No longer at ease: Pastoralist attack survivors unsettled in Nigeria | Features

Igangan, Nigeria – One sunny afternoon in April, Rahmata Adeagbo, sitting in bed in her brother’s house where she lives, stared at the visitors.

“Ade-lo-wo… Ade-a-gbo,” the 50-year-old muttered after a long silence, painfully stringing together the syllables of her late husband’s name.

On June 5, 2021, he stepped out after receiving a call that nomadic herders had surrounded their town, Igangan, a town 176km away. [109 miles] from Lagos. The next time she saw him, his body was covered with bullet holes, one of 11 people died in attack.

Prior to that episode, Igangan and six neighboring towns – all in Oyo State – experienced a number of clashes stemming from disagreements between indigenous Yoruba farmers and nomadic Fulani herders.

At the root of the crisis is the grazing of cattle on farmland across Nigeria but the fight for resources has been exacerbated by climate change across the Sahel, which is degrading economic conditions. and in some cases ethnicity and religion; The nomads are predominantly Muslim and the farmers are predominantly Christian.

The entire village has been relocated and School is closed for the next sessions. Interstate food supply chains have been disrupted as cattle markets have flattened and farmers have either been unable to care for their crops or have seen them destroyed.

In central NigeriaThe World Food Program said earlier this year that in a hotspot, up to 13 million people were at risk of hunger.

According to Amnesty International, between 2016 and 2018, 3,641 people died nationwide from conflict. The majority of reported victims were Indigenes and the herders are said to be the invadersfrequently launched deadly raids.

But even in the southwest, where the prevalence of interfaith households and religious tolerance is considered to be highest in the nation, these clashes have become rife. In recent years, it has shifted to more dangerous aspects involving kidnapping, rape, highway robbery and coordinated destruction of farmland.

In 2019, a public anti-grazing law addressed what many experts have identified as the root cause of disagreements – resource sharing – as through the become law in Oyo. But it hasn’t been done yet.

Two years later, as attacks in Igangan continued without the perpetrators being arrested, NGOs led by a Yoruba nationalist activist, Sunday Adeyemo Igboho, destroyed residents’ property Fulani people.

Residents told Al Jazeera that this eviction and the controversies that followed likely prompted the June 5 attack.

Losing faith more and more

According to a report [PDF] of the International Crisis Group, factors that have made Nigeria’s livestock crisis worse range from punishing and eroding trust in the country’s security forces to its response. poor government response to early warnings.

For years, the national security architecture has been greatly exaggerated by armed groups waging riots in northeast, northwest and central Nigeria.

In January 2020, as cases of insecurity spiked in Southwest Nigeria, six state governors in the region agreed to establish a regional security network. It is codenamed Amotekun (Yoruba means clouded leopard). The federal government opposed the move, citing constitutional concerns, so governors redesigned it as a state-level security guard to assist the police, controlled by Abuja.

At Bang Oyo, the outfit debuted in November 2020.

Although the June 2021 attack remains the last large-scale attack coordinated by herders against the inhabitants of any of the seven neighboring towns, residents told Al Jazeera that the reduction in recent attacks nor the government’s efforts did not allay their fears.

Matthew Page, an associate at UK-based Chatham House, said their decision not to trust the authorities’ promises of safety was justified, explaining that “security agencies are not effective”. results because the government has tolerated widespread corruption and turned a blind eye to the failures of its operations”.

Idayat Hassan, director of Abuja-based CDD, agrees, saying that it is hard for people to trust the state because it has lost its monopoly on fighting violence.

“The inability of the state to respond even when informed about the attacks also leads people to believe that they are complicit or abetting,” she said. “This further erodes the inherent trust between the people and the government.”

Peaceful and Uncomfortable

Before her husband’s death, Adeagbo was a housewife who occasionally worked in the fields but her mental health began to suffer and she could no longer work.

“When her husband passed away, she went through a serious emotional problem,” her brother, Akeem Rasheed, told Al Jazeera. “Her husband’s death and the lack of resources to serve her children pushed her to the brink.”

Initially, he took her to the nearest psychiatric hospital, 77km [48 miles] from town, for treatment. After two months, he had to take her home because he could no longer afford her hospital bills.

“They allowed me to take her away because I promised to continue taking her for regular checkups, which I haven’t done because I don’t have the money anymore,” Rasheed said.

As her mental state declines, her family is clinging to the hope that she will get well and the town won’t be attacked again.

But despite no attacks in recent months, residents of other communities in the area are choosing pragmatism over hope.

Across villages in the state of Ogun, next to Lagos, residents are moving to the neighboring Republic of Benin. One of them was Clement Oyebanjo, a teacher in the village of Agbon, who moved there briefly last February after an attack in his village killed four people.

“We were uncomfortable and slept with our eyes closed because we knew that as long as open grazing was not banned, these Fulani grazers would return,” said Oyebanjo, who is ready to return to Benin if a another attack occurs.

‘Violent businessman’

After Igangan was attacked in June, its inhabitants created a new vigilante group. One of its members, Emmanuel Oguntoyinbo, had his younger brother shot dead by attackers on his motorcycle while returning from a party.

“We, the young people of the town, decided that we needed to do it because initially, the community hired some policemen from outside, but when the government refused to pay, they left. ,” the 35-year-old told Al Jazeera.

Each night, armed with Dane’s guns and charms, they take positions across town while others patrol strategic locations in groups. The community’s youth group leader, Olayiwola Olusegun, told Al Jazeera that each household contributes monthly money to provide ammunition.

In Agbon, the local guard group continues to recruit new members. In neighboring Ibeku, residents are now wary of visitors and report unidentified faces immediately to the town’s traditional ruler.

In Ondo State, dozens of elderly residents of communities such as Okeluse and Molege, also fled, while the young people who stayed behind took up arms to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, Wasiu Olatunbosun, the Oyo state’s information commissioner, told Al Jazeera that the government has placed machines to ensure the security of towns like Igangan. He emphasized that residents who claimed to stay up all night fearing another attack must be opposition members.

For experts like Page, the result of these moves could be an “expansion of violent businessmen” and more instability even as citizens accept the right to self-defense as justifiable.

The only difference, he said, between “a vigilante, political thug, insurgent, or bandit is for whom or for what reason he fights”.

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