Leader of one of the group of bandits terrorising Nigeria’s Northwest region, Kachalla Turji, says his group can call for foreign support to fight and destabilise Nigeria.
Turji is heard in a video shared on Facebook discussing grievances that have sustained killings, kidnapping and cattle rustling armed groups in the region, Human Angle reported.
He spoke against the background of efforts of the government which have underestimated the strength of his group at a meeting between Dr Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, an influential northern Islamic cleric, and members of the group on Tuesday.
Flanked by fighters holding machine guns and assault rifles, Turji, dressed in camouflage fatigue, told clerics led by Gumi on a peacebuilding mission, that the Nigerian government never kept promises.
He said his group attended the meeting because it was convened by Islamic clerics.
One fighter had an RPG round during the session, which took place in Shinkafi area of Zamfara State, one of the states in the Northwest, where terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc on local populations.
Gumi’s visit was part of his peacebuilding and outreach efforts to Fulani communities and armed groups in the Northwest region.
The cleric has toured different locations in Zamfara, engaging officials, traditional leaders and non-state actors in a bid to contribute towards bringing an end to violence in the state.
The visit was reported to have occurred following an invitation of the state Governor, Bello Matawalle.
Human Angle quoted Desert Herald to have reported that Gumi visited the construction site of a RUGA settlement in Maradun.
The RUGA project is a component of an initiative of the state government to improve the condition of pastoralists and mitigate clashes between them and farmers.
Gumi was quoted by the newspaper as saying that despite the confidence the Fulani had in him, the success of his effort depended largely on the cooperation of the government.
The cleric said his priority in Zamfara State was to spread the message of Islam to the Fulani population since majority of them were born as Muslims and to ensure that Islamic teachers were sent to teach them about the tenets of their faith.
A review of violence in Zamfara by a state official in April 2019 showed that 3,526 persons were killed and 8,219 injured in the state in five years.
The official also said that nearly 500 villages were destroyed and over 13,000 hectares of farmlands destroyed or made useless as farmers could no longer use them for farming over the same period.
“Whatever amenity you are now enjoying from the Nigerian state, be it public schools, hospital, roads, electricity and pipe-borne water, as bad as they can be in some places or most places, the nomadic Fulani never enjoys any of that,” Gumi posted on his Facebook page on Jan. 5.
The sheik believes that government’s intervention and presence in terms of social amenities is important but that the use of Islamic education to promote peace was necessary.
Gumi had previously visited Fulani communities in Kaduna State which has also witnessed a series of clashes between herders and farmers in recent times.
The violence in the Northwest is associated with historical, social, economic and environmental factors which are reinforcing and sustaining kidnapping, cattle rustling, revenge killings and the battle for the control of land resources.
Some of the factors include poverty and neglect by the government.
According to an International Crisis Group report in May 2020, the conflict between Hausa farmers and Fulani herders has killed at least 8,000 people since 2011 and displaced more than 200,000 who have moved over to neighbouring Niger Republic.