Cattle farmers demand justice after Nasarawa airstrike

Nigeria’s cattle farmers under their umbrella body — Coalition of Pastoralists Association (CPAN) — are demanding justice for their members after a recent airstrike at Akwanaja Village, Doma Local Government, Nasarawa State which reportedly killed at least 32 herders, 15 drivers and truck assistants offloading trucks of cattle at the time.

They said another 62 sustained various degrees of life threatening injuries.

The farmers also said that before the incident, ‘Benue State Livestock Guards’ had raided and confisticated 1,254 cows at Rukubi, Nasarawa-Benue border communities in Doma LGA of Nasarawa State.

The guards insisted that the herders should pay penalties running to millions, after which owners of the confiscated cattle obtained loan from commercial banks and paid a negotiated ransom of N27,000,000 agreed between them and Benue State government, the group said.

The pastoralists who addressed a press conference in Abuja said they were concerned that one week after the tragedy, neither the Federal Government nor that of Benue deemed it appropriate to explain or console them.

The group also drew the attention of the Nigerian government and international community to what they call “existential dangers” faced by their tribe across Nigeria.

“The Fulanis have been the target of stereotypes, ethnic cleansing and mass murder in almost all states of the Federation. From Zamfara in the North-West to Adamawa, Taraba in the North-East, Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa in the North-Central, down to Ondo and Oyo in the South-West, or worse still the South-Eastern states, the Fulani people have been a subject of hatred, annihilation for unjustifiable reasons,” President Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Baba Othman, who spoke on behalf of his members stressed.

He said from records, beginning from the 2017 when President approved for the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom to enforce the Anti-Open Grazing Law, many herders were forced to flee the state while thousands of livestock were either killed or rustled.

“In the same period, over 3,000 herders have been murdered in cold blood with thousand more sustaining injuries, some incapacitating. Through the near daily cattle raid expeditions carried by Ortom’s Tiv militia, over 200,000 heads of livestock have been rustled and over N400,000,000 have so far been paid to Ortom’s livestock guards”, he said.

The group then demanded for the immediate admittance of responsibility of the airstrike by the Nigerian military, as well as an unreserved apology and condolences to the families of the deceased pastoralists.

They also asked for the immediate proscription, disbandment, arrest and prosecution of leaders and members of the Benue State Livestock Guards.

They also asked the government to set up an independent judicial commission of enquiry to identify, investigate, arrest and prosecute all individuals and entities involved in the murder, expulsion, cattle rustling, livestock kidnapping and extortion of their members in Benue and neighboring States since 2017 when the Anti-Open Grazing Law was enacted and enforced in Benue State.

The pastoralists also asked for the provision and guarantee of immediate security to all innocent law-abiding Fulbe citizens living in parts of Benue and all its neighboring States.

They equally want the government to identify, investigate, arrest and prosecute all personnel of NSCDC, NPF, the Army and Nigerian Airforce that have engaged in providing support to the Benue state militia in extra-judicial killings of Fulbe herders and other innocent citizens, cattle rustling and kidnapping, arson, extortion, ransom collection, mass displacements and ethnic cleansing.

They also demanded an immediate intervention by the Federal Government to release thousands of livestock and innocent Fulbe herders illegally held captive by police and Ortom’s Tiv tribal militia in Benue for extortion and torture.

They further prayed for the restoration of dialogue and communal harmony between Fulbe herders and Tiv farmers in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States as a panacea for future peace in the affected States, among others.

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