BUILDING CONSENSUS TOWARDS COMBATING COMMUNAL CRISES IN NIGERIA: THE FULANI HERDSMEN/TIV FARMERS CONFLICTS IN PERSPECTIVE

Posted: May 6, 2014 in Uncategorized
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 BUILDING CONSENSUS TOWARDS COMBATING COMMUNAL CRISES IN NIGERIA: THE FULANI HERDSMEN/TIV FARMERS CONFLICTS IN   PERSPECTIVE

                                         MEMO SUBMITTED BY

                                DR MAGDALYNE MBADZENDAN DURA

                               DELEGATE REPRESENTING BENUE STATE

                                                                   TO

                                 COMMITTEES ON NATIONAL SECURITY

                                                          AND

                     LAW, JUDICIARY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LEGAL REFORM

 

1.0 INTRODUCTION

Security is a fundamental requirement in the survival and continual existence of every state. Hence, the Security and welfare of the people is the primary objective of nation-states constitutional systems and every state is responsible to its citizens for their collective as well as their individual security.

Security and welfare of the people is the primary objective of Nigeria’s constitutional system. Some of the objectives contained in Chapter II titled Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy state in Section 14 provide as follows:

14 (1)          The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice

14 (2) (b)    It is hereby accordingly declared that: the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of Government; and

14 (2) (c)     The participation by the people in their government shall be in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

 

The security situation in the country has been deteriorating in the last 5-6 years with the preponderance of the security breaches occurring in the North although there are also security breaches occurring in the Southern States of Nigeria. In the last two months the security breaches have escalated in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States where over 20 villages have been completely razed down and thousands of people killed including school children inspite of the state of emergency which has been in existence for almost one year.

 

 In the North East the problem is Boko Haram, in the North West, it is armed banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping of young women more particularly in Zamfara, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna States.

 

In Benue State in North Central Nigeria the prolonged conflict between the Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers has led loss of lives, destruction of properties and an ever increasing number of displaced persons.

 

2. STATEMENT OF FACTS ON THE ISSUE

 Given the present insecurity in the country, thousands of people have been killed; homes and properties destroyed and high volume of internal displacement has been occasioned.

In Benue State the attack by Fulani Herdsmen have led has so far resulted in over

 1,000 reported deaths in several communities in the State and over 50,000

persons having been displaced.  The displaced have taken refuge in primary schools, markets and other open-air spaces in Makurdi, the state capital

and in other Local Governments of Guma, Gwer-West, Logo, Buruku, Katsina-Ala, Tarka, Kwande and Agatu.  Thousands of people including women, children and the aged and destruction of homes, properties and crops. The Herdsmen have forcefully invaded, ejected the original owners and taken over the lands. 

 

The Herdsmen have killed and maimed defenceless people including women, children and the aged.  They raped women; destroyed people’s farms and are still occupying their land.  Entire  Council wards have been take  over by the invaders in Guma,  Gwer-West, Makurdi, Katsina-Ala, Kwande, Logo, Agatu, etc. Gbajimba the headquarters of Guma Local Government Area has also been partly burnt by the invaders.

 

The fact is that this is farming season and Benue State is the acknowledged “Food

Basket of the Nation”.  With the displacement farming is not taking place as the

farmers are in camps.

 

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended) guarantees to all persons the right to life in section 33 (1).  Section 34 guarantees the dignity of the human person and accordingly prohibits the subjection of any person to inhuman or degrading treatment. Today the life of the average Tiv person in Benue State appears not to be covered by the constitutional provision as it is being taken at will.

 

In addition, despite the efforts of the State Government and other public spirited individuals, the internally displaced persons are living in sub-human conditions: the absence, food, latrines and water supply have implications on secondary challenges especially malnutrition and health which is leading to large scale catastrophic consequences. There can be no right to life when the conditions that safeguard  and make life meaningful are absent.

 

 It is alleged that the attackers used chemical weapons on  local populations in at

least two local governments in Benue State (Guma and Gwer West) – the

chemicals were reportedly discharged by guns and in one case, via aircraft –

resulting in the deaths of members of the local community and in another case, in

 the deaths of about 33 of the attackers themselves who were directly under the

spray of the chemical being discharged by aircraft.  This action introduces a

dimension that threatens the unity and corporate existence of this country.

 

In a similar vein, the high volume of internally displaced persons poses serious

threat to internal security in the State as the youth who are no longer engaged in

gainful economic activities are likely to engage in criminality. As the adage says

“an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”.

 

In addition, due to the displacement, many Benue children are out of school as

the children in the affected Local Government Areas are taking refuge in camps

 and other shelters with their parents.

Indeed the rights guaranteed under Chapter II of the Constitution titled Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy (e.g rights to security of life and property; shelter; education; health; employment; freedom etc) which are the charter on socio- economic rights are further taken out of the reach of majority of the Tiv. This is more so as government cannot be held responsible for the breaches that have occurred as section 6 (6) (c) has taken away the right to hold government accountable.

 

There is Fulani scare now in almost all over Tiv land as residents cannot sleep because of threats of Fulani attacks. Federal Medical Centre Apir has been closed down and the Patients there moved to Wadata. Many people are now leaving Benue for fear of an imminent invasion of the State by the invaders.

 

3.0 ISSUES FROM THE STATEMENT OF FACTS FOR DETERMINATION

3.1 Whether there is a basis for claim to land in the areas affected by the crisis by either party.

3.2 Whether the Fulani Herdsmen’s action of using sophisticated firearms and or weapons to forcefully invade, eject , displace the original inhabitants ( owners) of the land and purported take over is justified.

3.3Whether the use of chemical weapons by the invaders on a section of the Benue farmers does not infringe international law particularly the Convention on The Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948.

3.4 Whether the planned, calculated, and executed elimination of the lives and destruction of the properties of the Tiv is not a breach of their fundamental rights and capable of affecting the unity and corporate existence of the country.

3.5 What are the consequences of the looming insecurity arising from the Herdsmen/ Farmers conflict?

 

 

4.0 ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

On issue one, 1 Whether there is a basis for claim to land in the areas affected by the crisis by either party.

 Ownership of land in Nigeria is established in five ways as enunciated in Idundun v Okumagba to wit:

  1. Proof of ownership of land by traditional evidence i.e ancestral possession and inheritance
  2.  Production of land title document that is duly authenticated
  3. Numerous positive acts of ownership over a sufficient length of time to warrant the reasonable inference of ownership
  4. Acts o long undisturbed possession and enjoyment of the land in question
  5. Possession of adjacent land could raise presumption of ownership of land in question.

 

Again, Nigeria is properly demarcated into states as contained in Part 1 of First Schedule to the 199 Constitution (as amended) with boundaries delineated.

The Fulani Herdsmen who are currently attacking the locals and occupying their lands have not established in any way that they have a right over the land which they are now contesting with the original inhabitants. At best their attempt a primitive method of acquisition of land by conquest which is unacceptable in a modern, civilized society.

History is not in their favour that they are the original inhabitants of the land or that their fore fathers were settlers there from whom they have inherited. The fundamental question which still remains unanswered is the basis upon which they are now laying claim to and purportedly exercising albeit illegally acts of ownership through their killings, destruction of homes and properties including felling of trees.

On the contrary, the communities spanning from Tiv land to Idoma land (Agatu) have and are known to have been the original settlers on those lands through their fore fathers.

In the legal History of Benue State, there is no document and or instrument whatsoever that can be identified to have created, designated or set aside any portion of land for purposes of grazing in Benue State. No such law or instrument can be found under the laws of the federation, Benue State or at all.

On issue 2, Whether the Fulani Herdsmen’s action of using sophisticated firearms and or weapons to forcefully invade, eject , displace the original inhabitants ( owners) of the land and purported take over is justified.

 The Fulani Herdsmen have taken the law into their hands.  Under our judicial system, the courts are empowered under section 6 (6) (b) to adjudicate over any dispute that anybody has. If the Fulani Herdsmen have a grievance they are expected to have taken it to court and it is through the court that the issue as to whether they have a basis  as outlined in the first issue above would have been resolved. No one has the liberty or permission to take the law into his/her hands in a civilized society such as ours. Herein lies the answer as to the justification of their action.  

On issue 3  Whether the use of chemical weapons by the invaders on a section of the Benue farmers does not infringe international law particularly the Convention on The Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9

 December 1948.

 Article 1 of the Convention on The Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 to which Nigeria is bound as a member of the world community provides that the Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.

Genocide is defined in Article 2 to mean any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article 3 makes punishable:

  • (a) Genocide;
  • (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
  • (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
  • (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
  • (e) Complicity in genocide.

While Article 4 clearly provides that persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

The Nigeria State has on its part been arguably complicit due to its failure to secure and protect the lives and properties of the Tiv contrary to its constitutional role as provided for in section 18 (3) .

Flowing from the above analysis, the Fulani Herdsmen who have targeted and levied unprovoked war on th Tiv Nation and caused wanton destruction to lives and properties fall within the ambit of the provisions of the Convention.

On issue 4 Whether the planned, calculated, and executed elimination of the lives and destruction of the properties of the Tiv is not a violation of their rights and capable of affecting the unity and corporate existence of the country.

 The priority of the Nigerian government today is to ensure unity in diversity. The issue therefore is for each person to be tolerant of others and this re-echoes the fact that each person’s right begins and stops at the point where another person’s right begins assuming without conceding that the Fulani Herdsmen have any right at all.

The Tiv Nation is known to be very populous arguably ranking as number four in the country. Tiv people have always been committed to the unity and progress of Nigeria. The Tiv  have in the past, demonstrated this commitment right from the colonial period when our fathers fought alongside others for world peace and labored under strenuous circumstances to build and sustain Nigeria’s  colonial infrastructure. The Tiv provided labour on the tin mines on the Jos Plateau and were responsible for much of the agricultural produce which sustained the colonial enterprise. In post-independence Nigeria, the Tiv have continued to contribute to the country’s food security and were at the forefront of fighting a three year civil war (1967-1970)with innumerable loss of Tiv lives to keep the country together.

Given our faith in the unity of the country, our people have lived in peace with other Nigerians especially our neighbors in the Middle Benue Valley and even allowed non indigenes to settle amongst us as  family. The Tiv have never left their ancestral lands to attack, annex and occupy their conterminous neighbors and their land.

Regrettably, it is some of our neighbors who occasionally and with impunity attack us as hate-objects. Between 2000 and 2002, part of the Tiv nation came under heavy attack in Taraba and Nasarawa States leading to extensive massacres and displacement of huge Tiv populations in these States. This unfortunate situation reached a climax when the  Nigerian Military invaded parts of Tivland in 2001,  including  some communities of Zaki-Biam in Ukum, Logo, Kwande and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas killing  thousands of innocent Tiv-people including women and children. The Tiv Nation did not take the law into its hands but approached the court for resolution of the issue. In Consolidated Suit Nos. FHC/MKD/CS/6/2002 AND FHC/MKD/CS/41/2001, delivered on 5th day of July, 2007, by the Hon. Justice A.L. Allagoa of the Federal High Court, Enugu (now a respected Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria), Judgement was given in favour of the plaintiffs, thereby establishing the wrong against the Tiv Nation.  The Court awarded the total sum of N41.8 Billion Special and General Damages against the Federal Government for the unlawful termination of lives and destruction of property by Soldiers at various places in Logo, Ukum, Kwande and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas of Benue State.

Justice Alagoa of the then Federal High Court and now in Supreme held in his judgment that the amount (N41.8 Billion) would not even be enough compensation in view of the permanent injuries like cutting of penises, plucking of eyes, amputation of hands and legs inflicted on the innocent people by the soldiers.

The Judge also held that the invasion by soldiers was unprovoked illegal, brazen, arbitrary and unlawful because there was no outbreak of war or imminence of war in the areas when the soldiers were moved out for the wanting killings, maiming and destructions.

Justice Alagoa also held that the action of the Federal Government was worrisome and painful because despite its legal appearance in the suit, it never defended itself or disputed the claims of the plaintiff in the suit against it. Herein lies the herein lies the suspicion of the Tiv Nation of a grand plan to wipe them off the Nigerian geographical map.

  It is therefore my submission that the issue goes beyond monetary compensation but goes to the root as to whether the Tiv people are actually considered as citizens of Nigeria. There is a crisis of confidence as to why the military would target an ethnic nationality for elimination. A chain of activities targeted against a particular ethnic group raises the fundamental question as to the crisis of confidence that has to do with the acceptance, assimilation and integration of the Tiv into the corporate unity of this nation.

Today the Tiv Nation is being faced with another round of killings.The question now is how would a nation (Tiv) that has sacrificed a good number of its sons and daughters be constantly targeted at being eliminated?

 The current levied-war on the Tiv-nation, with attendant massive killing of Tiv men, women and children, displacement of whole towns and villages, annexation and occupation of Tiv territories by a vicious and Fulani militia  must be seen as part of a vicious circle of violence against the Tiv on their ancestral lands in Central Nigeria. This levied-war is however unique because unlike the previous crisis, the Tiv are coming under attack from people who are not in any way their neighbors but guests and or foreign nationals. The Fulani whose militia is overrunning Tiv ancestral lands are guests on Tiv soil. This is an important point because, it underscores the fact that by attacking and overrunning Tiv ancestral lands, they are not only abusing many years of Tiv hospitality but endangering national security and the country’s unity.

On issue 5,What are the consequences of the looming insecurity arising from the Herdsmen/ Farmers conflict?

Overall, the Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers conflict in Benue State has dire consequences; social, economic and political. On the social plane, the conflict will most probably lead to social insecurity with the potential of promoting high crime rate in the state and country at large with teeming unemployed youth remaining idle in camps and other shelters instead of undertaking productive activities such as farming. Apart from this food security not just for Benue State but for the whole nation is now jeopardized as the acclaimed food basket is now empty and without hope of replenishing.

The displacement and housing of IDPs in camps has the potential of creating conditions of sexual abuses, child molestations, child trafficking, social vices like theft of food items from host communities, succumbing to psychological and physical illness as well as high sexual networking in exchange for survival enabling favours. Considering the number of IDPs that have undergone HCT, with various diagnoses, the implication on the general health of both displaced and host community is terrible to imagine. The children in the camps and shelters are losing valuable school time with negative consequences on self and national development.

In addition the crisis is a threat to economic security. The Tiv are farmers. This

activity defines their economic wellbeing. Inability to farm this season apart from

leading to hunger in the land will engender extreme poverty as most farmers will

  have nothing to sell.

 

Furthermore, the conflict if not curtailed immediately is likely to deny the Tiv their

democratic right to be involved in the 2015 General Elections. As s I said in my

comments on the President’s speech, the Tiv experience has shown that close to

elections, the Tiv nation is inundated with conflicts intended to deny them of this

basic right. This scenario portends a grave danger to the sustainability of

democracy in Nigeria.

 

5.0 PRAYERS/ RELIEFS

The reliefs being sought are temporary and permanent.

Temporary Reliefs:

  1.  I appreciate the action of the Federal and State Governments in providing security on the ground, however, there is need to ensure adequate, constant security in the affected areas in Tiv and Idoma lands so that normal farming, fishing, educational and other activities can resume.
  2. The Federal Government should ensure that statusquo before the invasion is reverted back to. Thus, the invaders should be made to withdraw from the affected areas which they are presently occupying.
  3.  The Federal Government should commence a process of rehabilitation of the victims and reconstruction of the affected areas..

Permanent Reliefs:

  1. The Federal Government should set up a Judicial panel of enquiry into the killing that has taken place in Tiv and Idoma lands with a view to establishing the remote and immediate causes of the conflict, and finding lasting solutions. The Judicial Panel should also be mandated to recommend the appropriate compensation to be paid to the affected communities, the families of those who have been killed and those who have been displaced and destabilized from carrying out farming and other lawful economic activities.
  2. The Panel should also be mandated to establish in detailed and concrete form whether or not chemical weapons were used on the Tiv through scientific and forensic evidence. Where this is established persons found culpable should be prosecuted including standing trial before the International Criminal Court for Genocide and Crimes against Humanity.
  3. Chapter II of the Constitution should be made justiciable to enable citizens hold government accountable for breach of their rights.
  4. The Government should enact a National Life-stock Policy incorporating global best practices on life stock rearing. This will do away with the archaic nomadic form of cattle rearing. Individuals have the right to buy land and establish ranches. No Government has the right to take a person’s land and give to another for economic activity. This is not covered under public purpose.
  5. The Bills on Designation of Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes in the Senate and House of Representatives should be dismissed
  6. The Federal Government should take steps to ensure that the Tiv are properly re-integrated into the Nigerian community/nation so that they take their proper place and join forces in nation building and for the unity of this country.  

This memo was accompanied by a pictorial annexture

 

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