Following the call to herdsmen to go back to the north when it seemed southerners are not in support of RUGA, the umbrella body of the herdsmen, Miyetti Allah has called on its members to defend themselves against ethnic militia attacks in the southern region of the country.
In a statement by its National Secretary, Saleh Alhassan, on Saturday, maintained that herdsmen have constitutional right to movement across the federation and would not give it up out of fear.
The group also warned politicians against politicising spate of killing across the country amid growing tension generated by the RUGA altercation between the northern societies and other ethnic groups in the country.
The statement reads in part: “We are Nigerians and we have a history. Anybody that thinks he can wake up and take on the Fulani pastoralist is making a grievous mistake; we are well prepared to defend our fundamental human rights of movement in this country.
“They (herdsmen) are Nigerians, so they are entitled to stay where they are. They should remain where they are and defend themselves against ethnic militia and assert their citizenship in this country.
“The only thing we would say is that we will hold all the governors of those states responsible for their safety and security, but if any ethnic militia, by any name, attacks our members, they should defend themselves in a manner that nobody would try such again.
“We have been saying it that people behind insecurity are not herders; bandits are behind these killings, and if the government is saying foreigners have infiltrated the herders, have they been arrested and what is their nationality? Anybody that is trying to destabilise this country should be dealt with.”
Alhassan also berated the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) for calling on the herdsmen to vacate south region.
According to him, Fulani herdsmen are Nigerians who will not leave any part of the country for whatsoever reason.
He added: “Those so-called northern youths called coalition of northern groups should note that if because of their action any herder is killed, we will first look for them before we go after our enemies.
“We are Nigerians and we are not going anywhere. Our attachment to the land is opportunistic; we don’t farm the land. So, if anybody is thinking that because he has cultivated the land in a particular place for long and he has rights there more than us, then we would ask where is the grazing area that the colonial masters created for us?”
“Politicians can play their politics but they should leave our people out of it because it is the desperate politicians that are causing this confusion and they are looking for anything to hang on to, but we are watching them critically.
“If you threaten the herders, they react; they cannot be used for any political game because we have our way of defending ourselves. We hate injustice and we fight it. Anybody that thinks we can be squeezed is making a mistake,” the group said.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had derided the CNG over its call for cattle rearers to leave the south part of Nigeria in the wake of bitter dialogue raised by the suspended RUGA settlement.