Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Villagers take up arms after Fulani attacks

23 May 2016, 18:40

Okokolo - Blessing Joseph lies on a sofa, her eyes fixed on the butt of a rifle that she says she won't hesitate to use if Fulani herdsmen come back to her remote village.

The 19-year-old student isn't the only one. Teenagers and even young boys carry machetes and daggers in villages in the Agatu area of Benue state.

"My father told me not to go out without holding a cutlass with which I can defend myself if attacked," David Inalegwu, a nine-year-old primary school pupil, revealed.

As Blessing watches, youths pass around a jerrycan of local gin, discussing a spate of attacks in February blamed on heavily armed Fulani herdsmen from neighbouring Nasarawa state.

Community leader James Ochoche Edoh said more than 20 Agatu villages were affected near the river Benue that forms the border with Nasarawa.

"Approximately 500 people or more could have been killed," he claimed, in an unverified figure repeated by the former leader of Nigeria's Senate, David Mark, who represents the district.

"The recent attacks took us by surprise," said Edoh in the main Agatu town of Obagaji. "Families have been separated or killed."

- 'No just cause' -

Violence blamed on Fulani herdsmen has given the Federal Government another security headache in addition to Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast and militants in the south.

The worst affected villages in February's attacks were Okokolo, Adagbo, Akwu, Aila and Odugbeho. Residents disclosed that nearly 50 people were killed and more than 1,000 properties ransacked or razed.

"The Fulanis killed our kinsmen, burnt or destroyed 327 of our houses in this village and for no just cause," said Christopher Onah, the chief of Okokolo.

Onah picked up spent cartridges from the ground and showed the damage to his rice and yam barns, a motorcycle and generator. His home was ransacked, as were the churches, mosque and schools.

"There's nothing left for us again after the the attack," said Anyebe Peter, a farmer in Adagbo, where seven people were killed and 250 houses were burnt down.

In Akwu, 30 people died and more than 600 houses were destroyed as well as a medical clinic.

Peter, whose 27-year-old son was shot and is still in hospital, said locals face food shortages.

Despite the presence of troops, residents said they were still afraid.

"Soldiers told us to leave our homes and gather in one place for better protection. So, now we sleep in the Catholic church," said Onah.

Also read: Fulani herdsmen 'still control four Agatu villages'

- Revenge attack -

According to the Global Terrorism Index 2015, "Fulani militants" killed 1,229 people in 2014, up from 63 the previous year, making them "the fourth most deadly terrorist group" in the world.

Boko Haram, whose insurgency has left at least 20,000 people dead since 2009, heads the list, followed by the Islamic State group and the Taliban.

But attacks blamed on Fulani, driven more by a need for increasingly scarce resources such as land and water rather than radical ideology, are not a new phenomenon.

There have been frequent clashes between the semi-nomadic people and sedentary farmers because cattle have strayed onto land planted with crops.

A total of 847 deaths were recorded in five states, including Benue, in the religiously mixed "Middle Belt", where Nigeria's mainly Muslim north meets the largely Christian south.

With Fulani Muslim and farmers mostly Christian, religion adds an extra dimension to longstanding ethnic tensions and mutual suspicion.

Edoh said February's attacks appeared to be in revenge for the death of a Fulani leader and the theft of his cattle, which was blamed on the mainly Christian Agatu.

- Grazing reserves -

Police in Benue say Agatu has now returned to "relative calm", while President Muhammadu Buhari, himself an ethnic Fulani, has belatedly ordered a crackdown on raiders.

"The government will not allow these attacks to continue," Buhari said in late April, ordering security forces to "secure all communities under attack by herdsmen".

Agriculture Minister Audu Ogbeh said "the ultimate solution to the Fulani farmers frequent clashes will be to establish grazing reserves for the herdsmen".

But the main umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen's groups has accused Benue state of opposing the proposal.

The national secretary of the Gan Allah Fulani Development Association, Saleh Bayeri, did not deny the Agatu killings were to avenge the 2013 deaths of some leaders and their families.

"Fulanis do not forgive such killings. The problem we have now is that the Fulani are being vilified, provoked, attacked and killed and when they retaliate they are accused of terrorism," he said.



Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...