Are Killer Herdsmen Terrorists? By Fredrick Nwabufo

Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, says killer herdsmen are not terrorists. His opinion is not stupefying to me. But what is jarring for me is that Shehu’s divulgence represents the thinking of a sensitive entity – the presidency.

Before you think I have rustled up “fake news” to blemish the presidential spokesman; I have not. Shehu belched the clanger in an interview on Channels TV on Thursday. He was responding to a question on why the government had not declared killer herdsmen as terrorists when he dropped a brick.

Here are his words:

“There is a difference between a criminal activity and a terrorist activity. Yes, some Fulani herdsmen are a criminal gang and they are being dealt with according to the law. But IPOB like Boko Haram has a territory they have carved out to themselves …as a sovereign state of its own…. They have shown the willingness to invade other neighbouring states. They have raised concerns in neighbouring Kogi and Benue states. They have said they are interested in taking over Bayelsa and Rivers. That is exactly what Boko Haram has done. This is not acceptable to the law of the country.”

Shehu is a fine gentleman. He is one of the presidential aides who are modest and professional. He has no airs or affectations. But I disagree with him on his categorisation of killer herdsmen as mere “criminal gangs”. I must add, it appears we choose the canopy of ethnic bias on certain issues which affect our “kind”.

For the sake of clarity, I have lifted a portion of the Nigeria Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011, which defines the activities of killer herdsmen as terrorism.

Terrorism according to our law means – among other meanings: “An attack upon a person’s life which may cause serious bodily harm or death; destruction to a government or public facility, a transport system, an infrastructure facility, including an information system, a fixed platform located on the continental shelf, a public place or private property, likely to endanger human life or result in major economic loss.”

Now, to the meat of my argument. In 2016, an analysis by TheCable showed that herdsmen killed more people than Boko Haram. They slaughtered 440 people across the country while Boko Haram dispatched 202 people to the place yonder that year.

A brief walk in the past: On February 6, 2016, herdsmen raided Buruku, a town in Benue state, killing 12 people. That same month, they sacked Agatu community, killing more than 300 people.

After that massacre, they continued their bloody orgy at Tarka and Logo in Benue state, killing more than 20 people.

Not done, herdsmen spread their fangs to Nimbo community in Enugu state, where they killed nine people in a gruesome spectacle. They also marched west unleashing violence on the natives of the area.

Lest we forget, in November 2015, Global Terrorism Index named militant herdsmen and Boko Haram as “two of the five most deadly terrorist groups in 2014”.

In conclusion, I have not done any explicit labelling for the sake objectivity; I have only stated the facts as they are. I have also not defended the proscription of any group by the government because its (government’s) action is within the remit of the law. But the law must be applied to all persons and groups irrespective of tribe, tongue or religion.

MEANWHILE…

Buhari’s speech at UN

The president’s speech at the 72 session of the UN General Assembly has been criticised for its vacuity. According to critics, the president skirted around issues affecting other countries, but left out those of Nigeria. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the speech. I read it, but I wanted more. I think the president should have done a tad better.

We are greater together than we are apart

Nigeria has its failings. There are ethnic tensions, divisions, distrust and mistrust. But I don’t want another country. I can’t live in Biafra. The potential and benefits of a united Nigeria are immense, I can’t trade that off. Nigeria needs work and we all must work at it.

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