Worried by a deluge of media reports of involvement of men and officers of the Nigerian Army in providing private armed security services to Fulani herdsmen in Enugu, Ondo, Kaduna and many States, the prominent pro-democracy and Not-for-profit body: -HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA), has charged the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army to restore full professionalism in the military institution.
Arguing that the direct involvement of the Armed forces in providing security services for the Fulani herdsmen specifically and the failure of the security forces to combat rising incidence of armed Fulani violence in many communities, have graphically painted the Army as that of Fulani herdsmen, the Rights group has urged for immediate change so the Army is seen as the Army of all Nigerians.
Besides, the Rights group said it was encouraging that the new Army Chief Major General Faruk Yahaya has personally pledged to the Rights group through a letter of the readiness of the Army hierarchy to uphold professionalism and competent services to the fatherland.
Specifically, the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, said Army Chief Major General Faruk Yahaya through a letter to the organization dated June 9th 2021 and signed by Brigadier General AM. Umar, for the Chief of Army staff had pledged thus: “I am to add that Chief of Army staff is committed to ensuring that the Nigerian Army adhere to the respect of Human Rights in its operations”.
HURIWA has therefore charged the Army authority to refocus the modus operandi of the military to have national outlook and to desist from portraying the Army as an entity that is primarily devoted to providing selective private security services to Fulani herdsmen community in Nigeria.
HURIWA specifically urged þhe Chief of Army Staff to put to an end the practice of deployment of military troops to follow Fulani herdsmen all around just as the Rights group said apart from diluting the essence of the military institution, the unconstitutional practice of using the Nigerian Army as private security guards of private Fulani herdsmen is at variance with the Fundamental Objectives of setting up the military which is to safeguard the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
HURIWA condemned the reported invasion of two communities in the Nkanu East and Nkanu West local councils of Enugu State by the Army in company of Fulani herdsmen as soon as the community reportedly expelled the herders for allegedly destroying their farms just as the villagers told the media that the invasion might not be unconnected with the recent sacking of herdsmen who were terrorising the area.
HURIWA cited media reports as stating that some also believed that the invasion could be the directive of the Presidency to security agencies to hunt down Biafran agitators in the South-East region. The Rights group said the soldiers invaded Ekpoffo on Wednesday and whisked away some youths to unknown destinations.
HURIWA quoted media report as stating that: “Soldiers numbering over 100 stormed Ekpoffo community in Nkanu East around 7.30pm on Wednesday. They moved from place to place, ransacking houses. Before then, they had blocked major roads leading to the community before swooping on the residents. I don’t know how many people were abducted yesterday (Wednesday). They were looking for our youths, but many of them had run away.”
The Rights group further recalled the incidence in Ogun State whereby the Army troops were seen by villagers escorting Fulani herdsmen with the cattle even as a traditional ruler in Ogun State Oba Akinyemi reportedly urged the state government to intervene and resolve the matter once and for all. He said the soldiers had usurped the role of the police in the matter
HURIWA said the traditional rulers told the media as follows: “Soldiers have no business escorting herders to graze on our farms; what they did is tantamount to usurping the police, who are statutorily mandated to maintain law and order.“The state government should wade into this matter and ensure that justice is served as indigenes will not give up their farms and cash crops to be destroyed by herders.” Oba Akinyemi noted that the herders were trying use the confrontation they had in Benin Republic to launch mindless attacks on his people, using soldiers.
He said: “The armed herdsmen were recently repelled in Oguba-Ayetoro, a Yoruba-speaking community in Benin Republic which shares boundary with my kingdom. They went into the village to graze, not knowing they were already in another country and the gendarmes (police) repelled them.“Grazing is outlawed in the francophone country and authorities of Benin Republic had communicated this policy to their Nigerian counterparts, hence, the police there confronted the herders.
HURIWA further recalled that recebtkybin Kaduna State troops under the auspices of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) reported that two herders were rescued from an attack in Mabuhu village of Zangon Kataf local government area of Kaduna State from irate villagers angry that cows were destroying their farms and the relevant government agencies have failed to enforce the law to guide against such economic destruction of the products of rural farmers.
HURIWA said the case invading State has completely destroyed the National brand of the Nigerian Army which is being presented as armed guards of Fulani herdsmen to a point that one Samuel Aruwan ,Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Kaduna State, said on that the herders – Zakariya Ahmadu and Abubakar Kofar – were attacked while grazing their cattle in the village. The troops in conjunction with the Special Forces of the Nigerian Air Force, responded to a distress call and rescued both herders with their 200 cattle, handing them over to their employer, one Alhaji Alhamdu. No harm came to the herders or cattle.
The Rights group has therefore called on the Army hierarchy to double u effort to correctly rebrand the Nigerian Army in such a way that the widespread perception of partiality and the distorted deployment of soldiers to provide private security services to Fulani herdsmen would be eradicated.