The Police have declared war on Fulani herdsmen perpetrating unending attacks on farmers with unlicensed firearms.
The force said it does not issue gun licences to herdsmen and would henceforth clamp down on any one of them found to be in possession of firearms without Police licence.
This move has become imperative following allegations that Fulani herdsmen use dangerous weapons such as AK47 and other guns whenever they are embroiled in violent clashes with farmers over grazing areas for their cattle.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase has disclosed that the police do not issue firearms to unqualified persons and encourage Nigerians to provide information on illegal arms across the country.
Arase, who spoke through the Force Public Relations Officer, Bisi Kolawole, noted that any herdsman found carrying guns would be arrested and prosecuted under the law of the land.
“We have always confisticated illegal and prohibited firearms and prosecute those arrested. Police cannot issue firearms licence to herdsmen; we are encouraging citizens to provide information on illegal arms across the country. Public safety is the absolute priority,” the police boss said via a text message from Kolawole.
The IG said all applications for firearms’ licence must follow the right procedures. “The Police cannot issue out firearms licence to anyone that is not qualified to possess firearms. There are procedures to obtain firearms licence; if you don’t follow the procedure and you don’t meet the requirements, you will not be granted the approval to possess one.”
In similar vein, Police commissioners across the country are also talking tough vowing to arrest Fulani herdsmen with firearms and treat them like common criminals.
The Delta State Police Commissioner, Alkali Baba Usman, said the command had arrested many Fulani herdsmen and interrogated them over allegations of farm destructions and killings.
“We are not afraid of arresting any Fulani herdsmen if found to have committed an offence, but we work within the ambit of the law,” he said. “As regards the arms, they obtain permission to protect their cows. When they are arrested, we treat them as suspects until they are charged to court if necessary.”
The Niger State Police Command said Fulani herdsmen were not allowed by law to bear firearms to look after their cattle and that anyone of them found with arms would be treated like a criminal.
The command’s spokesperson, Bala Elkana, said the command had confiscated over 20 AK47 guns, 70 dane guns, 30 double barrelled guns and over 1,000 live ammunition from Fulani cattle rustlers.
Our correspondent in Osun State learnt that some Fulani herdsmen graze their livestock on farmlands in communities such as Inisa, Okuku, Oke Ila and others, leading to destruction of crops.
The Osun State Government and the police have been engaging the herdsmen and farmers in discussions to avoid a breakdown of law and order.
But the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Kola Sodipo, threatened that he would “arrest anybody with unlicensed weapon.”
He said, “If you are caught with illegal weapon, you will be arrested.
“It is childish to say we are afraid of the herdsmen. What for? If you see any of them with weapons, let me know.”
The Enugu State Police Command said it was not aware that herdsmen were moving about with guns and ammunition.
The command’s spokesperson, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, said the police had not arrested any herdsman for bearing firearms.
Amaraizu said the information available to the police indicated that herdsmen were armed with knives and machetes.
He, however, said the command had taken steps to avert crisis between herdsmen and host communities and vowed that anyone found with illegal firearms would be arrested.
The Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, described the bearing of firearms by Fulani herdsmen as illegal, saying that the police would not hesitate to arrest such persons.
He said, “In Ogun State, they only bear machetes, swords and sticks, also known as “sanda.”
“It is not illegal for them to bear those swords, machetes and sticks, unless they begin to use them to intimidate, harass or threaten the people, then the police can arrest them. No herdsman had approached us for licensing for firearms.”
He, however, admitted that the command had been inundated with cases of rape and cattle rustling, among others.
The Ekiti State Police Command said it had formed monitoring committees with communities to prevent attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Alberto Adeyemi, told one of our correspondents that the command had held a meeting with traditional rulers, community leaders and leaders of other ethnic groups in the state over the issue.
On its part, the Edo State Police Command said that although the reported cases of herdsmen operating with firearms had not been established, proper engagement with the affected parties would aid in devising strategic methods to address them.
The Commissioner of Police in Edo State Command, Mr. Chris Ezike, said, “Several allegations have been made on both sides (farmers and Fulani herdsmen). The meeting the governor called the other day was meant to engender that engagement.
“In the process of that meeting, issues like the one you are discussing will come up and very strategic methods of approaching them will be devised, so that we don’t keep dancing at the middle of the market and over-heating the polity.”
Ezike added that the command was concerned about issues related to farmers-herdsmen altercation and was doing its best to address them.
At a stakeholders’ meeting in Ondo State during the week, the state Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Hilda Harrison, called on the Federal Government to create grazing areas or ranches for the herdsmen in order to put an end to the incessant clashes with the farmers.
On the issue of firearms possession by the herdsmen, the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Femi Joseph, said he was not aware of how the herdsmen got the firearms they used to attack their victims.
He said, “It is a common knowledge that anybody found with prohibited firearms would be arrested and prosecuted by the police. If they are caught, they would be arrested and prosecuted.”
The Delta State Commissioner of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, confirmed that the command had arrested no fewer than 20 Fulani herdsmen for suspected killings in the state, adding that they were undergoing interrogations.
In Bayelsa State, a handful of Fulani herdsmen exist in some parts of the state, including Yenagoa, the state capital.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Bayelsa State Command, Mr. Asinim Butswat, said the command had not received any complaints from communities on the activities of the herdsmen.
Of the five states in the South-East, communities in Enugu State were allegedly the hardest hit by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Over the years, several clashes have been recorded between the host communities and the herdsmen, with the indigenes mostly at the receiving end.
The most recent incidents include the invasion of Abbi community in the Uzo-Uwani area of Enugu by Fulani herdsmen in February.
Two members of the community were allegedly killed by the herdsmen, while seven houses were razed.
Two women were reportedly kidnapped by the herdsmen during a clash which followed complaints by the indigenes over the destruction of their crops and farmlands by cattle.
Traditional rulers and community leaders in the affected communities have called on the Federal Government to address the menace of the herdsmen.
The member representing Awgu South constituency in the Enugu State House of Assembly, Nelson Uduji, who spoke with one of our correspondents, expressed fears that the situation could deteriorate further if nothing was done to check the excesses of the herdsmen.
“We don’t want to experience what is happening in Agatu, Benue State, in our community,” Uduji said.
Various South-East groups, including the Igbo Women Assembly and the Igbo Youth Movement, have urged the Federal Government to address the menace.
Also, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, South-East chapter, Most Revd David Eberechukwu, urged the National Assembly to intervene in the matter.
The Onijoun of Ijoun in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State, Oba Rasaq Adewusi, appealed to the federal and state governments to rescue the town from the menace of Fulani herdsmen who he alleged had been wrecking havoc in the town.
According to the monarch, the herdsmen have not only destroyed farms and their stored produce; they have been robbing people and raping women.
He said, “These people (Hausa-Fulani herdsmen) constitute a nuisance to the entire community as they cause a lot of havoc. They destroy our farms and stored farm produce such as yams, cassava, maize and cash crops like cocoa, cashew, coffee plantations.”
The Council of Obas of Ijebu-Igbo in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State, had at a recent meeting, raised the alarm over the alleged destruction of farmlands and the raping of women by Fulani herdsmen in the area.
Three of the six Obas, who constitute the council, the Sopen Lukale of Oke-Sopen, Oba Mufutau Yusuf; the Kegbo of Atikori, Oba Ibitoye Solaja; and the Bejeroku of Oke Agbo, Oba Olaoye Abas, as well as 21 other chiefs and prominent indigenes of the town stressed that the alleged destruction of farmlands by the herdsmen had imposed untold hardship on the residents of the community.
Oba Solaja told the council that his palace had daily been inundated with complaints by the victims of the Fulani herdsmen.
He said, “Every day, my people run to me with complaints about Fulani herdsmen destroying their farms. I always ask them to report to the police because we don’t want the people to take laws into their hands.”
Also in his own submission, Chief Adebayo Adedayo, who represented the Japara people, alleged that armed herdsmen had been involved in the raping of women in the area.
For the people of Ossissa, an agrarian community in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State, this is not the best of time. The community’s major means of livelihood is production of cassava and yam. But the invasion of the community by the gun-wielding Fulani herdsmen is affecting their farming activities.
The traditional ruler of the village, Okpara Uku Ijibeze, said his people were no longer going to farm for fear of being attacked by herdsmen.
He said, “Our people are no longer going to the farm for fear of being attacked by herdsmen. We have been reporting to the police, but they are not doing anything.”
Prof. Clement Adebooye of Agronomy/Crop Physiology Department at the Osun State University, Osogbo, described the activities of herdsmen as constituting security threat and great danger to the lives of Nigerians.
Adebooye said Australia had the largest number of cattle in the world but the problem of destruction of farm by cattle was not common there.
He said, “Unregulated activities of nomadic cattle rearers constitute great menace to farmers and the people in the country. The government should introduce regulated grazing system to solve this problem.”
The Acting Chairman, Miyetti Allah, a Fulani herdsmen group in Niger State, Alhaji Adamu Tsauni, alleged that most of the grazing reserves in Kaduna and Kwara states had been taken away by governments coupled with the problem of cattle rustling which force his members to flee the state.
According to him, the cultivation of the cattle routes by farmers was another reason responsible for the mass movement of the pastoralists to their neighbouring countries.
On the alleged killings of some people in Shiroro and Rafi local government areas by Fulani, Tsauni called on them to desist from taking the law into their hands.
The state Acting Chairman Miyetti Allah advised his members to embrace dialogue rather than confrontation in resolving differences.
Reports by: Femi Atoyebi, Femi Makinde, Samuel Awoyinfa, Kamorudeen Ogundele, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Nosa Akenzua, Peter Dada, Alexander Okere, Armstrong Bakam, and Enyioha Opara