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National security implications of Miyetti Allah’s ‘Nomad Vigilante Group’

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The Fulani socio-cultural organisation in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, established the “Nomad vigilante group” in Nassarawa state on Wednesday, January 17, 2024. The Miyetti Allah’s national president, Bello Bodejo, stated that the security group will support law enforcement in their efforts to battle criminal activity within the state. He added that 1,144 Fulani youths who were chosen from different communities within the state’s 13 LGAs comprise the vigilante organisation.

The ethnic vigilante group received tacit official approval by the presence of the commissioner of Police for Nasarawa state CP Umar Nadada represented by Assistant Commissioner of Police Operation, ACP Abdulaziz Aliyu who was full of praise for the security initiative.

When completely formed, the group will serve as the centre and forerunner of a nationwide Fulani security force that is said will be extended to other parts of the country. Because of its ethnic conception and scope, it has implications for national security and peace.

Not long later, a purported CAC certificate granted to Nomad Vigilante Nigeria Ltd began making the rounds on the internet and was said to be the registration of the Miyetti Allah Vigilante group. Due diligence was done, and a search using the CAC portal produced negative results. This indicates that the group in question is probably not yet registered with the CAC as either a security concern or an NGO. This has implications for peace and national security as well.

General Sani Abacha, a former head of state of Nigeria, once remarked: “If an insurgency lasts longer than 24 hours, the government has a hand in it “. The late general, who was politically astute and battle-hardened, spoke from experience, and his remarks resonated and demonstrated how insecurity spread throughout Nigeria and how it was cultivated from inception.

In particular, Miyetti Allah has been at the centre of the controversy of farmers/herders conflict and has shown little interest in the government’s efforts to resolve the issue between Nigerian farmers and herders. Members of Miyetti Allah, the apex organisation for cattle breeders in Nigeria and beyond, are embroiled in ongoing conflicts with farmers throughout Africa. There have been disproportionate killings and counter-killings between the two groups, the reason there is no love lost between them.

It is evident who is the aggressor in this situation, even without assigning blame. Cattle are allowed by herders to enter the farmlands. Videos showing herders uprooting crops and feeding their livestock have also been shown around for all to see. Cattle herders in Nigeria have maintained that, as a result of the fundamental human right to freedom of movement, they have the right to travel anywhere they like.

Indeed, Nigerians are free to move wherever they choose, but it would be absurd and false to extend this freedom to animals like cattle. Where one person’s right ends is where another’s begins, and when this is contrasted with the freedom of movement, trespassing is illegal since it infringes upon someone else’s fundamental human right to life and existence.

To safeguard its members and their cattle, Miyetti Allah has now established a Vigilante group. This is wrong and dangerous because it creates an environment that will encourage segregation and the formation of armed ethnic vigilante groups or even militias. The nation’s constitution is being violated and assaulted by this.

To comprehend this viewpoint and its extreme risk, let’s look at an example. Nothing prevents “Nigeria Farmers Vigilante” from being formed by the farmers’ associations. Given that both factions are armed, formally established, and have engaged in internecine hostilities both within and outside of Nigeria, the country has inadvertently permitted the establishment of two armies that will engage in positional and decisive battles in the time to come.

This is unavoidable since Nigeria cannot forbid Nigeria Farmers Vigilante from forming and operating after allowing the Nomad Vigilante Group to exist. Since the government has already permitted its equivalent to exist in law as a precedent, the farmers will successfully challenge the ban on farmers’ vigilantes in court if it occurs.

It gets even worse since, in addition, Miyetti Alla’s Vigilante Group is unregistered. It implies that the Miyetti Allah is operating an unauthorised armed organisation, which constitutes an affront to the nation’s national security.

Nigerians ought to be aware of the prerequisites that turn a group into a terrorist organisation, which could be present in the Miyetti Allah vigilante and similar groups. Despite being one of the worst terror groups in the world according to the World Terror Index, it will be foolhardy to allow herdsmen to operate as an armed group in Nigeria.

Permit me to draw some distinctions here as well. We used to frequently see Fulani cattle herders in the surrounding bushes and forests as children. To protect their animals from wolves, they carried sticks across their shoulders. No one ever saw a herder carrying a rifle those decades back. However, something has drastically changed as of late. Either the gun-wielding herders have supplanted the traditional Fulani herders, or the two have merged.

In either case, nothing remains the same. And once more, to the nation’s confusion, former president Muhammadu Buhari declared that most of the killer herdsmen and bandits were not Nigerians. These bandits have infiltrated the herders, who use these kinds of people to bolster their defences and launch retaliatory strikes against the farmers. There is ample proof for this claim in the events occurring in the Plateau, Benue, Southern Kaduna, and numerous other regions of the nation. A national newspaper recently reported herders renaming communities they sacked and occupied.

In other words, the herders have unknowingly or voluntarily welcomed infiltrations. However, a wood insect gets its name from the fact that it bears wood on its body after gathering it. So, cattle herders should take responsibility for the foreigners operating within their ranks and the insecurity they have perpetrated in Nigeria.

Given this context, it is simple to understand the ramifications of the government permitting Miyetti Allah to organise an ethnic vigilante group and set them loose in the country’s forests, which are home to the farmers and their farmlands. Therefore, it is a wrong and dangerous precedent to formally permit herders in Nigeria to carry weapons or have them set up an ethnic vigilante to do the same. When the implications fully unravel and snowball, the repercussions will be too grave. To begin with, farmers may naturally react to this by forming theirs, which is unhealthy and will lead to positional conflicts.

Instead of setting up an exclusive vigilante with weapons, Miyetti Allah should have established a cooperative security outfit with farmers in search of their shared interests if the organisation was truly interested in promoting peace and security for its members and the nation. Both farmers and herders ought to work together to protect the farms, animals, and members of their groups and the nation at large. Sadly, the Miyetti Allah vigilante is not organised to go after such a noble collective objective.

It is understood that the Nigerian Army has taken the President of Miyetti Allah into custody. However, while the group was only forming, where were the Police and the DSS? The new vigilante outfit was in plain sight in an amazing battle array on the day of its unveiling and launch. Clad in green outfits and black beret uniforms and astride numerous Hilux Pickups, they demonstrated that training and other preparations had been ongoing for months, with the country’s security agencies ostensibly turning a blind eye.

Furthermore, Miyetti Allah’s action brought attention to the pressing necessity to reform the country’s security and law enforcement apparatus. There is an increasing need for independent State Police, Community Police, and Regional Police.

Further still, to maintain the security of the country’s forests, National Forest Rangers (NFR) need to be established. Miyetti Allah’s vigilante, which is more like self-help, wouldn’t be needed if that existed.

A technical committee should also be established by President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to devise a plan for restructuring the country’s police force and determining the levels of the police system that are necessary to effectively handle the escalating insecurity in Nigeria. While the situation can yet be salvaged, it might not stay that way for too long if nothing drastic is done without further delay.

Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.

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