President Muhammadu Buhari meeting with delegation

ABUJA, Nigeria––Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said Nigeria will punish all those behind an outbreak of deadly clashes between cattle herders and farmers while pushing back at accusations that he failed to take action against members of his own ethnic group who are cattle herders.

Reliable sources say at least 83 people have been killed in violence between the mainly Christian farmers and the semi-nomadic herders, who are mostly Muslims from Buhari’s Fulani ethnic group since the start of the new year.

Ethnic violence, mostly in the central state of Benue, has become increasingly political ahead of elections in February 2019, with Buhari’s main opponents accusing him of failing to take action against the herdsmen.

In a statement released by Nigeria’s presidency, after Buhari spoke to a delegation of Benue political leaders, it reads, “President Buhari said all those involved in the conflict that culminated in the loss of lives would not escape justice, including any illegally armed militia in the state.”

Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country, is home to 250 ethnic groups, which is said to be evenly divided between Christians who primarily live in the south and Muslims who largely live in the north.

Local historians say central states such as Benue have often seen violence over ancestral, cultural, and religious differences.

According to some farmers caught up in the clashes, herdsmen who travel throughout West Africa in search of pasture and who often travel in and out of Nigeria through porous borders, are normally armed with guns and cutlasses. But the groups representing the herdsmen have also accused the farmers of violent attacks in the last few years.

According to the statement issued, President Buhari told the visiting delegation, “I assure you that the police, the Department of State Service and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.”

Globe Afrique has learned that those who participated the meeting in the capital, Abuja, included the Benue state governor, members of parliament and traditional rulers.

The Nigerian leader’s spokesman said last week that the suggestion that Buhari was not taking actions regarding the herdsmen because of his ethnicity was “disturbing”, adding that such clashes predated the incumbent president’s administration.