Relatives and sympathisers have continued to flood the Yola Specialist Hospital to commiserate with victims of the recent attack on Fulani communities in Numan, Adamawa State. Health practitioners are working hard to save the lives of 32 women and children injured during the attack, suspected to have been carried out by the Bachama. At least 55 persons were reportedly killed. But community leaders said more corpses were being recovered. The attack on Kiken and other settlements was said to have been carried out on Monday afternoon when most of the men had gone out.
At the hospital, little children were seen with various degrees of injury and amputated limbs.
In the past, the area had witnessed several clashes between Fulani herders and Bachama indigenes. However, the Monday attack, which has attracted wide outrage and condemnation, including reactions from the Muslim Council of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), affected mainly women and children.
When the deputy governor of Adamawa State, Martins Babale, visited the area to commiserate with the victims, he called for restraint and assured that perpetrators of the dastardly act would be brought to justice. He said the state government would support the injured victims as they recuperate.
The spokesman of the police in Adamawa, SP Abubakar Othman, who put the number of those who lost their lives at 30, said investigation had commenced to track down the killers, adding that the police would not relent in its responsibility to protect lives and property.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, the chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in the North-East, Mafindi Danburam, alleged that over 60 unarmed civilians were killed, adding that the assailants warned herders to leave the area or face forceful eviction.
But the district head of Numan, Phineas Babire, said he was not aware of such threat on Fulani settlements in his domain. He also said he did not know the perpetrators or details about the situation in the affected villages because he was yet to receive reports.
“If something like this happens we have to sit and discuss before making statements. People should respect one another and live in peace. Government should also take appropriate measures to prevent future occurrence. We are not aware of any village head that ordered the Fulani to leave the area.
“This year, there is an unusually influx of the Fulani into our villages, especially those leaving Benue and Taraba. It is compulsory for any settler to obtain a written permission from the traditional ruler of Numan chiefdom. And none of these settlers can say he obtained permission,” he said.
One of the youth leaders in Numan, Sunday Philip, who is also a farmer, accused the Fulani herders of aggression, saying the carnage was sparked by the killing of a Bachama farmer by a group of Fulani herdsmen who encroached into his land.
“My father is Bandawa by tribe, but I live with the Bachamas in Numan. The Fulani have been attacking us for long; and there is no way I would allow you to come to my land and attack me. On Monday morning, a group of Fulani herders killed a Bachama farmer and injured his brother when they complained that their animals entered their farm. The incident happened near my farm. When I heard cries we all ran away. It happened the same day. This is not a religious crisis because the Fulani can attack any farmer, whether Muslim or Christian. They had a dispute with a Muslim framer I know,’’ he said.
Narrating their ordeal, some of the survivors said the attack started about 3pm and lasted for two hours.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday in her hospital bed, Aisha Ahmadu Kaku, said her two-year-old daughter, Hadiza, and a three-year-old son, Umar, died on the spot while she was left unconscious, alongside her four- year-old son, Adamu. They were taken to the same hospital in Yola.
“I sold my milk and returned home early. I was sweeping the room when I heard noises outside and came out. We saw a large number of people around and thought they came to the area for fishing. I heard cries of women, and before I realised it, men surrounded us and forced their way into our house, hitting everyone. Umaru and other children were playing outside when they attacked us.
“I woke up to see myself in the hospital. A day after the incident I was transferred to this hospital in Yola. I thought Umaru was killed until a day later when he was found wounded and brought here for treatment. We did not know anything, we were just attacked,” she narrated.
Clutching her prayer beads, a mother who simply identified herself as Bille, said she returned from hawking milk and found her village in ashes and littered with dead bodies of relatives, including five of her six children. The only surviving child, Salma, a girl, lay beside her in hospital bed. She said her husband was killed while he tried to escape from the scene.
Hassana Abdullahi, mother of a three-day-old baby who was killed during the incident, was still unconscious when our correspondent visited the hospital.
In an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, the MACBAN secretary in Numan, Ismaila Mabo, alleged that after the incident on Monday, attacks continued at Shafarang, Keimlo, Pullum, Kwadanti, Venti and Kedajere despite the presence of mobile policemen. He said that many people had fled the affected villages. He, however, said he was not aware of the attack on the local farmer by Fulani herdsmen.
“The victims are indigenous Fulani people who settled there for several decades; they don’t even migrate. In some of the places, the Fulani settled before the Bachama. They are still killing people and animals in some places because their leaders have not taken any action; they are only trying to console us. At least 900 cattle have so far been killed and many others wounded,” he added.
A policeman who did not want his name published said the Fulani who attacked the farmer were migrants who passed through the area and not members of the affected communities. “They are the ones moving with red cattle. They did not settle in the area,” he said.
Muslim Council calls for arrest of perpetrators
Reacting to the incident, the Muslim Council of Nigeria called on the Adamawa State Government to set up a judicial panel of inquiry rather than an administrative panel to prosecute those behind the heinous act.
Addressing a press conference in Yola on Thursday, chairman of the Muslim Council in the state, Abubakar Sahabo, tasked government to seek justice for victims of the attack and pay adequate compensation to them.
The Council called for the disbandment of all vigilante groups in Numan, alleging that they were being used in communal attacks.
“The Council noted with shock, the unprovoked killing of innocent Fulani people by extremist Bachama militia in Kikan, Kwadomti, Shafaran and Kerwul villages in Numan Local Government Area. The killing can best be described as ethnic cleansing. The village head of Kikan threatened that if the Fulani failed to vacate, they would send their boys to forcefully eject them from the area. From all indications, this threat has been carried out,’’ Sahabo said.
The cleric expressed concern that no arrest had so far been made in connection with the crime.
CAN condemns attack, calls for arrest of perpetrators
On Friday, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State, The Most Rev Dr. Stephen Dami Mamza, condemned the attack and called on the government to arrest the perpetrators. He said the incident had nothing to do with religion.
Mamza said, “We are deeply concerned over the killing of women and children in some villages of Numan Local Government Area on Monday, November 20, 2017. The CAN condemns in strong terms, the killing of unarmed civilians, especially little children and women. This is by all standards, condemnable and unacceptable. We call on the government to bring the perpetrators of this wicked act to book in order to forestall any future occurrence.
“We are equally aware that tension is high as photos of those killed are being circulated and watched by the general public. In the interest of peace, the CAN in Adamawa wishes to categorically state that this has nothing to do with religion. Our Christian religion states in the fifth commandment that, “Thou shall not kill.’’ Life is sacred and belongs to God. No one has the right to kill, for whatever reason.
He called on government to set up a commission of inquiry with equal representation from both parties to fish out perpetrators and sponsors of the attack. He also appealed for immediate supply of relief materials and payment of compensation to the victims.
When our correspondent visited Numan on Friday, armed anti-riot police- men and armoured vehicles were stationed at strategic locations, while a convoy of military vehicles was seen along the major road. However, commercial and social activities were going on as shops and drinking joints were opened.
A trader who spoke with our correspondent expressed concern that the crisis could spread to other places, and called on security agencies to do more to protect lives and property of the people.