Herders-Farmers Clash: Stakeholders Proffer solution

Stakeholders Monday proffered solutions to the lingering herders- farmers clashes in the country.

The stakeholders including experts in conflict resolution spoke at a National Summit on conflict resolution organized by Vintage Press Limited publishers of The Nation and TV Continental with the theme: “Towards an Enduring Peace.”

The Summit which took place at the Nigerian Air Force Conference Centre, Abuja was aimed at creating a platform to find lasting solution to the seemingly intractable herders- farmers clashed in the country.

The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fuani Socio- Cultural Association in their presentation said the search for enduring peace between farmers and herders in Nigeria is fundamental to the attainment of food security, development, progress and the achievements of the Sustainable Developments Goals.

The association said: “For enduring peace to reign in the rural communities there are Short medium and long term which include a review of the land use Act to accommodate the interest of all land resources users.

“Halting of aerial bombardments of pastoralists communities in Zamfara by the Army in the name of targeting bandits but rather adopt critical intelligence to target the real bandits and criminal elements masquerading as herders.

“Acceleration of the establishment and development of Grazing reserves by government as an intermediary strategy for the eventual modernization of the livestock sector.

“The suspension of recent anti –grazing laws enacted by some states which they said have become “recipe for conflicts”, and ” the Immediate release from detention of hundreds of pastoralists languishing in jails without trials particularly those arrested in Benue on pretext of violating anti-grazing laws.”

It also said Perpetrators of conflicts should be prosecuted to serve as deterrence to others and that support should be given for community based conflict resolution mechanisms through communications, campaigns, public enlightenment for peaceful co-existence.

Livestock tracking using GPS technology should be employed Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore said.

Engr. Saleh Alhassan, the National Secretary of the association who made the presentation also said:

“It is however very sad that the ranging conflicts between herders and sedentary farmers in recent years is making peace elusive between this two important economic groups.

“Though this conflicts are not a new phenomenon, as revealed by previous studies of herder /Farmer conflicts in Nigeria. Conceptualizing the conflicts as conflicts over the control resources such as water and grazing lands between competing groups situate the emphasis on distribution and therefore allows for essential insights into the socio-political economy of the land conflicts that have resulted in preventable deaths and anguish.

“The ongoing resource conflicts are not just a contingent phenomenon but are to be viewed against the background of a history of active alienation, mass displacements, cultural and physical aggression and political marginalization of pastoralist population in the country.

“Today, Nigerian agricultural policies and some state legislation on land are heavily bias towards sedentary groups and agriculture in continuity with the tradition which began under the colonial period administration and sustained through the post -colonial era culminating with the promulgation of the Land use Act of 1978 that made access to land very difficult.

He noted that the systemic marginalization has led to deeply embedded tensions over ownership rights, identity issues as well as breakdown of the social contract between people and their government and the collapse of trust between communities thereby sowing the seeds for the conflicts over the land resources in the country.

He said major Conflict drivers in the Communities include increased competition for land (driven by desertification, Climate change, and population growth), lack of clarity around the demarcation of pastures and stock routes, and the breakdown of traditional relationships between pastoralist and farmers.

“The grazing routes and reserves were clearly mapped by the colonialists. However, due lack of strict implementation urban and regional laws. Arrays of other conflicts further inflame tensions between pastoralist and farmers communities and disrupt the markets upon which rural livelihoods depend, including disputes over land access and ownership, market-place clashes, perceived biased responses to security incidents.”

Alhassan also noted that the exclusion of local communities from public decision-making and preferential treatment of indigenous communities in access to jobs and education contributed.

“These conflicts undermine security, development and economic growth by destroying productive assets, reducing production, preventing trade, deterring investments by private sector and eroding social cohesion.”

He named key actors in the conflict as Herders and Farmers fighting over access and competition for land resources, Mercenaries and outlaws , as a full time way of making a living; Cattle rustlers for purely criminal economic motives and Aggrieved young men out on revenge missions for past injustice.

The mobilizers/organizers of the conflicts according to him include Arm dealers, Vigilante groups and Ethnic militias, Local chiefs and Elders in the communities for economic and political gains, Local politicians, to sustain their corruption and cover up for bad governance and National politicians to maintain power through a strategy of tension.

The facilitators and administrators of the conflict he said are  “security forces , who may have vested interest in not intervening or in bias intervention ( for example , due to kith and kin /clan/ethnic ties) Security forces , who may take advantage of their missions in rural areas to crimes against the community they are sent to keep peace.

Others according to him are Foreign / International interest, to prevent economic stability and political organization for strategic economic interest (for example oil and ore deposits) and Media organizations and individual journalists that spread fake news and promote hate speeches

The National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN, Baba Usman Ngelzarma in his own contribution said:

“The farmer Herders clash has been hijacked by crisis merchants who are politicians of questionable character, religious extremist as well as their arsenic and bigots. However,  our major concern is the 5th estate of the realm which is the media who are supposed to be the Vanguard of peaceful existence,  unfortunately,  recent events …the media has taken sides and has portrayed the herdsmen as the criminal as well as the terrorist and this is unfortunate and does not in any way portray the true story.

“The major issue is the generalisation of the group as bad. This Generalization must stop. There is no community in Nigeria that does not have its challenge of bad eggs amongst them and the Herders community is no exception. Crime and criminality must be identified and treated as such without profiling and portraying an entire ethnic group as criminals.”

He said MACBAN members are portrayed as aggressors rather than the victims.

“It is on record that we have suffered untold hardship and suffered unmitigated harassment from security agencies, lost our only source of livelihood through organised cattle rustling and otherwise killing of our cows.

“As at today, our members have lost over 2 million cows as a result of cattle rustling and other criminalities and during the insurgency that took place in the northeastern part of the country, our members were the worst hit by the crisis.

“Many statistics abound on this issue and in Benue alone, as a result of the anti-grazing law; we lost our 300 members and over 7000 cows in Benue. In Zamfara, we have lost over 16,000 people, and billions of naira of property as a result of the crisis. In Nasarawa State, we have lost 421 Herders as a result of this crisis and in about five months ago in a part of Plateau, we lost 300 members but all these were not reported by the media.

“Our members remain victims but today because of media profiling, our members are considered by everybody as the culprit from the actual victims that they are.”

He said there were 415 grazing reserve across the northern part of the country with only three in the south western part of the country. “All the grazing reserves we have are located in the northern part of the country and about 144 of them have received gazettement; they have laws on them.

“They are there and some have been neglected, some are encroached by farmers and because of the neglect of government, some of the Infrastructures are dilapidated and no longer work.

“In Plateau grazing reserves today, we have about 18 dams in Wase but none of them is working.”

On the way out of the crisis he said: “compensation of loss from the crisis. The Federal government must begin to pay for the loss in order to alleviate the frustration on both sides because both sides lost lives and properties.

“Modern animal husbandry must be put in place by the federal government and the grazing reserve has to be attractive to the pastoralists. Also, the ranching model that would suit the pastoralists should be put in place.”

For the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris the conflict has taken an unfortunate dimension as gangs are taking advantage of the clashes to further wreak havoc on communities.

“What I want to draw out and emphasize is that the herders- farmers’ conflicts has developed into some criminality. Whether it’s in Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa or Plateau State, one thing I’ve noticed is that there are gangs that are armed and hide under the guise of tact that crops of the farmers have been devastated by the herders.”

Idris who was represented by the DIG in charge of operations, Habila Joshak, further stated:

“Today, there are so many gangs waiting to intercept the Fulanis with their cows. Sometimes, they take out these animals, slaughter them and when they don’t finish the meat and when you go out with security operatives on patrol, you see a lot of meat littered on the rocks and in the field.”

He said this makes it difficult to draw a connection between the slaughtered animals and the allegations that they had eaten farmers’ crops

He also said there are alleged collusion sometimes between herders and Fulanis to perpetuate criminality against others.

According to him jobless youths in some communities take up criminality as a way of life, thereby compounding the problem.

Earlier, while setting the tune for the discourse, former Commissioner of Information and Strategy in Lagos State, Dele Alake in his opening remarks said Nigeria is at a critical juncture that is in contrast to the country of peace and harmony envisioned by its founding fathers.

He said Nigeria is uniquely blessed with abundant natural resources and “has what it takes to be at the top.”

He however said that “in recent times, we have been challenged and confronted by all manners of threat to, our political stability. We won’t sit and watch till the apocalypse.”

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