The Middle Belt Forum, Wednesday, called on state governors and leaders from the area to form vigilante groups to defend their people and communities from attack by armed Fulani herdsmen.
Its National President, Pogu Bitrus, said the call became necessary following the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to protect the lives and properties of people of the area.
Mr. Bitrus said the Middle-Belt has been under siege for two decades, adding Southern Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Taraba, Kogi, Southern Borno and Plateau states have become theatres of an undeclared war.
He described the killings in the region as “genocide” and deplored Saturday’s massacre of over 200 persons in Plateau State.
“A few days ago, Plateau State was once again the theatre of barbaric, unspeakable, despicable and demonic massacre of our people,” Mr. Bitrus said.
“Over 200 persons were murdered by persons purported to be Fulani herdsmen. The world was again treated to gory visuals of children butchered, pregnant women cut open, elderly men and women murdered by maniacal beings purported to be Fulani herdsmen.”
He said ethnic nationalities whose domains and homelands are well known and clearly demarcated have been living peacefully with their nomadic Fulani neighbours for over a century.
According to him, the people of the region never killed their Fulani neighbours on account of their crops being destroyed neither have Fulani herdsmen kill members of the indigenous communities on the basis of loss of their cattle.
Mr. Bitrus said disagreements over destruction of crops or killing of cattle were always amicably resolved.
But during the last three years, he said suspected herdsmen with sophisticated assault weapons have been grazing cattle openly without challenge from security agencies.
“Worse still, these terrorists brandishing AK47s have killed thousands of indigenes of the Middle Belt, sacked entire communities and turned millions into destitute, destroyed property worth billions of naira, endangered our sources of livelihoods and have sought to change our ways of life and entire cultures,” the MDF leaders said.
“These ethnic cleansing going on in the Middle Belt is unacceptable.
The primary responsibility of government, which is its social contract with the people, is contained in Section 14(2b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“That primary responsibility is the welfare and security of the lives and property of citizens. The Nigerian government has serially breached this social contract with the peoples of the Middle Belt by its failure in protecting their lives and property.
“In very many cases, the circumstances surrounding the killings and destruction suggest that there is complicity by the leadership of security and intelligence agencies.”
According to him, the Saturday attacks in Plateau State were sustained for over five hours without any response from the security forces.
He described as “inconceivable” that an attack of such magnitude requiring the kind of logistics involved could have been planned without any idea by the Intelligence agencies.
Continuing, he said, “It is absolutely impossible that for five hours the security agencies were ignorant of the attacks in this era where majority of the members of these communities have access to mobile phones and have numbers of police divisions and relatives’ numbers.
“Our conclusion, therefore, is that this is evidence of high level complicity by the security forces.
“The recent twist to the genocide in the Middle Belt is that after each round of these killings, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) or the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has claimed responsibility for the killings.
“In Benue and Taraba, the Miyetti Allah opposed the passage of the Anti -Open Grazing Prohibition Laws of those states and openly declared that the killings were a direct consequence of their opposition.
“Just a few days ago and immediately after the genocide in Plateau, the Miyetti Allah claimed responsibility and their justification was that over 300 cows were stolen by some indigenous Berom youth.
“In all of these cases, the leadership of the Miyetti Allah has not been arrested nor has the government banned this murderous organization.”
Following government’s failure to stop the genocide, Mr. Bitrus advised the people of the region to organise and defend themselves and their property from the marauding herdsmen.
He cited Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees every citizen the right to life, adding that self defence is constitutionally recognised to protect that right to life.
The MBF leader urged state governments in the region to support communities to train vigilante groups on ways of repelling the kind of aggression the area has been subjected to in the last two decades.
He also called on governor from the region to urgently bring the attention of President Muhammadu on the need to bring to end the undeclared war against the people of the Middle Belt.
The MDF leader asked Mr. Buhari, to immediately reconstitute the top echelon of the county’s security forces.
According to him, people of the Middle Belt have every reason to suspect the security forces are unwilling or unable to protect them.
He said, “The refusal of the Inspector General of Police to stay in Makurdi as directed by the President and Commander in Chief in January, 2018 and the recent comment of the Minister of Defence directing states to suspend the Anti-Open Grazing Prohibition Laws of their various states are clear evidence that they are neither interested, willing or able to be fair to the people of the Middle Belt.
“We call on the president to work with the legislature and immediately commence the process of constitutional amendment for the proper restructuring of the Nigerian federation.
“In the interim, we call on the president to direct that all police personnel be posted to their various states of origin in line with the principles of community policing.
“We call on the president to immediately direct the arrest of the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) for investigation and prosecution.
“The president should also immediately direct the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to set in motion the process for the proscription of these two murderous organisations.
Mr. Bitrus, however, urged the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to urgently commence the amendment of the Constitution to restructure the country.
He argued that the devolution of powers to the various levels of government is the only way to guarantee peace, security of lives and property in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural entity like Nigeria.
The MBF leader called on Nigerians to demand that the government acts to bring an end to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide in the region, adding that the Middle Belt is the bulwark against the rampaging terrorists over running the entire nation up to the Atlantic Ocean.
He warned that Nigerians who stand aloof now do so to their damnation and that of their children, including the unborn.
“While thanking the media for its coverage of the acts of terror in the Middle Belt, we call on the media to stop the reportage of the ethnic cleansing and genocide going on in the Middle Belt as farmers’/ herders’ clashes.
Mr. Bitrus argued that such narrative is false and calculated to obscure the real issue which is the invasion of states in the region by terrorists partnering with the Miyetti Allah.
He appealed to the African Union to condemn the killings and call the Nigerian government to order for failing in its responsibility to protect the peoples of the Middle Belt.
He said the AU’s silence in the face of an impending genocide is no longer golden.
Mr. Bitrus called on the International Criminal Court (ICJ) to investigate the genocide in the region and bring the perpetrators to justice.
He, however, commended the United States and President Donlad Trump for speaking up against the genocide in the region.
“The Government of the United States should bring pressure to bear on the Government of Nigeria and President Buhari to take steps to ensure that they bring the killings to an end and the perpetrators to justice.
“We call on all peoples of the Middle Belt as well as peace-loving and God fearing Nigerians to remain resolute and unwavering in defence of our homelands. Our trust is in God. God save Nigeria,” the MBF leader stated.