Some residents from the Northeast geo-political zones on Thursday in Ibadan, called for caution among Nigerians over the invasion of armed herdsmen into the Southern part of the country.
The residents spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at a workshop on “Conflict Prevention, tolerance, peaceful coexistence and Alternative Dispute Resolutions for traditional rulers and CSOs in Southwest”.
Alhaji Abba Modu, a resident from Borno, said the people noticed the influx of the armed herdsmen into the country some years ago from neighbouring war-torn countries.
Modu, an IDPs Protection Monitor volunteer – UN Development Programme-funded volunteer group, blamed the influx partly on the laxity on the part of the nation’s security agents at the borders.
“We from Borno noticed when these armed herdsmen started coming from Mali, Niger and Central African Republic; they started killing people from Yobe, Borno and penetrated southwards into the country.
‘‘Our farmers were killed but people and security forces were not vigilant; they came with arms and ammunition, which they acquired from crisis countries like Libya, Congo, Mali, Senegal, CAR.”
Modu said the armed herdsmen came into the country ‘‘with stolen cows, very aggressive and are different from the real Fulanis that we know.
“So it is the armed herdsmen that are painting the Fulanis black; they are also used by armed robbers; they give arms to armed robbers and secret cultists.”
He called for the need for early warning and early response to arrest the situation from getting out of hands.
“In the southwest, we have leaders of the Miyetti Allah Fulani herdsmen; they should register their members and their locations so that they can separate them from the criminals.
“If there is an attack, the Miyetti Allah group will know the location of the criminals. Without identifying this, the people will be confused of who is attacking them.”
“If you do not separate them, the criminal ones are very smart and agile and they have a lot of technical knowhow of fighting and penetrating peoples’ lands.”
Dr Hannatu Ibrahim, a prominent women leader, argued that criminals had infiltrated the ranks of the Fulani herdsmen who have lived peacefully with their farmers counterparts for decades.
“Do you know that some of the cattle rearers are not Nigerians? The real Fulani Cattle rearers that I know in my over 70 years of age, live in peace.
“They don’t carry guns but now, you see these cattle rearers have sophisticated guns. Where do they come from? Our borders are not being manned properly, so they came in.”
Ibrahim, a former Commissioner in old Bauchi state, called on relevant authorities to checkmate the armed herdsmen and distinguish between the foreigners from other countries and the Fulanis of Nigeria.
“Who gave these herders the guns and who licensed these herders to carry guns because nobody is allowed to carry guns without licence?
“Our security agencies should do their work. In those days, any visitor who came in was detected. Our political leaders should work with traditional leaders to solve the herdsmen/farmers crisis.
“In those days, when cattle destroyed farms, the owner is asked to pay for it and he will not repeat it; we should not compromise the unity of this country.”
Similarly, Dr Shatu Garba, a resident of Gombe, and President, Rotary Club of Greenwich, London, cautioned against politicising the crisis thereby worsening the situation instead of finding solutions.
‘‘In the past, we lived side by side with the Fulani herdsmen and there was no problem.
“Fulanis took their cattle to the bush and tried to avoid the farmlands. But with what is happening now, I don’t see most of them as Fulanis.
“I think the armed herdsmen are members of Boko Haram disguising as herdsmen because they look for anyway they could destroy any community they get to,” she said.
Hajia Aisha Aliko, from Borno, commended the people of southwest for their tolerance and peaceful co-existence with other Nigerians, and called for collaboration among all stakeholders to stop the attacks.