The hub of herder-farmer battle for supremacy across Nigeria may be shifting to Idomaland in Benue State where four Idoma youths were killed Saturday in an encounter between them and herders said to be too well armed. It is the battle to reclaim Umogidi in Adoka District where the struggle for control of Agatu has shifted.
The youth who have beaten a retreat from the encounter at the moment testified to being overwhelmed in the encounter. While they went to war with the local dane gun, their Other were armed to the teeth with AMG, BPG and AK47. Not only are they helmeted, the militia of the herders also appeared in military fatigue, said one of the youth who is obviously the leader of the Idomaland counter militia.
In the account giving video sent to Intervention, the spokesperson of the youth militia estimates the herder militia to be around 700, meaning another advantage over them in the encounter. Nowhere in the video is there any mention of the military’s awareness of the rapid advance of the herders’ militia.
There are no contrary accounts to confirm or challenge the video account as at press time but it is well known that a fertile stretch of land with water all year round within Agatu has been a battleground between elements loosely referred to as herders and the farmers in the area since February 2016.
It is not clear what the endgame is since violence will not allow any parties use the water resource. This empirical observation must be the basis of the perception that the resort to a militia on the part of the herders has another agenda beyond climate change.
Nobody has offered an explicit response confirming such an agenda. In fact, Muhammadu Buhari, immediate past president of Nigeria noted that the herders he knew were identifiable with nothing more than a stick and their cattle herds. The atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust is such that no side can properly hear the other.
Meanwhile, an atmosphere of fear pervades the land. Hunger is also real as no farming is taking place in many communities due to the onslaught of the herders militia.
Ordinarily, this should not be a problem since no groups are entitled to being armed except security operatives of the Nigerian State such as the police, the military and authorised agencies. The inability of the state to assert the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence is another ground for suspicion of something sinister unfolding gradually.
But what sort of sinister agenda that is not vulnerable to change of regimes, of service chiefs, of headship of the federal police and just about any and everything? It looks like a different and more satisfactory explanation is needed!