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25 Jan 2018

Benue Killings: ISWA is an attempt to Obfuscate the narrative

By: Dr.Mrs Magdalene Dura

Obviously , what has dominated national discourse at the moment is primarily , the security challenges facing the country. For us in Benue State, the recent gruesome murder of over 73 defenceless men, women and children by Fulani herdsmen , peaked these senseless killings . Although these killings are not new to us.
As far back as 2014 when I was a delegate at the National Confab, I raised the alarm of these attacks on our people ., It should however be noted that these signature attacks predate 2014. For so many years now, the seasonal killings of the people of Benue State by herders who move with their cattle in search of feeds, is unfortunately becoming like a yearly sport or a routine which we are gradually getting used to.
During my presentation at the confab in response to the then President Goodluck Jonathan's call for peace , I noted that "talking of peace from the perspective of a Tiv woman from Benue State, Benue State which is the food basket of the nation which sustains the nation by providing the yams, rice and other food products has been turned into a blood basket. Our men, children, women are slaughtered on daily basis .In fact the people who are killing us do not even respect the rules of war; there is even no war. In ancient times , or under international humanitarian law, you don’t kill women, children and the elderly. Here, our women , children and the aged are being slaughtered. The most dehumanizing part is that our pregnant women are killed and their foetuses are removed and dumped on them. As a matter of fact, our people are being subjected to chemical and biological weapons . And we are asking what have we done?" , was my queried then.
Perhaps this was why the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition Law enacted by the Samuel Ortom administration was happily welcomed by all Benue State people . When it was passed last May, the young and the old poured out into our streets to applaud and endorse the law. We believed and still believe that looking at the law's timely intervention, its objectivity, and intendment ( to protect the farmers and herdsmen) was the solution to the perennial killings by the herdsmen.
It is therefore clear, that the New Year Day Massacre in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas were carried out basically to challenge or test , not only our belief in the workability of this law but also our hope that these killings will end.
The recent assertion by the Department of State Security, DSS that the killings in Benue and other parts of the country were carried by Islamic State in West Africa , ISWA has come as a distraction and rude shock . It therefore appears as an attempt to dodge the issues.
The patterns of our perennial attacks have been established and what's more, when our Open Grazing Prohibition Law was signed in the State, several Fulani cultural associations offered threats and vowed that they would fight its implementation. The Governor of Benue State duly informed the authorities of these threats.
In spite of this , all those who offered the threats and also those who came out to justify the killings citing cases of cattle rustling and even the absurd claim that Benue State belongs to them having been conquered during the Othman Dan Fodio Jihad ( a lie from the pit of hell) are walking as free men till date . These are our attackers . They have not hidden the fact that they abhor our Open Grazing Prohibition Law which sets out to confine the rearing of cattle to ranches.
So while we might not be sure of those attacking other states who might be ISWA or the likes as claimed by DSS, in Benue State, our attacks are coming from well known quarters; they are from those who are scared of our new law. Those who believe that they own Nigeria, those who lay a claim to the natural resources of our State and indeed ownership of Benue State. They are those who feel the law will stop them from carrying out their other agendas under the guise of grazing.
We feel this ISWA narrative is another covert attempt by the Nigerian State to tacitly change the narrative and dodge the issues which are obviously starring us all in the face. We view this ISWA distraction in the same way as that of the proposed controversial Cattle Colonies .
The attacks of farmers in the country by Fulani herdsmen is a perennial issue . The manner they have been emboldened to attack in recent times has attracted comments from states men like the Nobel Prize winner , Prof Wole Soyinka and very recently, former president Olusegun Obasanjo . These are issues that can not be obfuscated under whatever guise. Benue state has taken an informed stand on ranching. They should rather be encouraged in enforcement, and they should be emulated .
The Federal government and other states must consider this to be , in the end , the long lasting solution to the cases of incessant attacks by herders. Dodging the the issues or mischievously changing the narrative with this ISWA assertion, to achieve parochial aims will not solve the problem . The solution lies in government demonstrating the political will to fix the anomalies in the system without fear or favour.
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