Following the Latest attack on Plateau that claimed the lives of over 120 persons, and the way with which President Muhammadu Buhari’s has been handling ongoing killings linked to herdsmen has drawn heavy concerns both within and outside the country.
Latest to lend its voice is the members of the United Kingdom House of Lords. The senior lawmakers at the upper chamber of the British Parliament has said that the latest killings in three local government areas in Plateau State has placed Nigeria’s collective existence on the edge, calling on President Buhari to take immediate steps to address the crisis rather than paying lip service to random incidents with press statements.
“Despite the herder militia taking more lives during 2015, 2016 and 2017 than Boko Haram, President Buhari, who belongs to the same ethnic group, has been accused of turning a blind eye,” a member, Denis Tunnicliffe, said during a debate on the herdsmen crisis June 28.
“Beyond intermittent verbal condemnations, I cannot see much practical action that has been taken to end the violence, which has emboldened perpetrators even further,” another lawmaker David Alton said while opening the debate.
“Moreover, in the light of such an inadequate response thus far, communities will begin—and indeed already are beginning—to feel that they can no longer rely on government for protection or justice, and a few take matters into their own hands,” Mr Alton added.
The lawmakers debated on a report by the Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which found that 1,061 people were killed in 106 attacks linked to herdsmen between January and April.
In her contribution, Elizabeth Berridge expressed misgivings about continuous classification of the killings as farmers-herders clashes, saying a pattern has emerged that contradicts such narrative.
“It is surely too simplistic to label these deaths as driven solely by desertification and competition for resources,” Ms Berridge said. “While there have been attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Muslim farmers in Zamfara State, these are overwhelmingly outnumbered by attacks on Christians.”
Ms Herridge said there are strong indications to hold that terrorist elements, perhaps including Boko Haram, are involved in the killings.
“Religious polarisation and extremism have helped to escalate violence in Nigeria to a greater degree than in other countries in the region. An existing conflict such as this and a strong ethno-religious identity has bought Fulani groups into wider jihadi movements, such as the largely Fulani terrorist group, FLM, which has joined with Islamic State.
“The FLM is apparently now seeking to bring the herdsmen’s grievances from Nigeria within its scope. Do Her Majesty’s Government agree that there has been an escalation in Nigeria of late? What do they believe are the causes and what is the extent of Boko Haram’s role in this?
“Are Boko Haram militants part of these attacks? It might explain the numerous reports, outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, of attacks with no cattle in sight,” she said.
All the nine lawmakers who contributed to the debate said the UK government should work closely with Nigerian authorities in finding solutions to the crisis, but aid must urgently be provided to the victims of the killings, especially in Benue, Plateau and Taraba States, where the attacks are more pronounced.
While intermediate solutions to the crisis are being explored, Buhari should review forthwith the current security line-up and equip all operatives, they said.
“I know that finding solutions is complex, but there is nothing to stop the Minister calling on the Government of Nigeria to re-calibrate security arrangements and to resource their forces as a matter of urgency, in order to offer sufficient protection to vulnerable communities,” Mr Alton added.