The latest security-related news coming from Plateau State Nigeria is the story of the evacuation of Fulani herdsmen out of Bashar town in Wase Local Government Area of the State by the state government. The Fulanis have always been part of nearly every state in the north of Nigeria including Plateau State. Thus the story of Plateau State evacuating people that have been there for more than forty years to dump them elsewhere looks extremely odd.
The story looks so odd that this reporter decided to embark on a journey of three hours from Jos, the capital of the state to find out the truth. His host was the Emir of Bashar himself, Alhaji Adamu Idris.
The indigenous tribes of Bashar town, according to the Emir, are the Basharawas, who are actually Hausas, Jukun, Fulani and Tarok people also found in Langtang North and South but also in Kanam. The Emir corroborated what the ‘Okada’ man had told the reporter along the way to Bashar that the affected Fulanis are actually recent migrants that came to the town in March this year, four months after the latest crisis in the state. They came from Katsina, Bauchi and Zamfara States in the north of the country. The Emir was quick to add that these migrants however, have relatives in Bashar. The new settlers did not pay him a courtesy visit but on hearing about their arrival, he sent his aides to find out who they were and why they had come to his domain. The report that came was that they were from the mentioned states and have been driven by desertification. They have consequently come to find new farm and grazing fields for their herds.
Mallam Idris said he was not apprehensive of their presence because he did not see signs portraying them as the warriors they have been touted to be. This is because they came with their most valued possessions: families and cattle. A person coming to war comes only with arms and they will have preferred to lay ambush from the borders of their own states such as Toro in Bauchi that is actually 15 minutes away from Jos rather than to move down to Bashar about two and half hours further south.
The Plateau State Commissioner of Information and Communication, Gregory Yenlong said that the action of the state government was the result of security information from the locals who became apprehensive by the unusually large volume of visitors, about five trucks, in just three months. They send their report to the local government headquarters from where it was relayed to the State Government House in Rayfield. Yenlong said that if they were indeed driven by the desire to find grazing and farm lands, then there ought to be a formal discussion at the governmental level prior to their movement to Plateau State. There is also the issue of the farming and grazing lands they intend to use. How will this problem be sorted out between them and their hosts?
Since 2001, Plateau had become the scene of frequent clashes that border on ethnicity, land ownership and religion. The 2001 crisis actually spread to other parts of the state where it refused to abate until the declaration of a State of Emergency by the Federal Government of Olusegun Obasanjo in May 2004. Wase Local Government Area itself became notorious for cattle stealing as a result of the chaotic situation the crisis engendered. Following local elections in Jos-North Local Government Area of the state in November last year, fighting broke out in some parts of the local government leading to the death of about 250 persons with a remarkable lost of properties. While the state government was making efforts to ensure lasting peace, some 26 armed militants were arrested in Jos on the first day of January barely a month after. They were from Bauchi State. The State Government cut curfew hours imposed as a result of the disturbance just two weeks ago. A period like this seems very odd for such an anomalous migration for the sake of grazing and farm lands, resources that have been responsible for some of the most deadly wars in Africa.