NIGERIA: THE GATHERING STORM
Johan Viljoen, Rea Tloubatla
20 September 2023
Violence in Nigeria: Who profits?
“Political exploitation gave way to an economic colonialism that was equally enslaving. As a result, this country, massively plundered, has not benefited adequately from its immense resources. It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation. The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood. Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.” Pope Francis in Kinshasa, 2 February 2023. Media in the Global North routinely portray conflicts in Africa as being religious or tribal. The Holy Father’s statement in Kinshasa on 2 February 2023 accurately pinpoints the cause of conflict. As the “Second Scramble for Africa” gains momentum, it is becoming increasingly clear in country after country that conflicts arise where there are valuable mineral and natural resources – and that the real cause of conflict is control of these mineral and natural resources, fuelled by multinational corporations, and politically connected elites in-country who profit from control of resources. The only exception to this rule appeared to be Nigeria where, at face value, the widespread and ongoing violence appears to be religious (Muslims against Christians) or ethnic (Fulani’s against the rest), a perception strengthened by the fact that these conflicts have been continuing for decades. But is this really the case? To determine if there is another hand at work, it is helpful to see who profits from ongoing violence. And there is abundant (though often ignored) evidence of powerful business and political interests in Nigeria profiteering. A former Director of the Presidential Campaign Council of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Hajia Naja’atu Mohammed, said mineral exploitation was at the heart of terrorism in the country, particularly in the North, saying that terrorism and banditry is a multi-billion dollar industry. She further alleged that some powerful people in the country, including some governors in conjunction with foreign mercenaries use banditry and terrorism to displace the people so they can comfortably mine these resources illegally. “Let us understand and not forget that this terrorism, this banditry, this carnage is not just happening by mistake, it is a multi billion dollar industry. Look at the areas that are generally affected by this. The North-East for instance has the blue diamonds that is a strategic mineral, you have oil at the Chad Basin that is being explored right now but illegally. What of in Zamfara State, Zamfara has more Gold than Ghana but gold from Zamfara is being traded in Dubai. There is a market in Dubai called ‘Nigeria gold market’ go and check. So who is doing this mining? Most times they are the governors, the people in power in connivance with foreign mercenaries.”
The former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, speaking at Chatham House in London in January 2023, said that the terror rocking the North West and North East is caused by struggle over mineral resources, and that people within and outside Nigeria are “stealing” the mineral resources, hence the fighting in the regions. “The fighting in the North West and even the North East is mainly because of mineral resources, people are stealing it from Nigeria and outside Nigeria, including gold and other resources.
An interesting case involves the ongoing attacks by herdsmen in Benue and Nasarawa States and Aliko Dangote, the wealthiest man in Africa, well connected to the Buhari government. The Benue River Basin, which extends through these two States, contains the most fertile soil, and is referred to as the Bread Basket of West Africa. In 2017 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Dangote Sugar Group and the Nasarawa State government for a $700 million sugar project at Tunga in the Awe Local Government Area of the state. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2022/07/17/dangote-extends-sugar-refinery-to-nasarawa In terms of the agreement, Dangote acquired 78,000 hectares of prime agricultural land. https://www.farmlandgrab.org/post/view/31042-dangote-sugar-targets-additional-14-000-tonnes-from-tunga-project Five years later, production has not yet started, but “is due to start soon”.
The Dangote company claims on its website that “compensation for the land in the sum of N3.25 billion fully paid to the landowners. “
However, locals dispute this, saying that they were forced off their land, and were never compensated. In June 2019 inhabitants of Akoh village in Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State were attacked by an unknown armed group, in collaboration with the military, who set fire to their houses and ordered them to leave the area. “When we sought to know what was the issue that warranted no dialogue but burning of our houses, they responded that we should leave our settlement. There and then, they started attacking us with sticks. In the process, they called military men who came and started shooting in the air. Thereafter, the military men ordered us to line up and marched to where they were by the roadside” said Mr Abiggy Moses, the village youth leader. “They bundled us up into their vehicle and took us to their superior officer in Tunga town who in turn interrogated us if we were compensated for the land. We replied that nobody compensated us. The military superior officer told us that it was reported that we were compensated but refused to vacate from the said land. It was when the superior officer discovered that we were not compensated as being claimed in some quarters that he ordered us to get up from the ground that we were forced to sit on and consequently directed that food be served to us,” Moses narrated. Corroborating the youth leader, the Akoh village head, Zaki Mshia’an Alyebo said while working on his farm saw thick smoke engulfed their village and rushing there, he saw armed youths beating his subjects. “It was at that point that military men arrived and joined in beating me and my subjects thereafter bundling us to their base in Tunga town. On returning back to our abode, I discovered that all buildings, economic trees were pulled down to rubbles leaving an empty space for us, hence we had no shelter. At the moment, we are homeless as our buildings, beddings, household utensils and economic trees are all gone as a result of the invasion”
In a bid by the Akoh farmers to get redress from the invasion of their settlement, the farmers resorted to litigation. In an originating motion on notice, the applicants are praying the court for the following reliefs: “A declaration that the forceful take-over of land, houses and economic trees at Akoh village on September 10, 2018 and thereafter, for establishment of sugar refinery was not by the due process prescribed by the Land Use Act, 1978, nor upon prompt payment of compensation and therefore arbitrary, unconstitutional and fragrant abuse of the applicants fundamental right. “A declaration that the purported revocation and acquisition of the applicants right of occupancy by the second respondent over their land situated at Akoh village for establishment of first respondent (Dangote Sugar Refinery) is not in the manner nor for the purposes prescribed by the Land Use Act, 1978.” The applicants were also seeking a “declaration that the invasion of their farmlands in June, 2019 by the first respondent, with heavy trucks and a detachment of military officers, ploughing through the farms, surveying and planting beacons therein, and destroying the applicants’ food crops and economic trees without notice of acquisition nor prompt payment of compensation was illegal, unconstitutional and blatant infringement of the applicants’ fundamental right enshrined in section 44 (1) (a) of the 1999 constitution as amended”. But the Nasarawa State commissioner for Justice, Abdulkarim Kana, said that the communities in Awe and Azara voluntarily donated the lands to the state government for the purpose of the project that would bring job opportunity to the youth in the state.
The farmers claim that they were never consulted, never agreed to move and were never offered compensation. The Nasarawa State government claims that the farmers donated their land to the project, indirectly confirming that they were never compensated. And the Dangote company claims that all landowners were fully compensated. Significantly, both the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (https://dtm.iom.int/searchsearch=Nasarawa&type=All&created=&sort_by=search_api_relevance&sort_order=DESC ) and the Global Terror Database (https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/ ) report an escalation in attacks in the Tunga area from the time that the MOU was signed with Dangote, with tens of thousands fleeing the area, conveniently leaving the 78 000 hectares effectively abandoned, and ready for development.
FG’s 1,000 houses: Benue tribal leaders vow to resist planned Fulani colony
The leaders of Benue State socio-cultural groups and tribal leaders have vowed to resist any plans by the Federal Government to build houses and settlements for Fulani herdsmen in any part of the state under any guise. The leaders pointed out that the recent hasty announcement by the Federal Government of its intention to build 1,000 housing units in seven states including Benue would not be welcomed in the state. In a statement issued weekend and signed by the President General of Mzough U Tiv, MUT, (Woridwide) Iorbee Ihagh and the President General of Ochetoha k’Idoma, OKI, AVM Toni Adokwu(retd), the leaders maintained that no part of the state would be ceded for the construction of houses and colonies that would house Fulani herders when over two million Benue indigenes displaced by armed herders still reside in Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps scattered across the state. The leaders urged the Federal Government to call off the project which it claimed was part of a broad plan to address conflicts in the northern part of the country and would have such facilities as schools, clinics, and ranches for the Fulani community. They stressed that “one would have thought that the construction of such a facility in Benue State will go through a process that would have the inputs of all stakeholders, particularly, the State Government, but the hasty manner with which the project was planned and subsequently approved, smacks of mischief. The signal we are getting is that the idea may have been conceived, hatched, packaged and handed over to the present administration for implementation; or how would one explain the hasty manner in which the project scaled through all the hurdles and even billed for implementation, without the State Government getting a whiff of the idea from its conception? “But, be that as it may, one would have expected that the Federal Government should have settled the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the State before thinking of bringing in outsiders, nay, foreigners and creating a haven for them within the state. For the avoidance of doubt, Benue State has over two million IDPs that have been neglected by the government to perish in various IDP camps across the State. FG’s 1,000 houses: Benue tribal leaders vow to resist planned Fulani colony (vanguardngr.com)
Gunmen abduct 14 travellers in Enugu
Kidnappers have intensified their deadly operations at the notorious Enugu-Ugwuogo-Opi-Nsukka Road in Enugu State with the abduction of 14 persons, Friday evening, on the busy road. The occupants of the bus, including the driver, were kidnapped, while two lucky ladies, who hid under the vehicle, escaped. This came as police sources in Enugu said operatives were making frantic efforts to round up gunmen suspected to have invaded Enugu from a neighbouring state and recruited both locals and herders to perpetrate the act. A concerned citizen lecturing at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus lamented that kidnapping regularly takes place on the busy road despite the roadblocks mounted strategically by both the army and police. According to him, “We are suspecting foul play on the part of security agencies. How can these daredevils continue to operate freely on that road with the huge presence of security agencies. They have no fewer than four roadblocks across the road, yet nothing has been done to stop the havoc going on there daily”. Kidnappers abduct 14 travellers in Enugu – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com)
Catholic Priest, six others abducted in Enugu
Gunmen suspected to be herdsmen have abducted a Catholic priest and six other motorists in Enugu State. Their abduction came barely 24 hours after a middle- aged man was killed and several others kidnapped in separate locations in Enugu State on Saturday. The kidnapped priest, Reverend Father Marcellinus Okide, a parish priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Amofia- Agu Affa, in Udi Local Government Area of the state was kidnapped on Sunday evening around 5pm along Eke-Affa-Egede Road while returning to his parish. The Catholic Diocese of Enugu State has confirmed his abduction and called on Christians to pray for his safety. Catholic priest, six others abducted in Enugu (punchng.com)
Tension rises as eight soldiers, cops feared killed in Imo
The Imo State Police Command has vowed to flush out the killers of the security operatives who were on Tuesday murdered in Umualumaku, Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of the state. Gunmen on Tuesday unleashed mayhem in Umualumaku community, Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, killing about eight security operatives comprising soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. The incident which happened at about 9.30am caused panic among residents of the area. Members of the Joint Task Force, who were in two Hilux vans were killed and set ablaze in the patrol vehicles by their attackers. None of them survived as they were burnt inside their operational vehicles. Tension rises as eight soldiers, cops feared killed in Imo (punchng.com)
Nigerian Army Reacts to Video of Soldiers Assisting Transit of Bandits
A trending video in the social media showing scores of rag-tag, armed Fulani bandits paired on stationery motorbikes waiting to take off at an unnamed community, with well-kitted soldiers mingling among them as a Nigerian soldier arranged their safe passage by phone, stirred anger in Nigeria last week prompting the Nigeria military to make a response Sept. 18.
The anonymous video is believed to have been shot in Katsina State. A soldier in uniform can be seen and heard audibly speaking to someone, ostensibly, a fellow soldier at another end, on the need to allow the armed bandits to move unhindered when they arrive his end. He spoke in Hausa. The interpretation in English reads:
“Can you hear me? . . .
“I want you for the sake of Allah (God)!
“Come to the major road and inform the public that for the
sake of Allah, Fulani are on en-route to that way.
“Nobody has any business with them.
“They have been spoken to just now. So, they are just going to pass through. Do you understand?
Above: Bello Turji with his militia in Zamfara Forest.
“Go through all sides of the roads and inform the public that no one should say a word. They are just coming to pass, that’s all. Please take my instruction. For the sake of Allah, see them on their way now.
“For Allah’s sake! Please ensure that you inform the public. Yes!”
According to an analyst, there was a possible negotiation which resulted in the military guaranteeing the safety of the bandits out one of the town. “Since the bandits are on their way out the area, the closest safe haven for them would be the forest in Birnin Gwari which is less than one hour’s drive or about 40 kms,” according to the source. The bandits could also be on their way to Zamfara state’s eastern forests, also a safe haven for them. State government and the military have collaborated with bandits for years to allow the outlaws to move from one area to another with the promise that they won’t be shot at. Such arrangements were made for warlords Bello Turji and Dan Karanma who were given free passage to move from Shinkafi to Tsafe and to forests in Niger State, according to the confidential informant. The fact that the video began circulating approximately 8 days ago means it likely was recorded between Sept. 9 and Sept. 11.The video likely was made by a soldier since most civilians would not be allowed near the scene. In reaction to the viral video, the Nigeria Defence Headquarters Sept. 17 issued a statement saying it was investigating the video. A statement signed by Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau issued on the Facebook page of the Defence Headquarters reads: “The attention of the Defence Headquarters was drawn to a video clip in circulation across the social media handles of some soldiers engaging with bandits somewhere in Katsina State. The DHQ is investigating the video to confirm its authenticity as regards the soldiers seen in uniform. The DHQ is aware of the resolve of some bandits to repent and hand over their weapons to the authority. This is yielding good results and is ongoing”. But the fact is, bandits and allied terrorist groups in Nigeria have caused thousands of deaths and wanton destruction of communities, especially in the Northwest and the Middle Belt of Nigeria.
Vanguardngr.com reported that 98,083 killed in past 12 years by organized violent groups in Africa’s most populous country. At least 35,800 killed between 2019 and May 2023 the report says.
Nigerian Army Reacts to Video of Soldiers Assisting Transit of Bandits | Truth Nigeria