IF you think the biggest threat to civilian lives in Nigeria is posed by Boko Haram, think again. The extremist group was responsible for 78 civilian deaths between January and April of this year, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, or ACLED.
Over the same period, Fulani militias killed 217 people. One of the largest ethnic groups in the Sahel region, numbering 20 to 30 million, the Fulani are semi-nomadic cattle herders who travel long distances in search of pasture. In Nigeria, drought over recent years has seen them move from their traditional areas of concentration, in the north, to central regions where they have come into conflict with farming communities.
President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani and in failing health, has been “slow to respond” to what Africa Confidential describes as just “one element of a wider problem of rampant criminality [that is] either ignored or encouraged by local politicians.” Citing this report, analyst Simon Allison of the Institute for Security Studies cautions: “To lay all the blame on ethnic Fulani militias is to miss the point.” The issue is set to dominate public discourse ahead of next year’s elections.