By Boluwatife Ezekiel Olaleye
Minister of information, Lai Mohammed has revealed why Nigeria didn’t declare the marauding Fulani herdsmen as terrorists despite being responsible for hundreds of death and property destruction.
Lai Mohammed told BBC’s Focus on Africa that the criticism of Nigeria’s designation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation was flawed, noting that both the separatist group and the deadly herdsmen have different agendas.
Mohammed insisted that the herdsmen’s “acts of criminality should not be confused with terrorism acts” even though they were named the fourth deadliest group in the world, according to the 2014 Global Terrorism Index.
But President General of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, who was earlier interviewed on the programme, said that the labelling of IPOB as a terrorist group was “extremely unfair and lopsided.”
Nwodo argued that Fulani herdsmen deserved the terrorist label, not IPOB.
“In Nigeria, we have Fulani herdsmen…and terrorism tracking organisations have ranked them as the third or fourth deadliest terrorist organisation, that kind of organisation which has ravaged farmlands in Nigeria, killed quite a number of people, has not been classified as a terrorist organisation,” he said.
SB Morgen Intelligence in its report on security in the country in 2016 said pastoral conflicts were the deadliest threats Nigeria faced in 2016 – cattle rustlers and Fulani herdsmen accounted for 470 and 1,425 fatalities respectively. Cattle rustlers were responsible for 7 per cent of the attacks and Fulani herdsmen 29 per cent. However, an average of 39 victims were recorded in each cattle rustling attack while Fulani herdsmen attacks have an average of 30.
The targets and victims of cattle rustlers and Fulani herdsmen were usually farmers and residents of attacked communities.
But unlike the herdsmen, IPOB is demanding an independence for the Igbo people in Nigeria’s southeast. Its push for an independent Biafra became heightened since 2015, especially after the arrest and release of its leader Nnamdi Kanu by the government.
Kanu said his group was non-violent and would only use peaceful means to achieve its goal.
“We have chosen the track of peaceful agitation, non-violence, persuasion, logic, reason, argument,” he told AFP in an interview in May.