The Massacre At Agatu By Fulani Herdsmen
I’m posting the final report from a dear friend who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Benue State, following the recent Fulani massacre. This is not the first time atrocities will be committed by Fulani militants, but hopefully, the last.
1. Our convoy doubled to 10 cars plus soldiers, police and bikers. We had two-three minute stops. At one, I ventured ahead of the security perimeter and discovered our first decomposing body. A first even for me. I usually count tombstones.
- Our convoy ran into the Fulani herdsmen and droves of cattle on multiple occasions. Sometimes we stopped to let them cross not knowing if it was an ambush. They were right outside our windows. No one wanted to engage because the outcome was unpredictable. I have never seen free range killers walking free before.
However, our security escort did engage when they saw several armed Fulanis on a bike trying to flee. They abandoned one man who was injured and he was taken into our custody. Our captured killer didn’t survive the rough terrain drive.
- In the only village where we saw human survivors, we were told these people had just been attacked and were alerted we were coming so they bolted and ran into us.
(Fulani militants claim local residents killed 10,000 of their cattle).
It is simply inconceivable and logistically improbable to kill 10,000 cows without a major military operation utilizing rocked propelled grenades, attack helicopters etc. such a mass slaughter would take weeks and the skeletal remains of the cows would completely dot the landscape of Agatu and the stench would permeate the air.
What I saw in Agatu:
- Dead human bodies still on the ground and in homes – decomposed.
- Cows roaming through empty villages and in one case walking up to a dead human body. We left before the sacrilege of them desecrating the poor dead boy.
- Thousands and thousands of cattle grazing on people’s farms – well over 10,000 live cattle. Several times we had to stop our cars to let the cattle pass. I have never seen that many cattle in my entire life.
- Burnt crops farmers had harvested and set aside for replanting. They were in charred heaps on the farms.
- Fulani herdsmen accompanying the cattle. Some ran when they saw us but some just continued as if we didn’t exist.
- Grains of farmers, peppers etc scattered on the ground in the towns and also along the way between the villages. The likely belonged to people on their way back from farms or markets or people fleeing with some food who were ambushed as they ran.
- Motor bikes and bicycles destroyed in the villages and on the road side in between. Again it appears people who were fleeing on bikes were ambushed as well.
- Rows and rows of houses destroyed in at least 8 villages visited. It was complete and utter destruction.
- Freshly lit fires still burning in a couple of villages indicating the arsonist had just left. We saw jerrycans along the way indicating fuel may have been utilized to fuel the fires.
- Only in one out of 8 towns did we see any live humans – about 4 men.
What we didn’t see in Agatu this week:
1. Not a single dead cow
2. Not a single soldier or policeman in the affected communities.
3. Not a single burnt mosque where everything else was razed.
4. Not a single living Agatu person in 7 out of 8 villages.
Conclusion: even if it were true that cattle were killed by the Agatu (there was no supporting evidence of this) the farms, homes and people of Agatu were massacred as well-evidenced by our team.
- If the claimed casualties of the Fulani are cows and the claimed casualties of the Agatu are humans, then this could not be rightly called an Ethnic conflict. Cows are not people or an ethnic group.
- If the loss claimed by the Fulani is livestock i.e. animals, this would be a criminal case of theft or destruction of property and not the basis for a massacre.
- The Fulani are not indigenes of Benue and are not an ethnic group in Benue state. Their incursion from outside into Benue is more an invasion than an ethnic clash.
Finally, the statement attributed to the Fulani is an admission of guilt and a defense of provocation. The authorities should act accordingly and take the confessed perpetrators into custody for immediate prosecution.
Finally, I recall the State governor telling us the Fulani attacks are worse than Boko Haram – “BH occupies a town, kills some people and recruits some. The Fulanis destroy everything.”
This seems not to be an exaggeration. Last year, the Catholic Church reported 70 churches destroyed. This is happening in my home state – the most Christian State in Northern Nigeria!”