Sunday, 14 January 2018

Fact-Check: Is Miyetti Allah a Terrorist Organisation?

By Israel Ugochukwu Usulor


President Muhmmadu Buhari
Since the January 1st and 2nd mass murder of farmers in Benue state by those suspected to be Fulani Herdsmen, the call for the Federal Government of Nigeria led by Muhammadu Buhari, to declare Miyetti Allah as a terrorist organisation has become louder. The call became loudest and ubiquitous after the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, (the umbrella body for cattle herders in Nigeria), came out in the open and made statements suggestive of its prior knowledge of the Benue bloodbath that sent 72 souls into a mass grave.
In an interview he granted the BBC Pigdin, Garus Gololo, the President of Miyetti Allah in Benue state said they attacked in self defense:
“While we were trying to relocate to Taraba State, through Nassarawa State to the border town of Nengere, some rustlers came and stole about 1000 cows from us and we have to fight back.”
Benue has enacted an anti-grazing law that restricted grazing in the state to ranches.
This is probably the first time the body is coming out in the open to claim responsibility for deaths but with the cliché that “we have to fight back” which means they fought in self defense against alleged rustlers.
Though the images coming from Benue state (such as those of defenseless women and children) who were cut open, make Gololo’s claim of rustlers highly debatable.

Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue

However, provoked or unprovoked, the consensus among many Nigerians seem to be that Miyetti Allah and its comrades ought to be proscribed with the speed of light.
But what does the law (local or international) say about such bodies perceived to be merchants of death? TheJournalistBlog decided to check the facts and here is what we found:
The United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution 51/210, 1996 described terrorist-related activities as:
“Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”
Similarly, the Security Council of the UN in its resolution 1566, 2002, described terrorist acts as:
“criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offenses within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature.”
The Fulani Herdsmen have been accused of doing all these and even more. This year alone, the group is being suspected to be responsible for 72 deaths in Benue state alone. Villages, ancestral homes were also sacked in the two-day attack resulting to the displacement of close to 80,000 persons from Guma, and Logo Local Governments of the state.
Last year, Fulani Herdsmen were responsible for the death of 40 persons in Ukpabi Nimbo in Enugu state and another 500 deaths attributed to them in Agatu Local Government of Benue state by Former Senate President David Mark who refereed to the activities of the Fulanis in the following words:
“I’m shocked beyond words at the extent of destruction I have seen here in Agatu today. This is unbelievable. It is unimaginable . Nothing whatsoever justifies this brazen act of destruction meted out on the people of Agatu. My heart bleeds.”
Among other things, section 2 of the Nigerian Terrorist Prevention Act of 2011 (ammended in 2013), further describes act of terrorism as “an act which is deliberately done with malice, aforethought and which:
(a)   May seriously harm or damage a country or an international organization; (b) is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been intended to— (i)unduly compel a government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act; (ii)seriously intimidate a population; (iii)seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization; or (iv)otherwise influence such government or international organization by intimidation or coercion; and (c) involves or causes, as the case may be— (i)an attack upon a person's life which may cause serious bodily harm or death.”
Internally displaced persons at the Ochidoma Palace, Otukpo (Photo: Premium Times)
In 2015, Fulani Herdsmen were placed 4th on the Global Terrorism Index as one of the deadliest teror group in the world besides Boko Haram, Isis, and al-Shabab. Nigerians believes this is more than an indictment and should serve as a catalyst for the proscription of Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body for cattle breeders and herders in Nigeria.
In a poll conducted by Punch Newspaper on whether the group should be banned, one Nigerian wrote: “Miyetti Allah should be banned, not only proscribing the evil organisation’s activities, their leaders, sponsors, and all those involved in the killings of innocent souls should be arrested and prosecuted without delay; as we are talking we don’t know what next these herdsmen are planning in Benue and other neighbouring states,”
It is within the powers of the President or the Attorney General of The Federal, through the courts to make such declarations as specified by part 2 Section 1(c) of the Terrorism Prevention Act (2011). It states:
“setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in Chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President; declare any entity to be a proscribed organization and the notice should be published in official gazette.”
On why the group has not been so declared, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammad told BBC Focus on Africa last year that the activities of Herdsmen which are “acts of criminality should not be confused with terrorism acts” 

Verdict: Based on extant local and international laws and available evidence, and also the various atrocities being attributed to the group, and also compared to other groups such as IPOB that were relatively peaceful (and which have been proscribed), it may be safe for one to say that violent Fulani Herdsmen are terrorists. Although the group has always denied this charge maintaining that it fights only in self defense.
Israel Ugochukwu Usulor is the publisher of thejournalistblog.com
Find him on twitter @IsraelJonalist, and on Facebook @ Israel Ugochukwu Jouranlist. 

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