The Benue State government has dragged Fulani herdsmen to the United Nations (UN) over alleged atrocities committed by the group in the state as well as their alleged recent threat to mobilise against the Anti-Open Grazing Law enacted by government.
The state government also released figures of people that were either wounded or killed by the herdsmen, property destroyed and damage done in monetary terms.
Governor Samuel Ortom presented the case to Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, for onward transmission to the UN when the latter and the UN country team paid the governor a courtesy visit in Makurdi on Wednesday.
Ortom said that figures obtained from a study by the Benue State Emergency Management Agency and the Benue State Planning Commission in collaboration with BENGONET, a coalition of non-governmental organisations in the state, showed the damage done by the herdsmen.
According to the governor, “Between 2013 and 2016 alone, Fulani herdsmen killed more than 1,878 men, women and children in cold blood from 12 LGAs of Benue State. Another 750 were seriously wounded while 200 are (still) missing. Over 99,427 households are affected in Benue and property worth billions of naira destroyed through a brutal scorch-earth strategy.”
He further stated that despite calls that the herdsmen be arrested, the Federal Government and security agencies were yet to arrest any of those that the threatened the state.
The governor called on the UN to evolve an approach on a sub-regional level that would check the alleged atrocities of the nomads.
Reeling out the damage done by the herdsmen in three out of the last 10 years of the clashes, Ortom said a 2014 report by the State Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs showed that “destruction which invading Fulani herdsmen caused cut across 10 LGAs of the state and exceeded N95 billion in that year alone.”
“Some of the challenges that we are facing today are regional in nature. The UN System has the capacity for regional and international synergies and we would, therefore, like to suggest that the UN System considers strengthening its regional approach to these challenges, particularly the destructive assaults by herdsmen on the peace loving farming communities of the Benue valley. This may entail not just a national approach but also one that covers the whole of West and Central Africa.
“For instance, the herdsmen and farmers’ conflict needs to address issues beyond the hoofs on the road and across the fields to climate change and degradation of natural resources such as water and optimal animal to human land-use ratios. It appears only rational that where animal to human population vis-à-vis natural resources use reach an imbalance, it should be the animals and not the humans that are culled,” he argued.
Earlier, Kallon stated that he had seen some “horrific pictures” of massacres carried out by the herdsmen, adding that they were in the state to have firsthand information of the situation by visiting some of the affected areas.
He noted that the UN was worried about the escalating rate of human rights violations and stressed the need to ensure that internally displaced persons (IDPs) were supported to enable them settle down.
Kallon stated that the team was also in the state to find out what the state government was doing and how best the UN could assist it in achieving results in the areas of herdsmen attacks and the amnesty programme.