President Muhammadu Buhari

By Eze Onyekpere

In democracies and in every society, the first justification for the existence of government is the protection of life and property. No man, woman or any institution whatsoever, under any guise, will otherwise have the authority or effrontery to ask fellow citizens to part with their money, in the name of taxation or command loyalty in any name but for the common good. But when government presides over perpetual killings at the average of about 20 persons a day and all we hear are platitudes of getting to the root of the matter, then the rationale for such government is questioned.
On the first day of the year 2018, Nigeria witnessed bloodshed and since then, it appears that this is the year of blood in Nigeria. A couple of weeks ago, the National Assembly had asked the service and security chiefs to sit up and deliver security to Nigerians, based on their mandates and oathes of office. In the last few days, blood has flowed again in an unprecedented fashion in Jos. Again, the security agencies were caught napping. We have the Police, the Department of State Services, Civil Defence, the Army, etc., and over hundred persons were killed right under their nose.

The story line all over the newspapers is the same. The chairman of the North Central chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Danladi Ciroma, while condemning the attacks stated that: “These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human being, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission. Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled.” This statement has not been denied and it is reported in all major newspapers and blogs. The media did not report the stories of these allegations and no one is sure whether reports were lodged with the security agencies.

Indeed, Danladi Ciroma clearly told Nigerians that the killings in Jos were reprisal attacks. But in any sane society, all these reports of cow stealing, attacks and murder (if they are true and real) could have been investigated by the security agencies, with arrests made and security reinforced in the area to avoid the further breakdown of law and order. This is where intelligence and behind the scene fact-gathering would have played a role to nip the violence in the bud. The intelligence services would have been able to take undercover action that would have saved lives and property. Not in Nigeria and not for our security chiefs. They are too pre-occupied with high level matters of state to be disturbed with mundane issues such as the protection of human life. Now, the bubble has burst and once more, some individuals have been allowed to shed innocent blood and commit mass murder, arson, gun running and other crimes against humanity.

In the circumstances, the leadership of Myetti Allah has confessed their complicity in the crime; they should be arrested and tried by courts of competent jurisdiction employing due process. How did Danladi Ciroma know the intention of the killers if he was not involved or knew of the attack before it happened?

However, the big issue is that assuming these allegations by Myetti Allah about the attack on their members are true, does it justify mass murder, arson, mayhem and levying war against fellow citizens? For the avoidance of doubt, no one has a right to levy war against fellow citizens and against the state. Where did they get this quantum of sophisticated arms from? After the attacks, where have the perpetrators hidden these arms? Probably in some place, while waiting for another opportunity in which it would be used for mass murder again. As usual, the security agencies will comb the village of the victims in search for the arms and ammunitions, which of course would have been used and taken away by the killers. So, we have arrived at the day when human lives are treated the same as cattle. Pray, how many human lives are equal to one head of cattle?

In the circumstances, the leadership of Myetti Allah has confessed their complicity in the crime; they should be arrested and tried by courts of competent jurisdiction employing due process. How did Danladi Ciroma know the intention of the killers if he was not involved or knew of the attack before it happened? Or did the attackers brief him thereafter, which means he can identify those that briefed him. A pattern has emerged from the New Year attacks in Benue to this one. Victims of mass murder will be grieving and everyone will be condemning the killings, then Miyetti Allah would come out immediately to list grievances that led to the crime. The implication is that the attacks were premeditated, planned and well-coordinated. If the leaders of this organisation, who organise and execute mass murder are left to walk the streets, then no one should pretend to be searching for a solution to the crisis. This does not in any way stop the arrest of any other person from the other side to the conflict, who are identified to have a case to answer.

Where are the killers of the innocent in Benue, Taraba, Birnin Gwari? We cannot continue this way. Dear President Buhari, it is either you change the security architecture or you throw in the towel. Your presidency must not be at the cost of more blood. Enough of bloodshed!

Posting one million soldiers and police men after the killers have finished their business and left; deploying helicopter patrols, bombers and fighter jets today makes no meaning. It is clearly medicine after the death. Yes, it may stop victims from seeking revenge, which looks good. For how long will the newly deployed security men be there before they are withdrawn to other flashpoints? And when the killers come to the conclusion that the cup of their victims is full and overflowing, they will attack again and after they leave, another deployment begins.

We cannot continue to pretend that it is well when evidently, blood is flowing. The security architecture erected by President Muhammadu Buhari has persistently failed Nigerians who are left to their fate of being slaughtered. And all the leadership comes up with is the blame game – the opposition is exploiting the security challenges. Or, we are told the usual platitudes of the killers will not go free. Where are the killers of the innocent in Benue, Taraba, Birnin Gwari? We cannot continue this way. Dear President Buhari, it is either you change the security architecture or you throw in the towel. Your presidency must not be at the cost of more blood. Enough of bloodshed!

Onyekpere is the lead director at Centre for Social Justice.