The office of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday urged the Christian-majority indigenous farmers to surrender some of their ancestral lands lest they die at the hands of the nomadic Muslim Fulani terrorists accused of genocide over cattle grazing territory and resources.
“There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage,” Nigerian church denominational heads and the prominent Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) declared at the end of last month, referring to the Fulani assaults that have killed thousands so far this year.
While some human rights and analysts have denounced the killing of farmers by the Fulani as “genocide,” Femi Adesina, a special adviser to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, argued on Wednesday that relinquishing land to the Fulani killers for ranching is better than dying.
Adesina urged the farmers to allow the government of President Buhari, who is ethnically Fulani, to build ranches for the so-called herdsmen who analysts like Faith McDonnell from the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) have deemed to be jihadists or at very least just terrorists.
Asked about the indigenous farmers’ attachment to their ancestral land, Adesina reportedly responded:
In Plateau state, where we had the recent orgy of killings [by the Fulani], the government has offered land for ranches and I tell you that some people are interested in this thing not being resolved. You can only have ancestral attachment when you are alive. If you are talking about ancestral attachment when you are dead, how does the attachment matter?
Where you have land, and you can do something, please do for peace, what will the land be used for if those who own it are dead at the end of the day?
In Plateau, Fulani terrorists armed with machetes and guns massacred up to 300 people across nearly a dozen predominantly Christian villages on June 23 and 24.
Critics of Fulani President Buhari, like the CAN group, have accused the leader of downplaying and even condoning the attacks by the Muslim group.
CAN reports that no one has yet been arrested for the carnage in Plateau, noting: “Unfortunately, no armed herdsmen has ever been arrested for prosecution even when they are caught in the act.”
Referring to the proposal from the president’s office for farmers to accommodate the Fulani on their land, prominent Nigerian Christians said in a statement on June 29:
The attempt by the federal government to create cattle ranches across the country for the murderous herdsmen against the people’s resistance is an open call to anarchy by the government, indicating that there might be other ulterior motives (like taking over the inhabitants’ ancestral farming land) for the call to establish these ranches with public funds which ordinarily should have been private businesses by the cattle owners.
Southern Nigeria is home to a Christian-majority population while the northern part is predominantly Muslim. Christian leaders have urged followers of Christ to defend themselves rather than relying on the government for protection.
For years now, herdsmen from the nomadic Fulani group have attacked settled farmers who are mostly Christian as they move south in search of grazing for their cattle.
Although disputes between the Fulani and settled farming communities are largely rooted in arguments over territory, some of the attacks also carry religious overtones.
The dispute over land and other natural resources have pitted Muslim herders against Christian farming communities accused of instigating the deadly tensions by stealing cattle.
Pro-Christian organizations reject the “farmers/herdsmen clash” narrative pushed by Fulani-linked groups and some media outlets, arguing that the so-called “herdsmen” are murderous terrorists seeking to push the settled farmers out of their homeland.
Estimates of the number of farmers who have been killed by Fulani terrorists so far this year vary between 1,750 and 6,000, including women and children.
Currently, the Fulani “jihadis” are deadlier than the U.S.-designated terrorist group Boko Haram.
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