WHEN HUMAN LIFE IS EQUAL TO OR EVEN LESS IMPORTANT THAN CATTLE LIFE

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The Chairman, North Central zone of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), one Danladi Ciroma, while condemning the recent killings in the plateau has said the killings are retaliatory.

According reports posted on social media, Ciroma while responding to the recent killings said: to quote him, “These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human being, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission.” Mr Ciroma went on to say: “Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled and the criminals disappeared with them to Mangu” and that “Since these cows were not found, no one should expect peace in the areas.” He added that the communities were attacked because “the people carrying out these criminal activities are well known to the communities but the communities are hiding them.”

Mr Ciroma said many other things but it sufficient to say for the purpose of this piece that this statement by the Miyetti Allah chieftain typifies the attitude that has underscored the narrative of herdsmen – farmers clash wherever they have happened. The dangerous and mindless equation of human lives to those of cattle. It is is simply a mindset that says: if you steal or even attempt to prevent my cattle free reign to graze every and anywhere, I will kill you and/or your people. A cattle for a life. Very much unlike the Mosaic law of a tooth for a tooth. A more equitable law no doubt.

Let me exemplify this mindset of my cattle is equal to your life/lives with an incident that happened a few years ago in Kwale, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State that led to the death of a senior colleague and mentor. He was shot dead in the presence of policemen who he had invited to his farm after several reports of cattle incursion and destruction of his farm by cattle. Unknown to him and the policemen who went with him to verify his claims, some of the herdsmen were lurking in the nearby bushes. A shot! And he dropped dead. His crime? For daring to bring policemen to hinder their cattle from grazing! He neither stole nor killed any cattle. He simply wanted to prevent his crops from destruction. He wanted to farm his land in peace.

The stories abound elsewhere in the South South states of Nigeria where attempts by farmers to challenge and prevent herdsmen from grazing their cattle through their farms have led to deaths in the hands of these human savages called herdsmen. I have not seen it written anywhere in the Nigerian constitution that the punishment for the crime of stealing or even killing a cow is death. Yet the Miyetti Allah have the authority to summarily execute capital punishment on alleged cattle rustlers. Hear Mr Ciroma again in the same online report that is yet to be denied or repudiated: “The attacks will stop as soon as the security agencies stop Berom youths from stealing Fulani cows”

Sometimes I wonder if we still live in a sane society or if our humanity is still intact. Until government does something to eradicate the menace of bloodletting posed by nomadic cattle herding, it must be held complicit in the murderous activities of these herdsmen. Again, I ask the question, what is it about cattle lives that make it more important than human lives? Why should letting cattle loose on people’s farms be more important than having them confined to ranches to prevent these needless circles of Bloodshed? Why can’t a law be made to outlaw open air grazing nationwide? The answer to these questions should be simple but the reluctance of government to act meaningfully to provide solution to this problem that threatens national peace gives credence to the speculation that there may be more to the herdsmen menace than meet the eye. Judging by history of Nigeria, especially of the North Central region, of Nigeria which is the center of the present theatre of the bloody orgy, the reality is very disturbing.

Finally, let me leave you with yet another quote from the online report attributed to Mr Ciroma. Never before has a statement so audacious been made in preference for cattle lives over human lives. They are even willing to keep killing the innocent over loss of cattle! Says Mr Ciroma :“These communities have leaders, why hide the criminals? They should fish out the criminals and hand them over to security agencies to avoid death of innocent ones”

What more can I say?

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