Worried by the spate of pastoralists and farmers crisis that have rocked the nation over time, particularly the northern parts, resulting in huge loss of lives and properties worth millions of naira, stakeholders came together in Kaduna recently to brainstorm on the way forward with a view to stemming the tide. Muhammad Ibrahim was there.
Reports have indicated that the crisis between pastoralists and farmers has been most prevalent in Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba states of Nigeria but the crisis has now taken a new dimension with criminals masquerading as Fulani herdsmen to unleash terror on communities in some selected states in the north. While many believe such attackers may not necessarily be Fulani herdsmen others say they are insurgents.
The situation had called for series of meetings between the Fulani association, Miyyeti Allah of Nigeria, farmers groups and other stakeholders with the aim of finding lasting solution to the crisis but the issue still lingers with dire consequences, prompting the Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Abubakar to set up a Police Committee on Resolution of Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in some parts of the north.
The committee headed by AIG Michael Zokumo made tremendous achievement towards ending the crisis mainly in the North Central and some parts of Kaduna state. In Kaduna, the Zokumo led-committee spearheaded successful signing of peace agreement between pastoralists and natives of some communities of the state. Unfortunately, the crisis has still continued in southern Kaduna, with the people attributing it to Fulani herdsmen, who in turn have consistently denied the allegation.
Perturbed by the problem, the office of the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki rtd, had recently intervened by organizing an international conference on “The Role of Pastoralists in Preventing Insurgency and Conflicts for National Security.
The conference which held on 23-24 June, 2014 had in attendance Vice President Namadi Sambo who represented President Goodluck Jonathan at the event. Other important dignitaries that graced the occasion were Chairman Northern Governors Forum, who is also Niger state governor, Babangida Aliyu, the Speaker House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Minister of Agriculture, Adewumi Adesina, Kaduna state governor, Ramalan Yero who was chief host, Taraba state Acting governor, Senators, Emirs, the leadership of Miyyeti Allah of Nigeria, farmers association as well as guests from the neighboring countries, diplomats, security officials to mention but few.
Analysing the guest list, experts believed that the calibre of personalities that attended the conference showed how serious the situation has become. Their presence at the conference showed that everybody is disturbed with the killings taken place in the country allegedly caused by the crisis.
In his opening remarks at the conference, the National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Colonel Sambo Dasuki said the Federal Government in collaboration with state governments and other stakeholders are doing all they can to tackle the frequent conflict between pastorals and farmers in the country.
He said several measures have been put in place to bring lasting solution to the crisis that have claimed many lives in different parts of the country among which is the initiating of the conference.
He explained that government had also encouraged dialogue between the pastorals and farmers so as to promote peaceful coexistence between them.
“Such crisis is mostly between the Fulani, Kanuri, Tiv, Jukun and other ethnic groups. The crisis has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity as some people think. Some believe that Fulanis are Muslims and farmers are non Muslims, which is not the case because when the cows come to your farm they don’t differentiate between a Muslim’s farm and a Christian’s farm, they just destroy them,” he said.
Governor Muktar Ramalan Yero in his speech, said it was clear that the ongoing aggressive urbanisation in most parts of the country had become a major threat, not only to pastoralists but also to farmers leading to dangerous struggle for farmlands and grazing fields.
“It is therefore our responsibility as leaders to device means of resolving these conflicts through viable policies that takes care of all interests. In Kaduna state, we have identified collapse of grazing reserves as the major cause of conflicts recorded recently, especially those in the Southern parts of the state.
“To tackle the situation, the state government has approved the sum of N45 million for rehabilitation, expansion and improvement of existing facilities in Grazing Reserves.” He said.
On the role of pastoralists in enhancing national security; he said there has to be deliberate efforts at integrating them into the society.
In his remarks, Emir of Zazzau, Dr Shehu Idris represented by Emir of Birnin Gwari, Malam Zubairu Jibril Mai Gwari stressed on the need for government to meet with leaders of the fulani community with the hope of finding lasting solution to the crisis.
“We must sit down with leaders of the fulani and farmers to find lasting solution to this problem because when you talk about the grazing reserves, most of them have been taken over by houses and other structures. This is why I think the government must find a way to sit and discuss the way forward,” he said.
Speaker House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol of 1998 and the ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Goods and persons in West Africa allow herders to roam across the West African borders in search of pasture for their cattle based on certain conditions. But added that the recent terrorist activities along these borders have made this impossible as it becomes difficult for security men to differentiate between genuine pastoralists and terrorists masquerading as such.
“We must constantly create avenues where pastoralists and farmers can meet to discuss areas of conflicts before they get out of hand. If there is good communication between this two classes of food producers, there will be less reason for battles.
President Goodluck Jonathan while declaring the conference open said criminals masquerade as pastoralists to wage war in the country.
The President represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, said so far the activities of insurgents in the country over stretched the nation’s security as it affects the nation’s economic growth.
“The intensity and diversity of conflicts over the last few years has reached an alarming proportion with attendant loss of lives and property. This has unfortunately, been more predominant in Plateau, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Benue and Taraba states. Other northern states are also not free from these security challenges.
“Such challenges have also been reported in some states in the southern parts of this country. The seed of conflict has continued to pose serious challenges to the nation’s security and economic growth.
“We are all aware of the threat posed to the nation by activities of insurgents, some relying on the lingering pastoralist/farmers clash and masquerading as pastoralists who wage war against the state,” he said.
The president called on stakeholders, community leaders, religious leaders, youth groups and political leaders to continue to provide atmosphere for peaceful coexistence and brotherhood rather than to resort to conflict and violence which serves no useful purpose.
Minister of Agriculture, Adewumi Adesina and other stakeholders who also delivered papers at the event, all suggested ways the government can bring an end to the frequent clash between pastoralists and farmers in the country.
There is no doubt that the conference engendered unity amongst stakeholders in their bid to chart a course for lasting peace between pastoralists and farmers, who in the olden days had put their heads together in solving food problems in their communities and the country at large.
With the commitment of stakeholders and continued dialogue, it is expected that soon, such crises will be a thing of the past.