In the wee hours of 1 January, when most Nigerians were still in a joyous mood, celebrating the New Year, some Fulani herdsmen reportedly attacked innocent citizens in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State. The mindless and unprovoked attack, according to reports, went on for hours and indeed continued until the early hours of 2 January. By the time the attack ended, over 70 citizens had been hacked or shot dead; hundreds survived with various degrees of injuries; while thousands were displaced and hundreds of huts and houses were destroyed.
On Thursday 11, January, the Benue State government organised a funeral ceremony and gave a mass burial to 73 victims of the attack in Makurdi. They were buried amidst tears, wailings, crying and gnashing of teeth by thousands of Benue State residents who trooped out to attend the funeral.
That such a wanton massacre can take place in Nigeria in the 21st century when the country is not at war is a sad commentary for this nation. That this is not the first nor the last time such violent butchery of defenceless citizens will take place in this country without prompt and appropriate retribution for the criminals is even more disgraceful.
How did we get to this point where the nation is no longer shocked by such regular desecration of human lives? Why do some citizens callously resort to senseless killings because of disagreements on issues that could be discussed and resolved? And why is the Nigerian nation, the so called giant of Africa, seemingly impotent to stop these blood-thirsty criminals in their tracks?
It is befuddling that right before our eyes, Nigeria is transmuting into an Hobbesian jungle where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. It is gradually becoming indefensible to say that this country has thousands of security agents (Army, Police, Navy, Air Force etc.) who are being paid every month and expected to diligently deliver on the task of protecting lives and properties of citizens and protect the territorial integrity of the nation.
This is because if the security agents had been diligent, such nefarious attacks by these criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen would not go on for hours in about five communities in Benue State without prompt and appropriate intervention to save lives. Has the Nigerian state forgotten that the first and main purpose of government is to protect lives and properties?
I learnt that there is, at least one, operative of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) in each of the 774 local government councils in Nigeria and that they are mandated with helping to gather security information to help preempt crimes such as the ones by these herdsmen. If these officers were diligently delivering on their mandates, we shouldn’t be having these frequent killings by herdsmen and other bandits across many states and communities in Nigeria.
It is high time we did a holistic overhaul of the security system of this nation and make the system deliver on the task of protecting lives and properties. We cannot continue to depend on a security system whose operatives constantly resort to buck-passing as excuse for dereliction of duty. Perhaps, the time is also now right to reconsider the idea of a state police so that governors can indeed be the chief security officers (CSOs) of their states. Right now, they are only CSOs in name only as even the commissioners of police in states take orders from Abuja.
I must also stress that the federal government has been very poor in the handling of the herdsmen problem. This government must stop being reactive and become proactive in tackling the problems of this nation. If this worrisome herdsmen issue had been proactively addressed, many innocent citizens whose lives have been wasted and properties destroyed would have been saved. This ugly trend must stop.