Bauchi governor Bala Mohammed has defended the rights of Fulani herdsmen to bear deadly weapons.
Mohammed said the herdsmen carry military grade AK-47 rifles to defend themselves against cow thieves (or cattle rustlers).
Mohammed’s comments contradicts that of President Muhammadu Buhari who claims that Fulani herdsmen carry only sticks to lead their cows and clear thick bushes.
The comments also added to the ongoing debate about the allegedly criminal activities of Fulani herdsmen. In the South-West, activist Sunday Igboho has vowed to expel the herdsmen and settlers. In the South-East, Biafra separatists have embarked on a similar crusade. They accuse members of the ethnic group of vandalising farms, raping women, kidnapping locals and killing farmers.
Mohammed, at the closing ceremony of the 2021 Press Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Bauchi State Council on Thursday, made his mind on the issue known.
The Bauchi governor blasted Benue counterpart Samuel Ortom over his handling of the farmer-herder clashes which he said led to loss of lives.
“On the herders-farmers clashes, you have seen what our colleagues in the South-West are doing and some of them in South-East. Some of us told them with all modesty and humility – you are wrong,” Mohammed said.
“But the person that is most wrong is the Governor of Benue State, my brother and my colleague, Governor (Samuel) Ortom; he started all these. If you don’t accommodate other tribes we are also accommodating your people in Bauchi and other places.
“We have so many Tiv people working and farming in Alkaleri, farming in Tafawa Balewa, farming in Bogoro Local Government Area of Bauchi; has anyone asked them to go? We have not, because it is their constitutional rights to be there.
“We have Yoruba people in Bauchi for over 150 years, even before the birth of Nigeria. Nobody has told them to go; some of them have risen to become permanent secretaries in Bauchi, Gombe and Borno.
“And now, the Fulani man is practicing the tradition of trans-human, pastoralism, he has been exposed to the dangers of the forests, the animals, and now, the cattle rustlers, who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth, his cows, he had no option than to carry Ak-47 and defend himself because the society and the government are not protecting him.
“It is not his fault, it is the fault of the government and the people; you don’t criminalise all of them because in every tribe there are criminals. You should be very sensitive.”