Time to end the deadly herder-farmer conflicts
by CHUKS OLUIGBO
January 15, 2018 | 8:58 am| | | Start Conversation
The government and people of Benue State in Nigeria’s north-central zone on January 11 buried over 70 people killed in attacks carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas of the state between December 31, 2017 and January 8, 2018.
Benue is just one of the states where the escalating conflicts between herders and farmers have led to wanton destruction of lives and property, with its attendant humanitarian crisis. Such incidents have occurred in at least 22 of the country’s 36 states, according to a report.
“Violent conflicts between nomadic herders from northern Nigeria and sedentary agrarian communities in the central and southern zones have escalated in recent years and are spreading southward, threatening the country’s security and stability,” the International Crisis Group said in a September 2017 report ‘Herders against Farmers: Nigeria’s Expanding Deadly Conflict’.
“With an estimated death toll of approximately 2,500 people in 2016, these clashes are becoming as potentially dangerous as the Boko Haram insurgency in the north east,” it said.
The economic impact of the deadly conflicts, according to SBM Intelligence in a recent report, includes underperformance of the cattle industry, which generates only $6.8 billion of a potential $20 billion per year, decimation of communities that would have been potential markets for the herders, and an even greater threat to Nigeria’s food security. Nigeria’s Middle-Belt, where the attacks have been most intense, is regarded as the country’s food basket.
To resolve these conflicts, the International Crisis Group recommends the following, in the short term: strengthen security arrangements for herders and farming communities especially in the north-central zone; establish or strengthen conflict mediation, resolution, reconciliation and peacebuilding mechanisms, and establish grazing reserves in consenting states as well as improve livestock production and management in order to minimise contacts and friction between herders and farmers.
In the long term, the group recommends addressing environmental factors that are driving herders’ migration to the south and coordinating with neighbouring countries to stem cross-border movement of non-Nigerian armed herders.
The time is now for the federal government to step up to the challenge and, working with state governments, take remedial actions with a greater sense of urgency. Its response to the crisis so far has been less than impressive.
The writer can be reached via chuks.oluigbo@ businessdayonline.com or +2347031029998
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