Bodejo, Miyetti Allah leader: We’ll still set up Fulani vigilantes in 36 states


For peace to reign, Benue gov must abolish anti-grazing law Vigilantes are killing herders, stealing cows in Taraba, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto


The National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo has said that plans are still ongoing by his group to establish vigilantes in the 36 states of the country.

In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the leader of the Fulani socio-cultural group called on the new governor of Benue State, Rev Hyacinth Alia, to abolish the anti-grazing law instituted by his predecessor, Mr Samuel Ortom, as a way of ensuring lasting peace in the state. He spoke on other issues.

What is your view on the removal of petrol subsidy by the government?

The removal of subsidy on petrol is very painful and has affected economic activities everywhere. Before, I used to fill my car fuel tank with about N20, 000, and now it is about N50, 000. The way everywhere is calm after the increase surprises me and it may suggest that Nigerians welcomed it or they are just enjoying the pain. I have asked many people, they said the subsidy was a fraud and that some people were eating the money; and are always feasting on the money from the subsidy and that was why its removal is good.

If Nigerians accepted it, I will also not oppose it because anything that would be done to move the country forward, I will definitely support it. The progress of Nigeria and the progress of Nigerians are uppermost in my heart. If the removal of the fuel subsidy will make everybody happy and the money the government saved form it is used for the development of the country and to better the lives of the masses, I’m in full support of it.

How will it affect your people, the herders?

All the policies that various regimes have introduced in this country, the first casualties are the Fulani herdsmen because all their activities are different from every other group. For example now, you want to go and sell your cow, let’s say, for N120, 000. Now, the cost of the cow has not increased, but the cost of transportation has tripled, and this thing has directly affected the owner of the cow. It is very hard for you to see the price of cow increased in the market.

How do you say the fuel subsidy removal affected the herders? Cows eat grass, which are not bought and the herders trek with the cattle?

Yes, it is the grass that the cows feed on, but the problem is the transportation. Before, the cost of transporting one cow from Abuja to Keffi was about N3, 000, but now you will pay N15, 000 before a driver would agree to carry one cow. So if you must go and sell your cows, you must pay huge amount of money. This increase is not favouring our business.

Why can’t you increase the prices of your cow since transportation has eaten deep into your profit?

It is very difficult to hike the price of cows, even when people are talking that dollar goes up, or dollar comes down or naira falls or naira goes up. The only times you will see the price of cow goes so much up are during festivals like the Salah and Christmas. If not during these periods, you cannot see much increase in the price of cows.

Those herders inside the bush, won’t they feel the impact of the subsidy removal?

They won’t feel the impact except only on transportation of the cows from the bushes to the cities. If you go to Keffi cow market, you could have got a cow for less that N100, 000, but the cost of bringing it from the bush, which is just about 35 kilometres away, is outrageous. That is the area it is directly affecting us.

There is this burning issue in Benue State over proposed vigilance group in the state by your organisation?

We didn’t and we haven’t formed vigilantes in Benue State. Maybe some boys connived with the natives to use our name to say they have formed a vigilance group. It is similar to the one established by the former governor, Samuel Ortom, which they called Livestock Guard or something like that to pursue the Fulani herdsmen out of Benue State. I won’t support it.

For peace to reign, the new governor of the state should suspend or abolish that anti-grazing law and allow everybody to do his or her business in the state. Allow the Fulani herders to rear their cows. Even this morning, I spoke to the leaders in the state and directed them to always protect the interest of the farmers. The person who is doing farming is doing his business, and the person who is rearing cows is also doing his business. Before, these two groups were doing their businesses without any problem, and I want the peace that had existed before between these farmers and cattle rearers to return during this new regime. The governor should remove the anti-grazing law so that we have enduring peace in the state. The new governor is well educated, a priest and peaceful man; I want him to review all the bad policies that former Governor Ortom introduced that brought the problem in Benue State. The most important one is for him to abolish the anti-grazing law in the state.

How then did the story come about the Miyetti Allah was setting up a vigilance group in Benue State?

We didn’t set up any vigilance group in Benue. How can we come up with it when Fulani herdsmen are losing their lives and have left the state in droves? It is not true; it is part of the propaganda.

What is your relationship with the new governor; have you have gone to meet with him?

I have not met with him. I’m still planning to do that, but I have written to him and congratulated him. Before I meet with him, I will write a second letter to him and give him the history of the Tiv and the Fulani relationship and the need to sustain such a harmony.

About two years ago, your association was planning to set up vigilantes across the country. What happened to it?

It is still on. It was muted at the time the South West set up Amotekun, a security outfit, which they said was to protect their people. But it was not true. Amotekun was purely established against the Fulani herders. So under Miyetti Allah, we wanted to form our own vigilante group that would protect the herders and their cows. It was proved to be true that Amotekun was just after the herdsmen. We are still in the process of finalising it and by the grace of God on or before November, it would take off.

Will there still be reason for the Miyetti Allah vigilantes if there is peace everywhere, as everybody is praying for?

If there is peace everywhere, nobody will go and form any security outfit. If the Fulani herdsmen are protected and they go about their businesses, there is no need for us to form any security group. I don’t believe in the vigilance groups that are operating in some states. If you go to Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and Taraba states, you will find out that the vigilantes with different names in those states are causing serious problems. Under the guise of pursuing bandits, they end up killing innocent herdsmen and carting away their cows. Which kind of vigilantes are those? This is going on in the states I have mentioned. In Zamfara, the major cause of the killings is the so-called vigilance group and it is the same in Taraba State. Even, early last week, they killed about 25 of our people, including women and children inside the bush in Taraba. All these states, it is the Fulani herdsmen that the vigilantes are killing.

But it is reported that the vigilantes are killing the bandits?

Do they write bandits on the faces of people, or do bandits have number plates? All the communities have their own criminal elements, then why tag all Fulani herdsmen as bandits? The truth is that these vigilantes, when they kill the herdsmen and carry away their cows, they term them bandits and it would be reported that vigilantes killed many bandits.

The situation in Taraba State today is very terrible. I want the vigilance groups to flush out genuine criminals everywhere, but in doing that, they should not kill the herders and take over their cows. It is not acceptable. You cannot kill 40 people from the same place and say they were bandits. If they were bandits and you rounded them up, why not take them to the police and other security agencies for them to be prosecuted?

Have you notified the government and the police that vigilantes are killing your people and branding them bandits?

We have written letters to the Taraba State Commissioner of Police and the Inspector-General of Police and also the former state governor, and stated our complaints over the manner the vigilante groups are killing our people and branding them bandits.

What has been the response from your letters?

I saw a letter the IGP sent to the Commissioner of Police in Taraba State, directing him to carry out a detailed investigation over the matter. Even at that, the killing is still going on. It is about five months we wrote the letter. Nothing has been done to stop the killing.

What do you think will stop the killings?

The herders and the farmers relate very well. What is going on is not about famer-herdsmen conflicts. These vigilantes are moving from house to house to kill the herdsmen and carry their cows. These criminals are doing this evil in the name of vigilante people or groups.

It then means they’re not vigilance groups?

They are vigilance groups. If they are not, why have the securities agencies not moved to arrest them? If they are pursuing bandits and they end up killing more than 40 innocent people, is that good? What is going on there is bad.

There is a new government in the country, what would you want the government to do over this matter?

The government both at the federal and at the state level is about settling down, and thereafter we will come out with our problem, but this security issue is very urgent, and I urge all the security agencies in Taraba State to sit up and find a way of arresting these killings targeted against the herdsmen in order to rusticate their cows.

If the vigilantes steal cows, do they know how to rear cattle, an occupation sorely for the Fulani?

They will go and sell the cows. We have seen instances where after killing the owners of the cows, they took the cows to the market to sell, but members of the families of the deceased that survived the attacks went to the market and identified their stolen cows and brought them back. But, the unfortunate thing was that nobody was arrested.

Why did you say nobody was arrested, when people were seen with stolen cows whose owners were killed?

It is true; there was no arrest made. If the police and other security agencies wanted to end this problem they would have done that by entering inside the bush to arrest the so-called vigilantes. My thinking is to as a matter of urgency set up our own vigilantes in Taraba, Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina states to protect our people.

But will the governors allow your association to operate vigilantes in their various states?

If they could allow the so-called vigilantes to go and kill the herdsmen in the bush and steal their cows, why should they stop ours, which is to protect our people?

Since your petitions to the police have not yielded your desired result, have you petitioned the Senate and the House of Representatives?

We wrote to them, but we didn’t get any reply. And that is why we are in support of this government. It is not going to be like the past one where you write letters or petitions but you are not going to get any attention.

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