Armed herdsmen attacks remain a major threat across Nigeria. Most incidents occur in farming communities and remote areas and they result in large numbers of casualties and the destruction of farmlands.
Despite measures being implemented by the Federal Government to curb the intensified trend, threats from Fulani herdsmen persist. These herdsmen have conducted different attacks like kidnapping, armed robbery, armed attacks, defilement, and complex attacks that had resulted in death and displacement of thousands of people.
The states mostly affected during the time are Delta, Anambra, Adamawa and Benue States.
The map further illustrates the general direction of the nomadic herdsmen and gives possible clues as to the origin of the herdsmen carrying out attacks.
The attacks on the states towards the west of the country indicate herdsmen originating from Cameroon, while the attacks perpetrated on the eastern side of the country indicate herdsmen originating from the north- Niger Republic.
The attack tactics on the Eastern side of the country (Cameroon) closely resemble Boko Haram attacks in their brutality. Several reports have linked Boko Haram as disguising themselves as Fulani herdsmen to infiltrate the Southern states in Nigeria.
The incessant armed herdsmen attacks have resulted in several protests by many communities particularly in Delta, Anambra, Ekiti, Cross River, Enugu and Benue states demanding the government to remove herdsmen from their communities.
The areas that have come under repeated attacks are mostly towns, villages and communities that have predominantly Christian populations in the North east, which in the past have been subjected to Boko Haram attacks.
This week, Benue state and Cross River state recorded the highest attacks from Fulani herdsmen prompting a report to call the situation a national crisis. Since January 2017, five attacks have been reported with as many as 30 people losing their lives. The week witnessed a complex attack in both states that resulted in the death toll of 25 people.
In one complex attack reported on the 25th of April 2016, hundreds of Fulani gunmen armed with AK-47 rifle invaded a community in Enugu State, and fired shots indiscriminately before setting the community ablaze.
They killed scores people in one day, and displaced hundreds others.
In theory, herdsmen and farmers play complementary roles. Herds are meant to graze on crop remnants, while cows add manure to fallow fields. But that symbiosis is breaking down. Cattle frequently trample on and destroy crops, enraging farmers who stage attacks. This leads to the herdsmen carrying out reprisal attacks and the cycle continues.
The problem will get worse in coming years as climate change and desertification push more migrant herders farther south. This situation if not adequately dealt with by state officials, could lead to reprisal attacks, further affect agricultural supplies, thereby exacerbating food shortages across the country.
ARMED HERDSMEN ATTACK TRENDS & TACTICS
The modus operandi of Fulani herdsmen remains consistent with the most common attacks involving the invading of farming communities whilst shooting sporadically.
- A recent report has classified their tactics of attacks as ‘guerrilla style of attack’. The report further stated that the reason why herdsmen attacks are thriving and successful is because they adopt the military approach of attacking their victims and targets. “This is not an open confrontation where they can face security agents. It’s more like a guerilla style attack where they take you by surprise, attack and run away”.
- Another tactic the Fulani herdsmen have adopted in recent times is an old method that is believed to have conquered and won them several territories in the past. The method includes invading a community and killing the community leader and then replace the deceased with their own person.
- The nomadic herdsmen have attacked unsuspecting individuals by using their cattle to block the way so that motorist will slow down their vehicles for a possible robbery or kidnapping.
- The Fulani herdsmen have also disguised themselves as security forces by wearing military or police uniform to deceive their targets.
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS ON DEALING WITH ARMED HERDSMEN
- The Federal Government should continue to attempt to address the issue from grassroots by providing grazing facilities, tracking of cattle and modern approaches of pastoral
- The Government should introduce a registration style of approach to herdsmen and a valid identification card be issued all herdsmen in each state they graze their cattle.
- The Government should empower and deploy more Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in all communities. They can work with local vigilantes to patrol isolated areas and bush paths that leads to farmlands.
- It is advisable to have local knowledge of possible areas Fulani herdsmen graze their cattle. Avoid the area and sought alternative routes where necessary.
- Ensure to walk in groups when you find yourself in volatile areas of the states with heightened Fulani herdsmen attacks.
- Before travelling to each of this states have a comprehensive threat assessment conducted to be aware and identify black spot areas.
- Awareness and planning will likely help to avoid becoming a victim of armed herdsmen ambush. When confronted, ensure to remain calm and logically assess the situation and do not visibly display weapons if armed.