The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH), one of the umbrella bodies of Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria, says the bandits currently wreaking havoc in many parts of the country are displaced herdsmen who are fighting for their rights and freedom.
Spokesman of the group, Saleh Hassan, at a media briefing in Kaduna on Wednesday, said that the herders decided to take the laws into their hands because they are facing many challenges from hostile host communities, including vigilante groups and other criminal elements that rustle cows in the country.
Hassan added that some of the displaced herders in the country who were dispossessed of their cows, have now ended up becoming bandits, terrorising Nigerians, especially through kidnapping.
He said that it was unfair to label every herder a criminal as it is sad that herders had been singled out for victimisation.
Hassan insisted that the herders-cum-bandits were fighting an economic fight of survival and not an ideological fight.
According to him, states banning open grazing and chasing out herders from their domains are unknowingly creating crisis for themselves as the herders will not allow their means of livelihood to be threatened without a fight.
He said “The crisis of bandits in the north-west is because of some of the activities of the governors in the past. They put pressure on the herders. They lose their cattle. They have no business. Now, they have joined bandits. They are not spirits.
“They have reasons why they emerged as bandits. If you destroy grazing, you are going to create another problem. They destroyed their economy. They have no cattle and they got radicalised.
“Our members are peaceful herders. We have bandits; we have criminal elements in the forest. They are not necessarily herders. It is the responsibility of the security forces to identify the criminals, isolate them and deal with them according to the laws of the land,” Hassan said.