Hindi Livinus, Yola
Many stories have been told of Adamawa State and many of them have been beautiful, lending credence to its former slogan – Land of Beauty, Sunshine and Hospitality – before it was changed to Highest peak of the nation.
The state is famous for an array of picturesque mountains and breathtaking beauty of nature like Mandara Mountains, Koma Hills and Three Sisters Rocks.
But lately, stories from Adamawa State have been about grief and sorrow. Recent attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen on Numan Local Government Area have led to deaths and displacement of residents.
About two weeks ago, residents of Lamurde in Opallo were awakened by attacks and the burning of a substantial part of the town. It was alleged that some youths in the area had killed a soldier, who was said to have gone to visit his relation there. Another account said some Bachama Vigilantes on patrol, due to the tense security situation in the area, had impounded a vehicle that was being escorted by a soldier to an undisclosed destination, but which had armed occupants.
It was alleged that the youth killed the occupants of the vehicle, including the soldier.
The military command had also declared one of its soldiers missing and this was followed by declaration by the Brigade Commander, 23rd Armoured Brigade, Mohammed Bello, announcing the relocation of the headquarters of the military base in the state to Numan.
With this, the tense security situation, which started in Numan between farmers and herdsmen, has gradually spread to three other local government areas of Demsa, Lamurde and Girei.
Disillusioned by the repeated attacks on their communities, victims of the Numan crisis have said they have been made to feel like second-class citizens in their own country as no one had come to their aide.
Jonathan Agabus’ household in Kikang comprises 24 members. His community, Kikang, in Numan, was also recently under attack by suspected Fulani herdsmen and Agabus has described their escape as a “miracle”.
Sharing his story, Agabus said, “We cheated death but lost our source of livelihood, shelter and all our belongings. All our things were completely destroyed in the attack. The attackers invaded the community around 1am on a Sunday. When I spotted them, I raised the alarm, shouting ‘thief’, ‘thief’. Immediately, the attackers opened fire.
“They continued shooting for over one hour, shooting at everything in their sight and setting houses on fire. By this time, my family and I had fled into the bush. When the soldiers arrived an hour later, they fired warning shots into the air, to indicate their arrival, but that was all they did. They never advanced from their position, which was like one kilometre away from Kikang.
“It was after they fired a second shot that we saw the assailants retreating. The suspected Fulani herdsmen fled into the bush. At this point, we could see the beam of a powerful torch. The beam was like the one used by the military, who also shone their torches, swirling them round in the air as if to signal to our attackers to retreat. This is what I saw with my own eyes; it is not that anybody told me. This is our home and we feel like foreigners there because of Fulani herdsmen.
“It is a miracle that all the 24 members of my household escaped; this could only have been a miracle. I don’t know how we escaped. There were three persons in each of the eight huts in my compound, but we all fled into the bush; even though, the attackers started their operation right in front of my compound. “The attackers laid siege to the area till 4am from 1am when they first opened fire. The government has allowed the attacks to go on as if there’s a plot to exterminate us.”
Agabus said the attackers arrived in the community in two vans wearing, black clothes. “They killed three persons in the village – two men and a woman,” he added.
David Doctor, 56, lost his immediate younger sister, Jummai Michael, and was left to care for his nephew; two-year-old Pwaneke Michael.
Our correspondent met Doctor and young Michael at Numan General Hospital, where they were receiving treatment.
“We were awakened by the sound of gunshots all around us; I trembled at the sound. It was really frightening; I had not experienced anything like it before. Everyone was fleeing in all directions because the sound of the gunshots was scary.
“My deceased sister was also awakened by the sound of gunshots. She was trying to flee with her baby when the gunmen caught her right in front of her hut and killed her with machetes. Her two-year-old baby also suffered minor burns and had machete cut. She died instantly, but her son survived. The assailants were no doubt Fulani men and they were shouting Allahu Akbar.
“Those of us who escaped into the bushes around put a distress call to the military for help. When they arrived, they did not attack the gunmen, they only put on their torches.
“They took one of the boys in the village to lead them as they chased the gunmen, but the boy said he was not satisfied with the speed of the soldiers as they gave chase. He said he asked the soldiers to speed up as he was worried that the attackers would escape because of their lack of urgency. He said the soldiers instead chastised him and told him not to teach them their work.
“Eventually, the boy said they left him in the bush for questioning them. By the time we returned to the village, I met my sister’s corpse; she was lying in a pool of blood and her dying boy was beside her. The boy had suffered minor burns on some parts of his body.”
Doctor said the assailants that attacked Kikang were well over 60 in number.
He said, “They were armed with sophisticated arms and the sound their guns made shook the ground around us. They were also chanting war songs in Fulbe (Fulani language).
“They were saying, ‘Gare wada ette gare wada ette tineh dougei’. This means ‘come quickly, set fire and leave’. In Kikang, we never had any disagreement that resulted in a fight with Fulani people, so we were surprised by the attacks on our community.
“We are aware of what happened recently in Shaforon, a neighbouring village, which pitted the community against the Fulani. There are Fulani in our community, but nothing happened to them.
“So we were surprised by the attacks. The greatest victims of the attacks are our children; many of them were burnt by fire since the whole community was set ablaze. Many of them sustained machete injuries while fleeing for their lives.
“The way the attacks occurred is making us to suspect that the government has a hand in it. This is because there’s a military deployment not far from here, but there was no attempt on their part to apprehend the attackers. We are surprised that the attackers got away and that the soldiers could not apprehend any of them, not even one of them.
“We are Nigerians and we expect the government to give us protection, but with this experience, we feel like second-class citizens. When there’s an attack and security operatives arrive at the scene, you expect them to, at least, defend you by going after the attackers. Instead, you see soldiers signaling to the attackers with their torchlight.
“One of the soldiers even told us that the reason why they did not respond on time was because they didn’t have fuel in the vehicles and that the commander, that was supposed to give them the permission to respond, was not around.
“With this kind of tales, one is only left to come to the conclusion that we are being neglected by the government or that the government sees us as second-class citizens. If we are important the government would be there to protect us but this it has failed to do.”
‘Our assailants caught us unawares’
Geoffrey Murray, who also survived the recent attack on Kikang, said he was able to escape with his life, but could not save his belongings.
Murray said because they were caught unawares by the suspected Fulani herdsmen, he had to flee in only his underwear.
“The attacks happened unexpectedly. Usually, we patrol the area but on that night, we had rounded off our patrol at about a quarter past 12am and everyone had gone home. So they must have been watching us because it was not long after we all retreated to our homes that we started hearing the sound of gunshots,” he said.
Pulling at his clothes, Murray said, “I lost everything in the attacks. The clothes I have on were given to me by a good Samaritan because I escaped with only my underwear. All my personal belongings have been completely burnt.
“Our desire now is for the government to fish out the perpetrators of the attacks. If the government is unable to do this, the attacks will continue. We are being killed in our homes and burnt alive. This misery will end our lives speedily. As I’m seated now, my children and I have not eaten anything since morning. Just to survive, my children have all gone to the river bank to find something to feed on.
“They are also without clothes and the weather here, at this time of the year, is very cold. All our livelihood and belongings were burnt in the attacks as the attackers burnt everything. Up till this time, no one has brought us any relief.
“There are no plates or bowls to even drink water, except for one cup; they have all been burnt. The only cup that we could salvage is this cup here, which serves as many as 50 mouths. People have to take turns to use this cup.”
Also, 80-year-old Eli Nzohmon sustained three gunshot wounds and was lucky to have survived the attack.
Nzohmon was still receiving medical attention at Numan General Hospital when our correspondent visited his community.
He alleged that the crisis was borne out of a sinister plan by the Federal Government to give part of their land to Fulani people.
“So it is a fight over our farmlands. If the Fulani people and their cattle encroach on our farmlands and eat our crops, we dare not approach the ‘Jauro’ (village head), they (Fulani herdsmen) will tell us they will not compensate us. In some cases, they will even take the matter to court and the case will drag on. So it is about land, they want to chase us out of our land.”
However, the leader of the Hausa-Fulani community in Luru, who described himself as a victim of a reprisal carried out by Bachama youths allegedly from Opallo, Zayyanu Abdulrahman, said the rampaging youths threatened to kill all his people if they did not leave their land.
He alleged that the attack by the aggrieved youths on Luru resulted in the death of one Alhassan Yusufu and the razing of four houses belonging to him and two other settlers in the community.
He said, “The youth came around 10am on that fateful day; we had suddenly noticed that people were running back from their farmlands with machete cuts. I asked the youth to leave, but little did we know that there was a plan to invade our settlement.
“When the assailants saw that they would be overpowered, they left, mobilized more support and returned. When they returned, they overran the community and set my house on fire and the houses of Hassan Dilali and Abubakar Abdullahi.
“The youths were chanting ‘leave’, ‘leave’, saying that we should leave their land. Some of us have been here for 37 years; we came to farm here and our presence here has uplifted the economy of this place.
“We farm onions, tomatoes and garden eggs. We are known to be peace-loving people. We have neither been to any police station nor fought with any one in all these years. So we are surprised by the siege that was laid to our communities.”
He called on the government to intervene, lamenting the delay in response of the security agencies.