In various parts of Nigeria, the Fulani herdsmen are increasingly viewed with suspicion and are being regarded as enemies by indigenous communities, a recent research by SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based organisation devoted to the collection and analysis of information, through the evaluation of public sources has shown.
The reports, which were results of visits to some affected communities in Adamawa and Oyo states noted that the rising hatred towards Fulani herdsmen is due to Nigerian Government’s perceived unwillingness to give justice to victims of herdsmen attacks by arresting and prosecuting the assailants.
According to the research work, both in Adamawa and Oyo states, and in other states where there have been farmers-herdsmen clashes, there has been a pattern where accusations and counter-accusations are ignored by the security agencies until various groups take matters into their own hands.
In Adamawa for instance, it noted that the tension occasioned by the recent reprisal attacks has resulted in the desertion of neighbouring villages such as Imburu, Pullum and Kwapuke as villagers abandoned their homes, seeking safety elsewhere due to rumours of an impending attack by the Fulani herdsmen.
According to the research report, “The fleeing residents claimed that some Fulani herdsmen were spotted lurking around their communities after the recent massacres. They alleged that the herdsmen were armed and planning a reprisal attack. Like most herdsmen/farmer conflicts, the pastoral conflicts across West Africa are resource conflicts amplified because of the differing ethnicities/religions of the hostile sides. There is a history of animosity and violence between the Bachama/Mbula ethnic groups around Numan, and the Fulani.”
“The pastoral conflict, which we have talked about in previous reports, is expanding, and deepening. Many communities, Fulani and non-Fulani alike, are beginning to take matters into their own hands. In the final analysis, this conflict is not just a discussion about ethnicity or religion; it is a conversation about the sanctity of economic institutions like property rights. Nigeria cannot build a proper economy if basic property rights can be so casually violated as we have seen repeatedly. The discussion is also a conversation about security and the rights of states. We are seeing some state governors trying to legislate proactively at least. The lack of national leadership on this issue is unfortunate. Non-Fulani communities have set up militias to attack Fulani communities”, the research added.
The research also revealed a dangerous trend of aggrieved farmers spraying chemicals on their crops in order to poison grazing cattle, a pattern repeating itself across the country on both sides of the River Niger, warning that if nothing is done urgently, the situation could get worse in the near future.
“The principle that one’s liberty ends where the other man’s begins is the essential intellectual bedrock of the concept and practice of modern property rights. With respect to Nigeria’s pastoralist problem, this frame might not be adequate to properly delineate the extent of this growing social problem. In theory, the pastoralists have had ample time to make the adjustment to the realities of modern, contemporary way of life that most Nigerians now live in.
“On the one hand, modern property rights, while alien to these itinerant pastoralists, have been enthusiastically adopted by the settler farmers and traders who possess small farm holdings across a vast swath of Nigerian territory. On the other hand, better enforcement of the country’s laws is required so that perpetrators of violence and trespassers on private property are brought to justice. In this regards, the Nigerian security apparatus has failed woefully, thereby creating an environment that emboldens herdsmen to use violence to access private property for grazing purposes, while farmers resort to self-help to defend their land. The result is a vicious cycle which has essentially spiralled into escalating levels of violence from both parties”, the research further captured.
Debo Adeniran, executive chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), posits in an interview with BDSUNDAY that outright banning of grazing across Nigeria is the urgent way out of the killings and reprisal attacks between herdsmen and their host residents.
“The right of the herdsmen to graze stopped where the right of the farmers to protect their crops begins. You can’t be claiming that you have right to move your cows about while destroying farmers’ crops in the process. That is not the way to go in this modern time. This old open grazing must stop. We must embrace ranching as alternative,” he says.
He also blames brewing fighting and lack of corporation among security agencies for the worsening security situation particularly as it relates to the incessant killings and reprisal attacks between herdsmen and farmers.
“If there is corporation between the Police, the DSS, the Military, the Civil Defence and Customs, they would have been able to share information on the movements, buying and supplying of guns and dangerous weapons by the herdsmen. When they are fighting each other they would not share information that could help secure the nation; that is why we are calling for unity among security agencies,” he says.
There have been several calls that since cattle herding is a privately owned enterprise, cattle owners must build and support their own ranches, respect the laws of the land and pay taxes, as it is done in civilised societies.
In pre-independence Nigeria, the British Colonial Administrators maintained a cattle tax across all of northern Nigeria, but the Tafawa Balewa-led government removed the tax after Independence.