National secretary of the Miyetti Allah Kautal group, Saleh Alhassan, has asked herdsmen across the country to defend themselves against ethnic militia groups.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen over the weekend, Alhassan said herdsmen can exercise their right to free movement as Nigerians, and that governors of southern states would be held responsible if there is an attack on herdsmen.
“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,” Alhassan said.
“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.”
Addressing the call by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) for herdsmen to vacate the south, Alhassan said “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”.
He added: “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.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had asked herdsmen to disregard the statement by CNG to relocate from the south, but the group said it would hold the President responsible if anything happens to any herder.