By Nwafor Polycarp
Even the most ardent supporters of the Buhari administration are beginning to agree that while it is receiving well-deserved commendation in the fight against Boko Haram, the equally deadly and more widespread attacks on Nigerians by herdsmen remains largely ignored while the body count mounts nationwide.
So far in March 2017, the number of casualties reported in different parts of Nigeria on account of invasion of farmlands by herdsmen is beginning to compete with the body count from Boko Haram terror. Increasingly, violent conflicts involving herdsmen and other yet-to-be-identified armed groups are overtaking Boko Haram as security imperatives which must be addressed urgently by the Federal Government.
Kaduna, especially its southern parts, is still under security lockdown, yet reports of killings and alleged reprisals remain. Benue State, which is another hard-hit theatre of the armed herdsmen’s bloody adventures since the past two years, has erupted in another dimension: unknown group of gunmen served notice that they would attack Zaki Biam. The Police and other security agencies were said to have taken positions to confront them.
In spite of that, the gunmen invaded the yam market with assault rifles and cans of petrol, killed over 50 people, set the market ablaze and melted away. Also in this month of March, violence flared in Ile Ife, Osun State, between Hausa settlers and their Yoruba hosts, which according to Police sources, claimed 46 lives though independent sources puts it much higher.
The herdsmen continue to attack farming communities in Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi. They have just added Oyo State to their theatre of war.
For the third time since these attacks started, President Muhammadu Buhari last week summoned Service Chiefs and ordered them to stop the wanton killings and bring their perpetrators to book. He had issued the same order after a prolonged silence, following the Ukpabi Nimbo, Enugu State attack which brought the State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to Aso Villa in tears. The President similarly asked the security and military services to go in and stop the Southern Kaduna massacres.
In spite of the presidential orders, the killings only worsened and have spread to other parts of the country. We are hoping that, this time, concrete steps will be taken to safeguard the lives of innocent Nigerians in their native communities.
Nigerians are being pushed beyond their endurance limits. The demonstration of groups in state capitals and Abuja in protest over these attacks are warning signals for the Federal Government to act before a large-scale outbreak of anarchy nationwide.
The recent interceptions of dangerous arms by the law enforcement agencies are clear danger signals that people might resort to self-help to ward off these armed invaders and other faceless agents of terror. A stitch in time saves nine.