Bauchi Governor Bala Mohammed has doubled down on his justification for arms-bearing herdsmen, stating that the use of ‘AK-47 is a figure of speech for protection’
“It is a figure of speech to show you the despondence, the desperation and frustration and the agony that this particular person is exposed to by his own people, by his own tribe and by other tribes who have all seen him as a criminal and therefore, he has the inalienable right to protect himself,” Mr. Mohammed said while appearing on a Channels TV programme on Friday.
The governor insisted that the Fulani herdsmen need protection because they are demonised and dehumanised when they roam into foreign lands with their cattles and also suffer attacks from cattle rustlers who steal from them.
“The Fulani man is so exposed, dehumanised, demonised in fact, because he is being seen as a bandit and so, anywhere he goes, he is being pursued. Not only in the southwest or the southeast, even in the north because he is in the cattle route.
Mr. Mohammed also alleged that herdsmen were being fined heavily whenever their cows stray into people’s farms, saying such encroachment was inevitable because cattle routes “have been taken away.”
“Sometimes, they are fined beyond your imagination. If one cow strays into the farm because the cattle route has been taken away illegally without the authority giving permission, he will be fined seriously, mercilessly,” he said.
Arguing further, the governor asserted that the pastoralists have been left with no choice than to arm themselves with assault weapons.
“We have so many vigilante groups in Nigeria even at the level of government…sub regional groups, subnationals are establishing vigilante groups to make sure that their communities are protected.
“Why wouldn’t the Fulani man protect himself? And if he carries a gun in order to protect himself, it may not be a legal carriage, it may be legal. He may also register and carry it to protect himself,” Mr. Mohammed queried.
The Bauchi governor’s retort comes, following backlashes from his earlier take on the issue. He had attacked fellow governors, particularly Benue and Ondo governors, for moving to curb excesses of Fulani herdsmen in their domain
“Southern governors are wrong,” Mr. Mohammed chimed at a journalists’ event in Bauchi.
”The Fulani man is practicing the tradition of trans-human, pastoralism, he has been exposed to the battery of the forests, the animals, and now, the cattle rustlers, who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth – that is his cows – he had no option than to carry Ak-47 because the society and the government are not protecting him.”
“It is not his fault, it is the fault of the government and the people; you don’t criminalise all of them because in every tribe there are criminals. You should be very sensitive. We have to be careful,” Governor Mohammed said.
However, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and Samuel Ortom have since condemned his statement, accusing him of betraying his oath of office to support illegalities due to ethnic affiliation.