Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the body uniting Fulani herdsmen in the country has told its members to defend itself against ethnic militia groups in a manner that nobody would try such again, following warnings that came after recent killings witnessed in various parts of the country.
Speaking to Punch just few days after President Muhammadu Buhari asked Fulani herdsmen to ignore calls by northern elders to return to the north if they feel threatened in the south, the National Secretary of the group, Saleh Alhassan, warned that governors in the southern part of the country would be held responsible if any of their members was attacked.
He said, “We are Nigerians and we have a history. Anybody that thinks he can wake up and take on the Fulani pastoralist is making a grievous mistake; we are well prepared to defend our fundamental human rights of movement in this country.
“They (herdsmen) are Nigerians, so they are entitled to stay where they are. They should remain where they are and defend themselves against ethnic militia and assert their citizenship in this country.
“The only thing we would say is that we will hold all the governors of those states responsible for their safety and security, but if any ethnic militia, by any name, attacks our members, they should defend themselves in a manner that nobody would try such again.
“We have been saying it that people behind insecurity are not herders; bandits are behind these killings, and if the government is saying foreigners have infiltrated the herders, have they been arrested and what is their nationality? Anybody that is trying to destabilise this country should be dealt with.”
On calls by some northern groups that they should vacate the southern part of the country, Alhassan said;
“Those so-called northern youths called coalition of northern groups should note that if because of their action any herder is killed, we will first look for them before we go after our enemies.
“We are Nigerians and we are not going anywhere. Our attachment to the land is opportunistic; we don’t farm the land. So, if anybody is thinking that because he has cultivated the land in a particular place for long and he has rights there more than us, then we would ask where is the grazing area that the colonial masters created for us?
“Politicians can play their politics but they should leave our people out of it because it is the desperate politicians that are causing this confusion and they are looking for anything to hang on to, but we are watching them critically.
“If you threaten the herders, they react; they cannot be used for any political game because we have our way of defending ourselves. We hate injustice and we fight it. Anybody that thinks we can be squeezed is making a mistake.”
He added that grazing reserves that were carved out before the country’s independence, should be developed to serve their purpose, and also end persistent clashes between herders and their host communities.
“When we begin to discuss the Nigeria question, we would ask where the grazing reserves are because we know them and we have the records of where they are,” he added.