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HomeIn-DepthIntersociety Raises Alarm Over Plan To Populate Southeastern Nigeria With Muslim Herdsmen

Intersociety Raises Alarm Over Plan To Populate Southeastern Nigeria With Muslim Herdsmen

By Ebere Inyama

(Lagos) A Catholic–inspired group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has accused the Nigerian government of planning to expand the activities of Islamic jihadists to the heavily Christian southeastern part of Nigeria under the guise of state ranching projects.

The group, composed of researchers, criminologists, and human-rights activists in Nigeria says the ranching project is a disguised plot to populate the Southeast with Muslim herdsmen who have terrorized Christian communities for years.

In an official report signed by its Board Chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, on March 11, 2024, Intersociety argued that the ranching projects are a smokescreen for the resettlement of Fulani herders and vowed to resist plans by the governors of Nigeria’s Enugu, Anambra, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi States to resettle Fulani herdsmen in the Southeast.

The report described how local leaders are being coerced into relinquishing parcels of land for the ranching projects and emphasized that the Southeast geopolitical zone that is being targeted by the government for ranching is “too tiny to grab for Fulani,” and that, if ceded as ranches for cattle, may end up as “Jihadist Fulani settlements.”

Map of Nigeria, showing Southeast geopolitical zone. Courtesy:

Nicholas Obi, Dickson Nwalusi, Eziyi Ibem and Francis Ogochukwu Okeke,  Assessment of the Role of Greenbelts in Environmental and Socio-Economic Development of Urban Areas in Southeast Nigeria. ResearchGate.https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Map-of-South-East-Geopolitical-Zone-of-Nigeria_fig1_350950645
Map of Nigeria, showing Southeast geopolitical zone. Courtesy: Nicholas Obi, Dickson Nwalusi, Eziyi Ibem and Francis Ogochukwu Okeke, Assessment of the Role of Greenbelts in Environmental and Socio-Economic Development of Urban Areas in Southeast Nigeria. ResearchGate.https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Map-of-South-East-Geopolitical-Zone-of-Nigeria_fig1_350950645

Farming Now a risky business in Southeastern Nigeria

For over a decade now, farming activity in many parts of Southeastern Nigeria is being done with caution. Farmers are being attacked and sometimes killed while women have been raped by armed Fulani herdsmen while working on their farms. There have also been incidents where herdsmen took their cattle to graze on people’s farmlands.

These conflicts have persisted over time, with thousands of Christians losing their lives and entire Christian communities being depopulated.

Natives Oppose The Idea Giving Land To Fulani Herders For Cattle Ranching

A farmer based in Oforola community in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state, Mr. Chinonyerem Osuji, who spoke to TruthNigeria, said the idea of providing land for ranching for Fulani herdsmen cannot be welcomed by the local farmers in the Southeast.

“I think the best approach to this issue is to provide more abattoirs across the towns in the Southeast. Cows transported from Northern Nigeria should be moved straight to the abattoirs and slaughtered within 48 hours. If this is done, there would be no need for open grazing or the setting up of ranching projects in the Southeast.

“Giving land to Fulani herders for ranching is very risky. They are born jihadists and would attack the local people at the slightest provocation.

“Last year, I lost crops worth over N500, 000 when armed herders led their cows to graze on my cassava farm. Since this year, January, 2024, the same Fulani herdsmen have been attacking us in our farms with no fewer than 10 persons kidnapped in my community. They were released after payment of ransom to the herdsmen.

“We cannot afford to give any part of our land to bloodthirsty cattle herders who would later kill us and take over the entire community,” Osuji said.

Another farmer, Mrs., Virginia Uzoma, who spoke to TruthNigeria, said it would be suicidal to give land to Fulani herders for cattle ranching. Uzoma who lives in Obosima, in Ohaji Egbema (County) Local government Area of Imo state, has a large cassava farm located in Obosima community.

“ I am a victim of Fulani herders. My farms were destroyed by the herders and their cows. The herdsmen uprooted my cassava and gave to their cows to eat. They are no longer content with feeding on cassava leaves. They now go for the tubers. In January last year, my daughter narrowly escaped being kidnapped by the herdsmen. They tried to grab her while she was weeding our farm, but she escaped. The worst mistake our leaders would make is to provide land for these killer herdsmen,” she said.

Frequent Attacks on farmers by herdsmen in the Southeast

For nearly a decade now, residents in the Southeastern part of Nigeria, especially farmers in the local communities, have been under frequent attacks by Fulani terrorists who present themselves as cattle herders.

In April, 2016, no fewer than 500 heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen attacked seven villages in Nimbo community in Uzo- Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, killing  40 persons.

Fulani herdsmen attacked farmers’ settlement in Anambra West Council of Anambra State on April 6, 2019, setting the farmhouses ablaze, killing the men and raping the women.

In February, 2021, the Abia state government accused Fulani herdsmen of being responsible for kidnapping in the South-east state.

A statement by the Commissioner for Information, Abia state, John Kalu, read in part,

“The state government condemns without reservations, the activities of criminal herdsmen suspected to have masterminded recent brazen kidnaping of innocent citizens around Abia North Senatorial Zone of the State”,… and “grazing their cows openly in violation of extant laws of the state and Nigeria.”

In June, 2021, the cattle herders attacked seven villages of Ndigwe, Ataloga, Odokem, Ekile, Nduobasi, Ekpufu and Obakota In Ebonyi state, killing  more than30 people

The latest attack pounded local farmers on Sunday, February 25, 2024. TruthNigeria reported that Mr. Theophilus Mehara, a native of Umuagubiam, Oforola in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state was attacked on his farm by Fulani herdsmen who inflicted injuries on his head and other parts of his body with machete cuts.

With a population of over 230 million people, Nigeria is home to some of the world’s largest Muslim and Christian populations living in proximity to each other.  The country is roughly divided in half, with Muslims chiefly in the north and Christians living chiefly in the south. 

Abuja  launched in 2019 a 10-year National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP)  designed to create 119 ranches across several parts of Nigeria. The idea was to create designated areas where cattle could be raised and grazed, reducing conflicts between herders and farmers.

The plan, envisioned to run from 2019-2028, is an initiative of the federal government in collaboration with states under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC).

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Ebere Inyama is an Imo state –based conflict reporter for TruthNigeria

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