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3 Mar 2018

Our innocent women, children were murdered by youths in reprisals –Residents of Adamawa Fulani communities

The violence that recently occurred in Numan Local Government Area of Adamawa State left indelible impressions on those lucky to be alive.
The burnt houses and deserted homes at Bachama dominated communities of Shaforon, Kikang and Kodomti in the local government area are strong enough to tell the blow of pain and sorrow that many people have been dealt there.

Somehow, in the aftermath of the crisis in the area, life has to go on for its people, but from Saturday PUNCH’s observation, it will take a long time for its residents to fully recover from the experience.

The crisis has been between the host community, who are predominantly farmers, and herdsmen, who are mostly of Fulani extraction. Both sides have claimed casualties as the Fulani community in Numan have alleged that they lost many loved ones in an attack on them suspected to have been carried out as a reprisal by some members of the host communities.

A Fulani leader in the area, known as Wakilin Kikang, Alhaji Muhammadu Adu, said three months before his community was attacked, they received a warning that they should leave the area.

Adu said he was summoned by a community leader in Numan, Wakilin Numan, Chief Philip Goki, who told him to inform his subjects that the decision of the indigenes was that Fulani people should leave their domain.

But he said no reason was given by the Wakilin Numan as the reason for the decision.

Earlier, some suspected Fulani herdsmen had attacked communities in Numan, killing people and burning houses.

“The warning that we should leave came shortly before November 20, 2017, when some people carried out a reprisal by attacking our community and killing women and children,” he told Saturday PUNCH.

Adu, who has since fled the area and taken refuge in Mayo-Belwa, claimed that 73 persons were killed in the attack on his community.

The Adamawa State Police Command had reportedly put the death toll in the Shaforon attacks, as reported in The PUNCH Newspaper of November 21, 2017, at 27. However, the police Public Relations Officer, Abubakar Othman, later reviewed the figure and came up with 53.

Recalling his conversation with Goki, Adu, who spoke to our correspondent from his place of refuge in Mayo-Belwa, said, “I asked to know why we must leave, but I was given no tangible reason. In deference to the Wakilin Numan, 3,000 Fulani in the area and I were packing our belongings and getting ready to leave when we were attacked. They came around 3pm in broad daylight and descended on our cattle.

“They burnt down our homes and everyone that was in sight. Our children and wives were not spared. They butchered women and children with machetes.  We don’t know the motives behind these attacks; we just don’t understand it. Our forefathers and fathers lived there and they co-existed peacefully.

“We lost 73 persons in the attack, most of them women and children. Over 1,000 cattle were also lost, apart from goats, sheep, our personal belongings, food supplies and monies we had in our homes. Even though my wife and seven children are safe, I lost over 40 of my cattle. My family is with me here in Mayo-Belwa, but there is no single Fulani in Kikang at the moment; we all fled during the attack.”

An Islamic cleric, Ibrahim Bello, who commented on the Kikang attack, told Saturday PUNCH that the loss of his 17-year-old son, Saleh Gidado, sometime back, had caused him immense grief and distress.

Bello said Gidado had gone out herding cattle at Bolon area two years ago and had yet to return. He said the cows Gidado was herding were later found, while his son’s whereabouts remained a mystery.

According to Bello who used to reside in Bolon, a community in Demsa Local Government Area of the state, the Fulani has “sacrificed a lot for peace.”

He demanded that the killings of his kinsmen should be investigated so that justice would be served.

He said, “The Fulani are peace-loving people. Anybody who accuses the Fulani of always fomenting trouble does not really understand the Fulani man because his only resource is his cattle.

“If he foments trouble and there is no peace, he knows this will imperil him and predispose his cattle and family to all sorts of danger. These cattle are our wealth and treasure.

“We live in the wild and do not dwell in the cities because of them. This is why we always do all we can to ensure we live in peace with other members of the community.

“But every time anything goes wrong, they accuse us of being behind it and then impose fine on us. And we usually pay such fine whether it is justified or not, just to allow for peace to reign. It appears at some points that we are the only ones suing for peace.”

Bello said although there were no Fulani left in Bolon, many of the inhabitants wished they had not left because of the value they added to the community.

According to him, many Fulani like him fled Bolon because they feared for their lives.

“My family and I fled to Ngurore. I want my son to know that I am still awaiting his return if he is alive. When he went missing two years ago, the cattle he was herding were later found but he has never been seen since he left,” he said.

The head of another community in the area, Sarki Fulani Volpi District, Abdullahi Ahmadu, said the attacks first began in Numan before it later spread to Volpi.

According to him, many lives and properties were also lost in the violence.

“We believe these attacks are being fuelled by unruly Bachama youths.

The Hama Bachama is doing his best, but we believe there are some forces behind the violence,” he said.

According to Abdullahi, some militant youths had attacked a Fulani settlement in Volpi on January 22, 2018 and burnt down their houses, killing two children in the process.

He said shortly after the bodies of the deceased children were recovered, another attack was launched.

Abdullahi insisted that the attacks on Volpi were a reprisal because they came shortly after reports of attacks on Numan reached the area, adding that the reports escalated the crisis.

He said, “We really don’t know those behind this violence because we have lived peacefully up until now. All we know is that our homes have been destroyed. We lost everything. Even the nomadic school built by the government for our children was destroyed by the attackers.

“The number of women and children who have now moved out of Volpi is more than 3,000.”

Many of those who fled communities that were attacked have been given sanctuary by the Sarkin Fulani Namtari, Abdullahi Umaru.

According to Abdullahi, some Fulani people that fled the area after the attacks had relocated to Cameroon and other parts of Adamawa.

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