Somali solution to killings by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria By Abimbola Lagunju

There is a Yoruba proverb that says, “iwakuwa ni a nwa ohun ti o ba sonu” which literally translates as “to find a lost item, you have to look for it in the most improbable places”. The word “item” here is not limited to physical objects, it could be solution to an intractable problem of relationship, health or good luck. Following the same logic is the common wisdom that solutions to a particular nagging problem can be sometimes be sourced from the most unexpected quarters.

Abimbola Lagunju

Despite public outrage and outcry at the killing of innocent citizens by Fulani herdsmen in Benue, Plateau and Taraba States and more recently in Kogi, it appears that the President, Mr Muhammadu Buhari does not have any solution to stop the killings. Besides visits of appeasement to the affected states, there has not been any concrete radical policy or a promise of one from the Federal Government to stop the barbarity. Mr Buhari appears to be sitting on the fence just like his predecessor did when Boko Haram raged and conquered territory in some North Eastern states. Just like Mr. Jonathan, Mr. Buhari is hoping that the problem will simply go away without getting involved. But this problem won’t go away so soon. It needs a long-lasting solution.

The National Assembly has not proposed any solutions either. They are thinking about the next election timetable, whether the cart should come before the horse or the vice versa. As the Yorubas would say again, “won fi ete sile, won npa lapalapa” which means the alabosi doctors of the National Assembly ignore leprosy infection in a patient, only to dedicate their time to curing his ringworm. They make the right noise after each killing and then move on.

Affected states and others in potential fire-line of the herdsmen have hurriedly passed what they call anti- open grazing laws which some people in important places, who can really put a stop to the killings have criticized the laws as undesirable. Anti-open grazing law discourages roaming about with animals outside confinements. It does not talk about what to do when the herdsmen kill farmers and innocent citizens. It presupposes that the existing Criminal Act or Law is sufficient to deal with criminality of the herdsmen.

“Iwakuwa”! On 18th March, 2018, just two days ago, BBC published a story under the headline “Somalia clans secure peace with death sentence and hefty fines” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-43450535 . When I read this article, I thought, “Voila! This is the solution to herdsmen killings in Nigeria.” It is a primitive solution, but a simple one that everyone understands. BBC calls it “macabre” solution to “a macabre problem”. We need such simple solutions like this to our intractable problems in Nigeria.

Nigeria seems to have more in common with Somalia than with any state in ECOWAS region. Together, we share the bottom of all indices like infant and child mortality, unemployment, dangerous business environment, criminality, violent adult death rates, state failure, corruption etc. Like Nigeria, Somalia is a killing field. They have El Shabbab, we have Boko Haram; they have clan violence, we have ethnic violence; they have suicide bombers, we have suicide bombers; they have murderous herdsmen, we have killer-herdsmen; they have a federal state they do not understand, we have a federal state that we do not understand and we want to restructure. Somalia is a country with which Nigeria can compare notes of failure. We need closer ties with Somalia. Since geography does not seem to matter again for the membership of ECOWAS (a la recent attempts by Morocco), Nigeria may as well sponsor Somalia as a member of the regional body.

However, unlike Nigeria, Somalia has responsible elders. They want to put a stop to the senseless killings by some clans. Here, in Nigeria, the elders defend killing of others by members of their ethnic groups.

BBC reports that “There has long been tension between many Somali clans due to rivalry and competition over resources such as grazing land for livestock or access to water.”
According to the report, after three weeks of negotiation and mediation, the clan leaders with some officials reached the following solutions:
1. Anyone found guilty of carrying out a revenge killing or vendetta will face a death sentence.
2. The family of the perpetrator will also have to pay a $100,000 (£72,000) fine.
3. If someone comes to a communal area like a bore hole or a grazing area with a gun then the army or the police should confiscate the gun. If he refuses to hand over the weapon they should shoot him straight away in the head.

This package of harsh solutions bypasses the legal system. It is a direct agreement between elders and binding on all members of the clans. It may as well serve as the building blocks of co-existence in Somalia of the future.

All the three solutions are adaptable and applicable to the problem of killings by Fulani herdsmen. As for Solution Number 2, Miyetti Allah which stands as the moral and legal person for the herdsmen will pay the fine to each of the families of victims. This same solution is applicable to IPOB, OPC and all other organizations in whose names murder is committed.

Just like in Somalia, these solutions may also serve as foundation for peaceful inter-ethnic relationship and co-existence in future Nigeria.

“Iwakuwa ni a nwa ohun ti o ba sonu”

Culled from Abimbola Lagunju – A Civil Society of One

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