niger Delta/South-South people are suffering all kinds of medical maladies due to pollution, gas flaying and acid rain.
In the current administration, despite the fact that Nigeria has about 300 ethnic groups, only members of the president’s ethnic group dominate the national security machinery. In addition, it is mostly members of a particular religion that control the entire security system. Due to the tribalistic, regionalistic and religionistic nature of the current administration, if cattle ranches are established by the Nigerian Government, there is no guarantee that those who wield national power would not use the Nigerian Police Force, Department of State Service and the Nigerian Army to intimidate communities which do not agree with the cattle herders. National cattle ranches would contribute to more conflict between cattle herdsmen and farming communities.
As pointed out above, there are sufficient circumstantial evidence to say that the actions and inactions of the Federal Government and the security forces, point to a certain degree of collaboration among certain elements in government with the marauding killers. This is why the security forces are not acting decisively to degrade the attacks on Nigerians. However, in the final analysis, the question of whether the security forces are colluding with cattle herders to intimidate and terrorize Nigerians can best be answered or determined by the reader.
- Times have changed due to urbanization and an increase in population. This means that it is time for cattle breeders to change from the pastoral way of breeding and managing cattle to ranching. This further means that they should invest some of their wealth in buying or renting land to establish ranches.
- To save Nigeria from a political disaster, the National Assembly should set in motion a plan to restructure the country if the president and the APC are not willing to do so.
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