FGN to create exclusive grasing land for Fulani pastoralists in Plateau

2 years 10 months ago #1937 by patrickd

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Six years ago I wrote in my book “The Road to Mogadishu” that the Federal Government may favour the annexation of Nigeria’s territory to Boko Haram (BH) going by its half-hearted commitment to the fight against terrorism. This is what I said:

“Another area for serious concern is the government’s apparent lack of resolve in the war against terror; many a time Nigerian governments undermine themselves by lack of steadfastness to policies. The incoherent utterances about negotiating with the terrorists by President Goodluck Jonathan and members of his government are dangerous. On the one hand, they are sending signals of weakness and surrender to the terrorists; while on the other hand, these statements could kill the fighting spirit of soldiers and officers in the field. It is also confusing to the members of the public; what will the government negotiate with the sect which has clearly stated that its [ultimate] agenda is the imposition of Sharia law all over northern Nigeria? Is the government thinking of negotiating away our religious freedom? Or is it considering ceasing parts of Nigeria to the terrorists as the government of the Philippines under President Benigno Aquina did in October 2012 to end the 40-year Salafi-jihadi terrorism perpetrated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the south of the country?

“This would not be the first time a weak state would be making [mind-boggling] concession to an armed group. The Vikings, a group of marauders, established Normandy in the 10th century when Rollo, their chieftain, was installed its first Duke at Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911 AD during the reign of weak King Charles the Simple of France, who, desperate for a buffer against constant raids by the armed groups, was willing to concede territories. Similarly, the Arab pirate Kyayr ad-Din Barbarosa, obtained concessions of land by playing the weak leaders of France, Spain and the Ottoman against each other to found the Barnaby states in the 16th century.

“The relentless siege on the farming communities in Plateau State [and other Middle Belt states], especially in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas, by armed Fulani militias is viewed as a similar attempt to force concession from the Federal Government to create exclusive grasing land for Fulani pastoralists, hard pressed for such land as the result of desertification in the northernmost parts of the country. If the idea appears preposterous some years ago, it is no longer so. A bill proposing the creation of grazing land exclusively for Fulani pastoralist titled the National Grazing Reserves Commission is presently under consideration at the National Assembly, Abuja.” (pp. 204-205).

Recent events in Nigeria have tended to validate this conclusion even with President Muhammadu Buhari on the saddle. Given the manner of the return of the abducted Dapchi girls last week, I agree with the remark by one fellow on Facebook who said the Government was “in bed with terrorism.”

With regards to the Fulani herdsmen violence, rather than deploy its vast military resources in defence of afflicted communities, the Federal Government has gone ahead to adopt a policy of creating ‘Cattle Colonies’ all over the federation after the attempt in the National Assembly failed. Meanwhile, one Dachung Bagos, leader of the group, Plateau Youth G-17, on March 15, 2018 released a list of 40 villages in Riyom and Barkin Ladi LGAs “completely sacked by gunmen (herdsmen).”

If that is “forced concession” where the displaced were helpless and the security forces were absent, how about the on-going “negotiated concession” with BH?

In an earlier entry in this column “When Not to Negotiate with Terrorists,” I pointed out classical ground against negotiating with terrorists: “… talking with terrorists undermines the credibility of political systems; it gives legitimacy to terrorists and an incentive to others to engage in violence as a bargaining tool. It also undermines global efforts to outlaw terrorist groups, etc…” But I quickly pointed out that in the real world, dialoguing with terrorists has become a credible choice by many democratic governments. I referred to a 2008 Report by Rand Corporation in the US, which noted from its study that 43% of terrorist activities were ended through peaceful political dialogue.

So it is not totally outrageous that the Federal Government went into negotiations for the release of the Dapchi girls, or the Chibok girls before it. What was odd is the manner in which the girls were brought back. I have asked some of my friends, who should know, about this. One response stuck out, the abductors belonged to the Abu Musab Al-Barnawi faction of the BH, which is “more reasonable” than the blood-thirsty Abubakar Shekau faction.

The real puzzle is: In whose tactical interest was it for the BH faction to expose its location and route by dropping the girls in Dapchi rather than somewhere in the desert for the authorities to pick? Even in the light of the mutual understanding to suspend hostilities during the return, did this also include suspension of Intel gathering? Was Al-Barnawi not naïve to conducting the daylight operation exposing his clandestine group? Or did he obtain the government’s assurance that it would not be tracked down? If so, why did the government ridiculously conflate secondary-track with primary-track negotiations?

But if, indeed, the government is into primary-track negotiations with the terrorists, what precisely is it conceding to them? Short of the group publicly renouncing its misguided Islamic agenda, is the Government intending to jettison freedom of religious practice in the North East as a concession to BH? Was the grand-standing by BH terrorists in Dapchi town a legitimisation process aimed at showcasing the latter’s popular acceptance or government’s acquiescence? More fundamentally, was the initial non-inclusion of the Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, a signal of the Government’s willingness to negotiate away Christian’s rights in order to reach a settlement with the terrorists?

It worries me that fundamental rights, especially religious freedom, were never factored into the deal. That explains why neither the Minister of Information nor the national television (NTA) ever mentioned the specific plight of the Christian girl.

We should worry about this trend of negotiation with the terrorists.


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