By Emma Amaize, Peter Duru, Suzan Edeh and Marie-Therese Nanlong
A coalition of Niger Delta militants, yesterday, gave the Federal Government a 21-day notice over herdsmen’s killings across the country, especially the latest development in Plateau State.
The ultimatum came as the National Caretaker Committee of the Fulani Socio-Cultural organisation, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, also yesterday warned Benue and Taraba state governments against any plan to auction cattle and other livestock belonging to members of the group.
This is even as six persons were again killed in fresh attacks at Maraba Kantoma, Fan district of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State yesterday, while farmlands were destroyed as church building and houses were razed.
Benue State government, also yesterday, appealed to the Federal Government to move decisively against the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria MACBAN.
The government stated that since the group had openly claimed responsibility for the massacre in Benue and other states of the country, its leaders should be reined in.
The militants, who met at Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, also asked the federal government to devolve power to states and regions to enable governors discharge their primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties in their states, among five other conditions, to forestall anarchy and further bloodshed.
They declared a 21-day mourning period for those massacred recently in Plateau State by rampaging herdsmen, and threatened to declare herdsmen and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association enemies.
A statement by leader of the coalition, W.O I Izonebi, read: “As agitators with conscience, we take lives of fellow Nigerians sacrosanct as no amount of provocation will lead to the slaughtering of innocent Nigerians because of cows.
“We, therefore, declare 21 days of mourning for the innocent Nigerians killed in Plateau State by foreigners trained by late Gaddafi that are now masquerading as herdsmen, according to our President, Muhammadu Buhari.
“We urge the government to do the needful before the expiration of our 21 days of mourning to avoid a total breakdown of law and order because it seems we do not have law, and government is unable to implement its primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties of its citizens.
“We demand implementation of the following to avoid doom and more loss of lives: The immediate devolution of power to states and regions to enable governors discharge their primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties and declaration and proscription of the Gaddafi mercenaries masquerading as herdsmen as a terrorist organisation.
“The government and security agencies saddled with the responsibility of protecting Nigeria and its territorial integrity should apprehend the perpetrators of this heinous crime against innocent Nigerians and humanity; total overhaul of the security organisation and security chiefs, immediate arrest of the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association leaders and its disbandment with immediate effect.
“After our successful emergency meeting convened on June 30, 2018, at Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State, we, the 21st Century Youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience, strongly condemn the gruesome murder of about 200 innocent Nigerians in Plateau State by the so-called Gaddafi mercenaries masquerading as herdsmen.
“We condemn the ungodly and provocative statement of the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, applauding and justifying the killings as a reprisal attack because of supposedly killed 300 cows.
“We also condemn the inability of the government and security agencies to protect its citizens from foreigners masquerading as herdsmen committing genocide in the Middle Belt of our dear nation, Nigeria.
“The trading of blame and politicization of the killings by the federal government and security agencies have given us no choice but to re-echo the call for the immediate restructuring of our dear country to avoid the untimely death of innocent Nigerians that are currently feeling the pain of hardship and suffering.
“We are not going to fold our arms to see foreigners masquerading as herdsmen slaughter and kill hardworking Nigerians that are going about their legitimate businesses and livelihood anymore, when we have a democratically elected government in place.
The questions, the threat
“We are bold to ask these questions? What is the primary responsibility of government? Why is nobody being arrested and prosecuted for these killings? As agitators with conscience, we take lives of follow Nigerians sacrosanct as no amount of provocation will lead to the slaughtering of innocent Nigerians because of cows.
“The 21st Century Youths will no longer keep quiet and fold its arms to watch this ungodly, demonic genocide to continue in this 21st century. We , therefore, warn that after this 21 days of mourning is over and nothing is done, we, the good people of the Niger Delta, and coalition of agitators will have no choice than to declare herdsmen and Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association enemies of the Niger Delta and Nigerians in general.:
“Therefore, we do not wish to see them in any of the Niger Delta states because the pollution and degradation of our farmlands and the polluted waters and rivers are enough provocation, let alone seeing our mothers and sisters in a life threatening situation and being killed by cattle breeders, while the Miyeti Allah is applauding them because they value the lives of cows more than human lives.
“Enough of this carnage going on, we should use this 21 days of mourning to reflect and ask the question, if we are truly a nation where the life of a cow is more valuable than human life.”
Don’t auction our cows, other livestock, herdsmen warn
Meanwhile, Miyetti Allah kautal Hore in a statement signed by its National Caretaker Secretary, Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, in Bauchi, also warned against purchase of its cattle and livestock seized by both Benue and Taraba state governments, saying “may Allah Almighty cause whoever purchases any of the forcefully and unjustly confiscated animals to pay for his/her wrong deed.”
The group further called on the federal government to compel Benue and Taraba states to shelve the idea of implementing the Anti-Grazing Law, stressing that the intervention would stem increasing violence between farmers and herders in the two states.
“Federal government should, in the interest of peace and harmony, force the cancellation of the notorious anti-grazing laws being implemented by both Benue and Taraba states aimed at only persecuting herders nationwide,” the group stated.
It also called on herders to live peacefully and desist from all misdemeanors against any tribe, religion or persons, noting that the crises in Benue and Taraba states had claimed many lives while properties worth billions of Naira had been destroyed.
According to the group, there is need for the federal government to take all necessary actions to stop the crisis and prosecute those who hide under the guise of herdsmen or whatever to commit atrocities.
“We once again call on all herders to seriously engage themselves with prayers for the success of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in all facets,” it added.
Six killed in PLateau
Six persons were also reportedly killed in a fresh attack by herdsmen early yesterday at Maraba Kantoma, Fan district in Barkin Local Government Area of Plateau State, while farmlands and houses were destroyed and church building, razed.
A resident, Markus Irimiya, said the attack happened at about 2:45am, despite the dawn-to-dusk curfew imposed by the state government.
He said the attack lasted for over an hour before security agencies came, after six persons had been killed and 17 houses, including a Baptist Church pastorium, government hospital, razed.
Another source who craved anonymity, said: “When we were on surveillance, we saw Operation Safe Haven’s motorcycles moving from our interior bush towards Mararaba Kantoma, we concluded that the military is on patrol, based on security information that Fan communities would be attacked.
“We never suspected them to be the attackers until we saw a private motorcycle called Bajjaj passed-by towards Mangu, the rider then made a U-turn shortly after which fire was opened on us.
“The attack became very intense when the gunmen advanced into the area and started setting buildings ablaze.
“We called on the security severally but they were not responding to our distressed calls until the damage had been completed, that was when they came.”
It was also reported that Jol community of Riyom Local Government Area witnessed an attack on farmland as crops were destroyed.
When contacted, the State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Mathias Tyopev, said he was yet to get information on the attack and would get back when confirmed but never did at press time last night.
Similarly, Benue State government has appealed to the federal government to move decisively against the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria MACBAN, who had openly claimed responsibility for the massacre in Benue and other states of the Country.
The government also urged the troops of Operation Whirl Stroke to “track, fish out and come down heavily on the camps of the militants to shoot and kill any cow used as shield by the marauders.”
Assessing the military operation in the state at the weekend, the Benue State Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Lawrence Onoja, commended the military “for their effectiveness in curtailing the menace of killer herdsmen in the state.”
He said further: “Our call was necessitated by the need to flush out the blood thirty herdsmen militia who have invaded several communities in our state since January 1, 2018, carrying out barbaric killings of innocent men and women, children and the aged as well as engaging in a scorched earth policy of destroying everything in sight.
“The activities of these marauding insurgents have led to the massacre of more than 500 people since the beginning of the year and displacement of about one million others, with attendant enormous humanitarian crisis.
“However, since the commencement of the military operation on May 18, 2018, the spate of attacks has been reduced with the invaders chased away in several communities, thus enabling some of those displaced to return to their homes, though reduced to rubble and their means of livelihood completely destroyed.
“This feat is being achieved at great expense with some of those involved paying the supreme sacrifice, while others have suffered various degrees of injuries.
“Our hearts go out to these gallant patriots who have demonstrated unequaled commitment to providing security for their father land as well as all the families who have lost loved ones.”
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the operation, the government expressed its support and commitment to ensuring the success of the Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini-led military operation.