The Akwanaja 40: Not in Defence of the Nigerian Air Force


Aliyu A. Ammani



On Tuesday the 24th of January, a significant event occurred, drones of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) carried out an attack killing 40 Fulani pastoralists. This event is significant for the simple reason that it has motivated Fulani groups and notable individuals to find their voice, a voice they appeared to have lost while Fulani bandits and terrorists were on rampage across this part of the country, killing, looting and kidnapping for ransom.

Chronicling series of ‘genocidal attacks’ on Fulani pastoralists to justify what they consider as the "genocide and systematic annihilation of the Fulani herders" in Nigeria, they intend to attract international attention and condemnation. Their effort has started yielding the desired results as, according to a report by Sahara Reporters, a UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide "condemns airstrike on Fulani community in Nigeria” calling for probe and punishment of perpetrators.

As much as one can understand and sympathise with the Fulani groups, it is my opinion that bringing international pressure to bear on Nigeria's government and military to stop military raids and attacks on Fulani pastoralists communities, could have negative consequences in the fight against banditry and terrorism. This is because the fear of being accused of committing genocide against Fulani herders by the international community is not only likely to intimidate our military and break its fighting spirit and morale but also force the government to get cold feet in the face of raging banditry and terrorism across the country. Either way, the bandits and terrorists stand to gain as they would now freely roam about unleashing terror on innocent citizens while expecting zero resistance from a military (or government) that is blackmailed into impotency.

The following facts can hardly be disputed (a) that elements from among Pastoral Fulani are the face and foot-soldiers of banditry and terrorism in this part of the country, (b) that the terrorists and bandits are living together in 'harmony' with their brothers, the non-criminal Fulani pastoralists in the same communities, and (c) as rightfully observed by the Emir of Muri, Fulani pastoralists know the bandits and terrorists living among them. These incontestable facts raised some questions in the fight against terrorism: how is the military to tell apart the good pastoralist from the criminal pastoralist? Should the military stop attacking bandits and terrorists that are obviously cohabitating with good Fulani pastoralists because it cannot tell apart the good pastoralist from the criminal pastoralist, therefore a bullet for a terrorist can end up in an innocent pastoralist?

The priority of Fulani groups and notable individuals should have been working assiduously towards supporting, encouraging and facilitating the physical and geographical separation of the innocent Fulani pastoralists from the bandits and terrorists in pastoral Fulani settlements. This way the innocent Fulani pastoralists would be better positioned to not only help and support the government in the fight against banditry and terrorism through the provision of credible intelligence etc., but also be safely away from the terrorists in the event of military strikes.

For all we know, the good innocent Fulani pastoralists could as well be crying and dying in silence, hoping and praying for a miracle that will release them from the shackles of the bandits and terrorists that are holding them hostage in their respective communities. In other words, the good innocent Fulani pastoralists could be victims as well that need help. Dr Rufa’i’s “I Am a Bandit” revealed some of the strategies that the terrorists are using to remain rooted in pastoral Fulani communities which include forcing each and every pastoral Fulani family to contribute at least a son to a terrorist gang or give out a daughter’s hand in marriage to a terrorist strongman for protection and safety from cattle rustling and other harms. Therefore, separating the good Fulani pastoralists from the evil ones is a much more worthwhile and productive engagement for Fulani groups and individuals than to continue in the struggle of drawing international attention and condemnation of the Nigerian military in the fight against terrorism.

After all, it is a tall order to justify the innocence of Fulani pastoralists that are in a harmonious cohabitation with terrorist, that witnessed almost daily as the terrorists go about terrorising innocent citizens elsewhere, and yet allow them to return and hide in their midst when chased or pursued by security agents. Though with Dr Rufa’i’s revelations, we now know why.

Unless Fulani groups and notable individuals are seeing helping good Fulani pastoralists by detaching them from the bandits and terrorists embedded in them, any attempt at kicking against military actions on such Fulani pastoralists and their communities could easily be viewed as aiding and abetting banditry and terrorism under the guise of tribal loyalty.

Aliyu A. Ammani

U/Shanu Kaduna