FG failure to tackle herdsmen farmer crises worsens conflict

by Endurance Okafor & Oladipo Oladehinde

December 1, 2017 | 1:45 am
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Nigeria’s pastoral conflict is expanding and deepening with many communities, Fulani and non-Fulani alike, beginning to take matters into their own hands, as they step into a gap created by the Federal Government’s failure to address the crises.
Non-Fulani communities have set up militias to attack Fulani communities and there is also an increase in the disturbing trend of farmers spraying chemicals on their crops in order to poison grazing cattle. This pattern is repeating itself across the country on both sides of the River Niger according to a new report by SBM Intelligence.
“Some affected state governments have resorted to banning open grazing within their territory. However, the Secretary-General of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), Sale Bayeri, has warned that banning of open grazing in Benue, Ekiti, Plateau and Taraba states will create more problems than it intends to resolve. Bayeri noted that the Fulani do not know any other method of grazing their cattle, and any attempt to confine them to a place was a sure invitation to anarchy,” the SBM report said.

“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.”
The raids by Fulani herdsmen are considered as the biggest security threat facing Nigeria after the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Fulani herdsmen and the settled farming communities have clashed resulting in the death of thousands of rural inhabitants, over the use of essential resources such as farmland, grazing areas and water land as lower rainfall, advancing desertification and overgrazing drive the herdsmen towards more fertile land in the south of Nigeria.
According to SBM Intelligence, there have been 389 incidents involving herdsmen and farming communities between 1997 and 2015, with 371 of these attacks happening after 2011 in the Middle Belt.

Unlike Boko Haram attacks which are mainly in the north, majority of herdsmen attacks occurs in the Middle Belt. The five states of Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba recorded 847 deaths while Zamfara state in the Northern Belt had 229 deaths.
These increasingly deadly clashes have started taking place more frequently in the southern states, something even Boko Haram has yet to attempt to date. There have been attacks in states including Rivers and Enugu, in the southeast, and Ondo, in the southwest.
According to the Global Terrorism Database 2017, Fulani extremists killed over 2,500 people in Nigeria between 2012 and 2016. In 2016, more people died in clashes with the herdsmen than in Boko Haram attacks.
Debo Adeniran, executive chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), posits in an interview with BusinessDay 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 a lack of cooperation among security agencies for the worsening situation particularly as it relates to the incessant killings and reprisal attacks between herdsmen and farmers.
“If there is cooperation 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 supply of guns and dangerous weapons by the herdsmen and farmers. When security agencies are fighting each other they would not share information that could help secured the nation; that is why we are calling for unity among the agencies,”Adeniran said.
There have been several calls that since cattle herding is a private 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.
Firearms were used in over half of all attacks in Nigeria and were responsible for 67 per cent of all deaths by Boko Haram and 92 per cent of deaths from Fulani militants.
A recent attack was in Igangan town of Ibarapa North local government area in Oyo state after a clash between farmers and herdsmen in the town on November 22, 2017 with 15 people reportedly in critical condition in two hospitals
Meanwhile in Adamawa Mafndi Danburam, chairman of Miyetti Allah in Adamawa, said, “The farmers stormed the villages of Kikan, Kodomun, Shafaran and Ketowal at about 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) on Monday (20 November, 2017), killing women and children and burning homes.
“From our estimation more than sixty women and children were slaughtered in the attack, with some of them pursued inside the bush and killed while they tried to fee.”
Damburam however said that forty-five of those killed have been buried while many are still missing.
Disputes over grazing and water rights have persisted between the indigenous Bachama farmers and settler Fulani herders, leading to periodic violence. On their part, Fulani community leaders gave higher death tolls from the attacks.
In a bid to curb curb these violent clashes, a bill, sponsored by Senator Zainab Kure, representing Niger Central in the Seventh Senate was presented for consideration but was rejected by the last Senate. The Bill has however been revived in the present political dispensation and presently before the House of Representatives. Titled; “National Grazing Reserve (Establishment) Bill 2016,” sponsored by Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim, it provides for the establishment of the National Grazing Reserve Commission which shall have power to among other things establish at least one Cattle Reserve in each state of the federation.
However, AFENIFERE, rejected the Grazing Commission Bill sponsored which had scaled through the second reading.
The pan-Yoruba socio-political group stated its position through its leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, describing the bill as obnoxious and unacceptable to the Yoruba Nation.
According to Fasoranti, the bill seeks to turn private cattle rearing into a national affair by setting up a Federal body to take care of interest of herdsmen against the interest of other occupations.
He said the bill if passed into law would forcefully take land from state government and individual owners in violation of the Land Use of Act and all legal means of land holding for the purpose of grazing reserves.


Endurance Okafor & Oladipo Oladehinde


by Endurance Okafor & Oladipo Oladehinde

December 1, 2017 | 1:45 am
12893  |   93   |   0  |   Start Conversation

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