‘Farmer-Herder’ Term Denigrated by Longtime Missionary
By Masara Kim
[JOS]: The Nigerian government rescued Sept. 26 between 14 and 20 university students (reported numbers vary) abducted last week [see related story on this page] from a campus in the northwestern state of Zamfara. But in the strife-ridden areas of the middle belt, civilians continue to seek refuge from the constant threat of terrorist gunfire.
At least four people have perished in isolated attacks in the States of Benue and Plateau since the country’s officials issued fresh directives to the military to end terrorists’ siege of communities and rescue the abducted students.
Lawmakers speaking to TruthNigeria have alleged the attacks by terrorists flooding the country’s food-producing middle belt region from neighboring majority-Islamic countries are aimed at establishing an Islamic state.
Even as the Nigerian Senate on September 25 charged that the threat posed by terrorists had reached “alarming levels” and could no longer be overlooked, two residents lost their lives in separate attacks 12 miles apart in Plateau State.
In a statement by Senator Abdulaziz Yar’ Adua, Chairman of the Committee on Army, the Senate told the military to make the rescue of the all-female hostages kidnapped on September 22 from the Federal University Gusau a “top priority”.
President Bola Tinubu had issued a similar directive to the military the previous day restating his commitment to protecting communities.
Just few hours after the Senators’ charge, terrorists struck in two communities south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, killing two people, TruthNigeria learned.
A truck driver returning from a farmers market in the northwest of Bokkos County, 40 miles southwest of Jos, was ambushed and killed close to his village of Machambe according to its mayor, John Makwal.
An unspecified number of terrorists hiding in tall corn farms along a bumpy earth road unleashed automatic gunfire on the victim’s vehicle as he approached the village on a sunny afternoon at about 2 pm local time,
killing him instantly, said Makwal who is the mayor of Butura district. The terrorists spoke the Fulani dialect, said Makwal in a telephone interview with TruthNigeria.
The Fulani, also known as the Fula or Fulbe, are a diverse ethnic group primarily found in West and Central Africa. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, with a population estimated to be as large as 65 million people. The Fulani, who claim as many as 10 million members in Nigeria are known for their pastoral nomadic lifestyle, although not all Fulani are involved in herding.
Militants identifying as members of the group have been blamed for thousands of genocidal massacres targeting chiefly Christian farmers in Nigeria. Approximately 15 miles away in neighboring Mangu county, a similar ambush at about the same hour killed one farmer near the town of Panyam, said a tribal youth leader, Jethro Jacob.
The victim was returning from his farm along with five other residents when they were accosted by armed terrorists speaking the Fulani dialect according to Jacob who is the secretary of the Mwagavul Youth Movement.
Three people were injured in the attack which followed an evening murder of a Fulani community leader in the area.
Fulani leader killed
Adam Idris Gabdo, the mayor of the Fulani residents in Panyam was “brutally attacked” and killed by “hoodlums” in the evening of September 23 in Panyam according to Muhammad Nuru Abdullah, the leader of the Fulani in Plateau State.
Gabdo who had fled the area in the wake of armed attacks that killed an estimated 350 residents on May 16 and the following days had returned to negotiate a peace deal with town leaders when he was killed, Abdullah wrote in a statement shared with TruthNigeria.
Both Christian and Fulani residents had claimed victim status in the attacks described by local officials as “clashes between farmers and herdsmen. The U.S. mission in Abuja as well as the U.S. Department of State agree with this position.
But William Murray, an American missionary who operates an orphanage that treats victims of attacks in Nigeria recently disputed the narrative during one of his humanitarian visits to Mangu.
“U.S. officials pushing false narrative,” says Missionary
“Christian farmers in Nigeria are on their land when they are killed, and their homes burned down by Fulani herdsmen with automatic weapons,” said Murray to TruthNigeria.
“The farmers, who are law abiding, have no guns,” Murray said.
“Gun ownership of any kind is forbidden in Nigeria, yet the Fulani have arms similar to those of the Nigerian army. How can the State Department classify a massacre as a clash?” said Murray, a former atheist who fought to abolish Bible reading in American schools but now advocates for persecuted Christians in Nigeria and Iraq.
Abudullah, however, told TruthNigeria that Gabdo was killed in a “targeted’ attack by Christian youths identifying as members of the Mwagavul ethnicity which dominates the area.
“This unprovoked act of criminality by some Mwagavul youths is totally condemnable, particularly at a time that we have put behind us incidents of the past to work with government and security agencies to ensure lasting peace in our communities,” Abdullah wrote in the statement issued on September 25, hours prior to the killing of the Christian farmer in Panyam.
Retaliatory attacks in Benue
On the same day of the alleged murder of the Fulani leader, an early morning battle ensued between citizen guards and Fulani militants attempting to invade a previously displaced community 100 miles away in the State of Benue, according to a former county official.
One resident was killed as a group of terrorists armed with assault rifles attempted to invade the town of Udei a few minutes after midnight before citizen guards responded and pushed them back, said Mike Nyieakaa, the former Chairman of Guma county, to TruthNigeria.
The village of approximately 1,000 residents located close to the border with Nasarawa State was previously displaced by terrorists who killed several residents in a series of attacks during the last 4 years.
A few residents have managed to return to their small-plot farms following fresh military orders by the new administration of President Tinubu. However, the terrorist attacks on their own farms are still pounded by killing squads, said Nyieakaa.
The attack was a reprisal against an earlier confrontation between local residents who attempted to evict a group of herders from the surrounding where they were caught grazing on mature crops, Nyieakaa said.
“It is a routine in this area,” said Nyieakaa in a telephone interview.
“They provoke you and attack you when you try to react,” he said. Lethal invasions at 2:00 a.m. like this one are recorded by Western observers as “farmer-herder clashes,” a term the Nigerian government has adopted as convention, but which are considered a false narrative by the editors of TruthNigeria.
A resident of Udei, Kelvin Yowase, who witnessed the encounter said the battle on the eastern edge of the town lasted six hours before soldiers from a local military task force arrived. A group of ten citizen guards fired single shots from their homemade pipe guns hiding behind trees and brick buildings to scare the terrorists before soldiers arrived at 8 am local time, Yowase told TruthNigeria by telephone.
The top spokesman for the Nigerian army in Abuja, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, did not respond to queries from TruthNigeria.
Nyieakaa credited the Nigerian soldiers who arrived after many hours but nonetheless joined forces with the citizen guards and successfully repelled the attackers. The military then set up a camp in the town, said Nyieakaa. Yet, residents are still living in fear of attacks.
“The herdsmen were chased away by the military, but no one knows when they will return or where they will strike from,” he said, calling for more protection to enable the displaced residents to return to their homes.
Masara Kim is an award-winning conflict reporter in Jos and the senior editor of TruthNigeria.