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Behold, Federal Cattle Territory, FCT!

HERDSMENIn mid-April, 2016, soldiers of the Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army arrested 92 Fulani herdsmen in Abuja.

The Assistant Director, Army Public Relations of the brigade, Captain Bashir Jajira, after the arrest, had revealed that 36 of the suspects were arrested at a military checkpoint between the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Nasarawa State.

The suspects were said to have told the soldiers that they were on a mission to recover their stolen cows. About 56 others who were also armed were arrested by the soldiers at a military checkpoint at Dantata, on the Abuja Airport Road.

One pump action gun, 19 cartridge dane guns, 118 cartridge ammo, 28 cutlasses, three jack knives, 14 sticks, seven torch lights, certificate of occupancy, assorted charms and hard drugs, were recovered.

Abuja, Nigeria’s symbol of authority and the government seat of power, is gradually loosing its serenity and innocence. The hostile take-over of communities in some parts of the country by marauding Fulani herdsmen, is gradually berthing  in the nation’s capital.Fulaniherdsman From the revered Three Arms Zone, leading to the National Assembly, the Presidential Villa and the Supreme Court, to other parts of Abuja metropolis, herdsmen are taking over and fast too.

The first major confrontation between Fulani herdsmen and Abuja residents occurred in late December 2012. More than 10 herdsmen were reportedly killed, while farms worth millions of naira were destroyed during the fracas.

Again, in March 2014, scores of people were killed in Garam, a suburb of Abuja during a clash between the natives and herdsmen. Equally, in October 2015, suspected armed robbers were said to have killed seven herdsmen in Ketti-Pyakassa, a suburb of Abuja.

Investigation revealed that clashes and atrocities committed by and against the herdsmen in Abuja were underreported. Virtually everyone now lives in fear of the Fulani herdsmen. Even the status of Abuja has not insulated it from the worrisome situation.

Activities of these herdsmen, who use their business to stop those of others, are prominent in the FCT and concerned residents have repeatedly asked if the nation’s seat of power has been converted into A Federal Cattle Territory.

In Abuja, herdsmen have virtually taken over major highways, residential areas and gardens. Apparently emboldened by the failure of the FCT authorities to wield the big stick, herdsmen in early 2012 started making inroads into Abuja.FULANI HERDSMEN-CV This came as a rude shock to residents and motorists who were daily harassed by the unruly herdsmen. Unfortunately, the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the security agencies did not act swiftly to confine the herdsmen to dedicated routes or ranches outside the metropolis.

Soon, the daring herdsmen took the city of Abuja like an army of occupation. During peak periods, they blocked the major highways and sometimes, attacked pedestrians, with cow dung littering the roads while residents of the neighborhoods now live in fear. Some residents warned against looming tragedy. A resident jocularly noted that only the Presidential Villa has escaped the cattle invasion.

In a belated attempt to save its face, the FCT administration in September, issued a warning to the herdsmen to stop operating within the metropolis. It stressed that failure to heed the warning would attract severe penalties. The FCT authorities advised herdsmen to make use of designated areas for grazing of their cattle as spelt out in the Abuja Master Plan.FULANI-FARM-2The immediate past permanent secretary of the FCT, John Chukwu, who gave the directive through the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), demanded full compliance with the order, stressing that Abuja city was not meant for cattle grazing. He stated that the directive was induced by improper grazing of cattle in the city centre and the hazards posed to road users.

But almost a year after the order was handed down, the activities of Fulani herdsmen have not abated. Surprisingly, the FCT administration has not taken further action to stop the rampage.

Last week, there were reports that the National Stadium, Abuja, was invaded by Fulani herdsmen with their cattle. According to the report, the herdsmen who came in groups overwhelmed the stadium security officials who tried to stop them.

“It has been a routine for these herdsmen to horde their cows to this place for grazing, especially in the last one year. They invade the stadium at will and it seems nobody is ready to stop or caution them,” a security personnel attached to the stadium was quoted by the report.

As for the FCT minister, Muhammad Bello, his critics argue that he is not so keen at confronting the herders or even handling the daunting challenges facing an emerging capital city like Abuja. Their claim is based on the fact that since his appointment last November, he has not constituted his team. He has not appointed special advisers or mandate secretaries. He runs a one-man show.FULANI-FARM-1Respective agencies saddled with the responsibility of tending to different segments of the city have been rendered useless. Apart from occasional courtesy visits in his office, the minister has little or no other assignments to do. Sure this situation may not be unconnected with the economic crunch in the country.  The FCT leadership is yet to focus on satellite towns and area councils where a large number of FCT residents stay. His critics also accuse him of not effectively supervising area councils.

Activities of Fulani herdsmen, which are threatening the peace of the city do not exempt the administrative building of the FCT Administration. During weekends, herdsmen ply their trades unhindered in and around the FCT Administration secretariat. Roads are littered with cow dungs and in some instances cars parked by roads are damaged by the cows.

While residents and motorists cry, the FCT minister is yet to speak on activities of herdsmen or unveil his plan on how to address the worrisome situation that is fast threatening the peace of the territory. The agency saddled with the responsibility of tackling the menace, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) is handicapped. Some of the field operatives of the board who spoke to Daily Sun complained bitterly about poor funding and lack of operational vehicles. They also complained of threats by the herdsmen to attack them.

The development is fueling tensions. Residents are scared and security agents are keeping mute. Residents who expressed frustrations are worried that the territory could be turned into another killing field by the marauding herdsmen if their cows are attacked by angry Abuja dwellers. Whether or not the FCT Minister will act swiftly to nip the problem before it escalates is a question no one can answer.

When contacted, the Force Public Relations Officer, Don Awunah, said he could not speak on the matter as FCT was not under his jurisdiction. He directed that the FCT Police Command be contacted on the matter:

“Do you stay in Abuja? Please call the FCT police and to talk on the matter. We all have our jurisdiction.”
When contacted, the FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Anjuguri Manzah, requested to be given enough time to speak on the matter. Also, when contacted, the FCT Commissioner of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, did not pick his call.

Meanwhile, the minister, Bello, said the relevant laws would be enforced by the administration. He spoke through his media aide, Mr. Abubakar Sani: “There have always been plans on ground. This administration is trying to apply the extant laws on that. The AEPB law prohibits the herding of cattle in the FCT. This is not just the city centre. This law was enacted in 1997. It is not a new law. The task force on sanitation is supposed to ensure that cattle are not reared on the streets of FCT.FULANI HERDSMEN-CV-660x330“There are penalties for people who flout the laws. The mobile courts are up and doing. They have been sentencing people. Anywhere hoarders are seen, they should be reported. Unfortunately, that is why the support of every FCT resident is needed.

By nature, these people are normads. No matter how good your surveillance technology is, because they are normadic, you can never know their movement.”

 

This article was written by Fred Itua.

Culled From: The Sun

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Peace is a wife and mother who reports and analyses global trends from the perspective of a Deeva; in the hope of invoking a thought process that will lead to a positive change.

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