The controversial Islamic Cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, has reiterated that Fulani herdsmen involved in banditry are victims of circumstance.
Sheikh Gumi restated his position during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Monday, while explaining how the once peaceful Fulani herdsmen were allegedly forced into banditry and ethnic war against Nigerians.
The cleric has previously advocated for the bandits to be granted amnesty after meeting them in the bush.
“When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality which turned into banditry, which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know,” Sheikh Gumi said.
The cleric said that while “there is no excuse for any crime; nothing can justify crime, and they are committing crime,” the bandits were forced into criminality.
“I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality,” he said. “And this is what we should look, let’s remove the pressure, let’s remove the things that made them into criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with the nomadic herdsmen. They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this.”
An Ethnic War According to Gumi, the herdsmen-bandits are engaged in an ethnic war against other peoples, including sedentary Fulanis.
The solution, he added, was dialogue.
“It is a complex issue that Nigerians need to understand,” Sheikh Gumi said. “The solution is very simple, but it’s not military hardware. The solution is dialogue and teaching.
“These people are acting with natural instincts, not special knowledge. And they don’t have any ambition or anything. They don’t have a vision of the future. They are talking about existence; their livelihood is destroyed; because the cattle rustling that was going on for a long time, they are the first victims of it.
“So we need to investigate how cattle rustling became a big business in Nigeria and how it affected the socio-cultural behaviour of the nomadic Fulani. They were pushed into criminality.”
‘Evil resides in Everyone’ Bandit attacks have heightened across Nigeria in the past year.
Last December, over 300 pupils were kidnapped from a boy’s secondary boarding school in Kankara, Katsina State.
Earlier this month, bandits stormed a science secondary school in Kagara, Niger State and kidnapped 41 pupils and staff. They are yet to regain their freedom.
Numerous killings have also been recorded during these bandit attacks.
But for every victim of kidnapping, these herdsmen-bandits have ten victims, Gumi said on the Monday program.
“They are killed by the military, lynched in town,” he added. “Do you know that there are situations where any man with this Fulani physique – slim, light-complexioned, even dark ones – on a motorbike is automatically arrested and incarcerated? They are being profiled.
“The Fulani herdsmen is seeing evil all around him. You can imagine when he sees his children, women, everything killed, his animals slaughtered.
“You see what happened in Oyo, his hut burnt down. Who is burning down his hut? It is somebody coming from a building, somebody coming from a car. He doesn’t own a car, he doesn’t own a building, he doesn’t enjoy anything of the Nigerian cake.
“Then you are coming, again, the little thing he has, to kill his animals. So he is seeing the evil from the other side. So each side is seeing the other’s side as evil.
“So it is the clergy that now has to come in the middle, Muslims and Christians. We have to listen to them. Demonising anybody is not appropriate. And evil is there in everybody.”
Sheikh Gumi restated his call for amnesty for victims of banditry and the herdsmen-bandits.
“Amnesty comes with a package – all victims should be looked at and the government should compensate because actually, it’s the responsibility of the government to protect people, their lives and livelihood; and they were not able to do,” he said. “So since it’s a negligence from the government, then the government should come from both sides.”
The nomadic Fulani in Nigeria has been subject to a well orchestrated campaign of calumny in all media, murder, forceful eviction, rape, cattle rustling and culling following allegations of series of Farmer Herder crises and rampant cases of kidnappings and banditry in rural Nigeria which is ascribed to their folks -the so called “Killer Herdsmen”. All criminals now make headline news. Just tag them “Fulani” and it’s breaking news.
The socio-economic and political under currents defining Nigeria’s rising criminality and low level insurgency engulfing all the periphery of our society is well known and documented. Thus the so called time bomb is now exploding and everyone seems to be gaping as if we were not warned!
Should we then be taken as serious?
With very little recourse to economic analysis Miyetti Allah or MACBAN has joined the various States and Federal actors, Conferencing and calling for meagre compensation and peace’ while legislators continue to scramble for model legislation to copy with the aim of dousing the tension as in typical Nigeria merry go round.
Unfortunately there’s no model to copy.
Every agrarian crises require home grown solutions and as in any Insurgency must be resolved using local tactics. The world will wait and watch us kill ourselves until a geo strategic interest is threatened- before any intervention is scrambled.
The farmer herder crises will remain local and the only consequence to global stability is our domestic food security and why should the world care. Just keep pumping crude oil and we can import of the food needed.
To extinguish the fire of the Farmer Herder crises and the consequential kidnapping for ransom there should be little conversation -Good Governance and buy-ins. Conversations for new forms of cattle husbandry and for new laws to mitigate the cycle of endless retaliation and crises should all be dependent on a proper understanding of the economic consequences of rustling of the “cow” eco system to a Fulani nomad and destroying lives and property and crops to a rural farmer.
Nomadic Fulani life is deeply embedded with Pulaaku and thus framing the roadmap to peaceful co-existence and reforms will require a deep analysis of Pulaaku. Every Fulani, Urbanized or Nomadic, share the Pulaaku creed which simply means-Fulani code of conduct. It represents key principles of how a Fulani must act and treat others. Pulaaku means that a Fulani must posses a reservoir of stoic sobriety, must be reserved and display strong emotional ties to cattle and must be sustainable.
Thus a Fulani must be gentle in demeanor, tacitrum, without vulgar display of wealth and knowledge; must have strong memory, never forgetful and therefrom fearless. Thus, understanding the Pulaaku creed is summarized in displays of Shamefulness, Patience, Kindness, Valour, Bravery, Dignity and Self Respect are the keys to a peaceful co-resolution needed in our rural backyard. And because our rural backyard is larger than the centers of our urbanization we are simply at war. The violation of the Pulaaku creed is the main feedstock for this decades of endless Fulani restlessness and cycle of violent conflicts.
It is therefore naive to think without resolving the violations of the creed Nigeria stand a big chance for Fulani buy-in or that the token monetary compensation on offer will be the magic wand. The straight answer is No.
It is “token “ because the compensation for rustling look like palliatives. An offer of #100,000 for rustled or culled cow is a scratch on the surface and ignores the economics and psychological attachment to the white cow which is intertwined with Pulaaku. Its simply an No No! The nomadic Fulani is somewhat hypocritical when he accept palliatives and handshakes or sit on roundtable to discuss optics on legalities in the face of what he “intrinsically “consider as irrevocable injustice because to the Fulani, the loss of a cow cannot be assessed at market value. It is what it is, if you know you know; therefore compensation conversation, to be meaningful and fair should be done at economic value which is simply the opportunity cost of the cattle.
It is very easy to estimate the losses occurring when a maize farm is destroyed by cattle. Painful to Farmer as it is but a market survey of prices for maize at any given time multiplied by acreage destroyed and a reasonable premium will ordinarily provide enough succor within which you can agree accounting cost for the right amount payable as compensation. Unlike crop farming, cattle herding and breeding requires a different set of valuation techniques based on economic opportunity cost of the alternatives foregone since a cow is a biological asset. A biological asset valuation is computed based on its life time expectancy with streams of cash flows (via milking, calving and Manure)discounted over a ten year projected averages and accounting for inflation. Simply summarized it should be based on Net Present Value (NPV.)
Thus for the Fulani a “white cow ”depending on breeding and genetics will calve approximately seven times during its lifetime, producing excess of one liter of milk for 1500 days (equivalent of four years milking ) and producing organic manure to fertilize the land and of all of these have economic value in terms of tangible benefits-cash flows, wealth accumulation, wellness and food security plus other multipliers- that’s what a cow mean to the herder, you can give it whatever interpretation, this is enlightened Pulaaku.
Therefore any disruption or threat to this cycle of prosperity gravely affects his self reliance, esteem, independence and survival simply his Pulaaku that fuels the rage of the Nomad. Like a bull in China shop the Nomad is completely delinked to our law and order, the matrix of civilization and all the perks that go with modernization such as Security, Free Education, Pensionable Employment, Free Health Care Citizenship, Subsidy and that which makes societal life abundantly humane. Thus for sustainable peaceful co-existence, the masterstroke in addressing the Nomadic questions is fair compensation.
Using NPV we estimate the economic opportunity cost of a cow, either rustled or prematurely culled at #7.5million. We took into account inflation using the net present value basis (NPV). Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand contrast sharply with the miserly One hundred Thousand Naira currently on offer as compensation for a cow-just unfair. Like the cow the bull equally has significant semen productivity value and enhanced genetics that when calculated using NPV is only 15% lower than the cow as the latter’s milking regimen tilt its valuation , thus the bull was valued at(#6million)six million naira.
Therefore it is laughable when Abia state government informs that they will compensate the Fulani with (#100,000) One hundred thousand naira for every cattle illegally culled or rustled and to have such and such buy-in needed for peaceful settlement or for Ondo state and Benue State to simply enact laws and execute new orders after fire brigade roundtable or worst to just evict the nomads humiliate them while sweeping under the carpet the issue of esteemed compensation and negating the economic consequences of such actions. It is simply buying time, derisively referred as “a loan” with compound interest for future cycle of retaliatory violence and counter attacks.
Short sighted approach like that or Palliative is akin to kicking the can for future crises and a false attempt at pulling the rug off the Fulani nomadic ecosystem. The Nomadic Fulani is not poor and is not a peasant; even though he has sparse lifestyles its all part of Pulaaku.
The Nomadic Fulani controls a sub economy estimated at between #14Trillion and #20Trillion naira in Nigeria’s informal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through effective unencumbered ownership of 22million cattle and significant ownership of 27million of the nations Sheep, Goats and Camel Population. This is part of our bedrock as a nation.
It is un reported but reliably confirmed that nearly half a million Nomadic Fulani have suffered from rustling and violent attacks with over 150,000 De-Nomadisized. Those elements are largely in the wild just roaming .Therefore when armed with AK47 easily resort to various forms of lawlessness and revenge killings, the cost of which has been escalating.
Avengers “ are easily lured to criminality and kidnapping for ransom as well as insurgency. This large number of De-nomadic avengers require a different strategy for a sustainable peaceful Nigeria.
The road to peace should sensibly start with fair compensation, audits and a modernization strategy for the livestock sub economy. With our scarce resource and Nigeria in the midst of a severe “U” shaped recession how do we chart a way forward.
My take is First, without prejudice to reformers and several study papers on long term solutions;
Nigeria should set up a One Trillion naira Victims Support Fund (VSF ) similar to Capital Market Investors protection fund initially to funded by the CBN as securitized bonds similar to AMCON. This VSF to be managed by a Board of Trustees and should compensate both farmers and herders and other victims of communal conflicts and banditry.
-The compensation for “blood” money should be pegged at a minimum of #79million – that’s the current amount set for every life lost in line with our penal codes and Sharia Diyyah practices. Putting high premium for life will serve the dual purpose of both compensation and deterrent for communities that take joy in killings of our compatriots. Refinancing for VSF shall come from direct deductions from local government statutory allocation.
-Compensation for cattle rustling should be the average NPV of #6.75million.
-Crops and Property Compensation should be the Market Value plus premium.
-Individual Criminals and Murderers must face the law and held accountable with stiff sentences including the death penalty.
-Setting up of the VSF should be by Presidential Executive Order to avert imminent domestic chaos now unfolding and the potential future loss of life, economic deprivation and massive defence expenditure needed to restore order.
The Rationale for VSF is Asymmetric. After-all we saved our banks by securitizing bad debts and spending over Five Trillion Naira on AMCON and are running the Amnesty Program now on Four Trillion Naira spend while waging war with Boko Haram which has extinguished the life of Patriots and so far gulped over Ten Trillion naira and still counting. Thus the price for peace is actionable intervention and good governance. The cries of every concerned stakeholder has been loud enough to resonate with leadership.
Secondly as minority tribe in Nigeria the Fulani elites and professionals must rise up and organize. There’s urgent need for a welcome strategy that will provide answers to the questions of De-nomadic civilization outside the framework of MACBAN. Miyetti Allah is too confrontational and its advocacy not in sync with Nigeria’s democratic aspirations why professional Fulani’s and elites have not been seen supporting.
There’s a huge space for policy advocacy, reforms and proper re-positioning of Fulani interest within Nigeria hence the call for a Fulani Congress. The Fulani Congress must step out to wear the garb of righteousness -Pulaaku at its essence and champion a transition program that will end nomadic herding within five years. The genomics of the White Fulani cow should be developed with artificial insemination using genomics of the Holstein and Jersey breeds.
With sufficient compensation and Monetization of the white cow the nomadic Fulani’s should be encouraged to reduce the size of their herds size and acquire land across Nigerias fertile landscape for Diary and Beef production. Cross country herding should be abolished outrightly and now. Every herder should take shelter in place, must stay safe and keep others safe and be audited. The cycle of violence must be ended if necessary by force, Nigeria is becoming too bloody for rational humans to want to live,
Third, cattle Monetization programme should be legislated. The policy trust and legislation should include land reforms and ownership of land to modernize subsistence agriculture and prepare Nigeria for the next fifty years of sustainable growth and development.
(Dan Bala Suleiman is an economist based in Abuja.)