Herdsmen in Policy Vacuum


The Horizon By Kayode Komolafe kayode.komolafe@thisdaylive.com 0805 500 1974

The horrifying footages on television of the devastation of Agatu communities would remain a chilling monument to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in some parts of the country. There have been heart-rending reports of lives lost and homes destroyed. Farmlands have been deserted. The wounded and the displaced are in need of proper care and support.

Mercifully, relief is coming the way of the poor victims of the bloodletting. Security forces have also stepped up efforts to restore law and order in the affected areas.

It is the hope of lovers of peace that the displaced villagers would all soon be back to their communities. Doubtless, the latest round of violence in parts of the Middle Belt should force an official answer to the lingering question: what is to be done to end the episodic clashes between herdsmen and farmers? If the government was waiting for a wake-up call to respond to this question, what happened to the Agatu communities should be a sufficient alarm. Two broad issues of economics and law and order could be isolated from the tragedy. They are the protection of lives and property as the primary duty of the state and the articulation and implementation of a policy incorporating pastoral farming.

The question of security is urgent. It is highly distressing that communities could be so cheaply invaded by armed attackers for days. Were there any intelligence reports that such violence was about to erupt? The helplessness of those so brutally attacked cannot be rationalised under any guise by the officialdom. In some reports it is even alleged that many of the attackers are foreigners, thereby further complicating the matter. Whatever happened to the security at the nation’s borders? It is scary to contemplate that the violence could not be prevented.

And when killings and destruction begin in communities, it is expected that there would be a swift response to protect the people. It is also important to make an example of perpetrators of violence. You are not going to curb killings when killers go unpunished. It would be interesting for the police to give a comprehensive report on those involved in similar clashes, for instance, in the last one decade. How many of the suspected killers have been successfully prosecuted and punished?

The episodic killings around the country constitute a categorical challenge not only to the police, but the whole of the justice sector. Whatever the motive of killings, a credible system should be able to account for every life lost and ensure that justice is done. It is the least expected from a social order with integrity. It would be useful for the various security agencies to draw lessons from the recent round of violence.

The second issue is the failure (or is it lack) of policy on grazing. As you ponder the tragedy arising from the clashes of herdsmen and farmers, you are bound to wonder why the problem persists as if it has no solution. The outcomes of the numerous studies and investigations into the problem have not been put into use. Apart from panels of enquiry, academic findings have been made on what to do in solving the problem. It is ironic listening to experts talk about the solution while the tragedy unfolds. The herdsmen are in need of pastoral farms as they move their cattle round the country while the nation is lacking in policy. So the herdsmen are actually moving round their cattle in a policy vacuum.

When discussing issues of food security and production, Agriculture Minister Chief Audu Ogbe is even more eloquent than his younger predecessor, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. Both men can wax lyrical when telling you about “agricultural value-chain.” They are ardent at reeling out figures to convince you about the possibilities in the agricultural sector if developed. But all this would not be a substitute for a proper agricultural policy articulation and implementation.

The consequence of this huge policy deficit is playing itself out in the convulsions. In this specific case, there is the policy challenge of integrating the nomadic herdsmen into the modern agricultural system. It is beyond dispute that the herdsmen are playing an important role in the economy. The cattle they move round communities are a major source of protein. However, as economic players they should act within the law. On this page, columnists of this newspaper have questioned the practice in the 21st century of moving cattle in hundreds of kilometres in the process of producing animal protein.

In particular, Dr. Chidi Amuta and Mr. Femi Falana have raised important points in this regard. The nation has been reminded of the efforts to create grazing land in the past as part of agricultural policies.

However, it is easier for the political elite to focus on how to exploit the tragedy politically instead of facing the policy challenge squarely. Hence are they are more interested in qualifying the herdsmen with the adjective “Fulani” and describing the farmer as “Agatu “ or “Kanuri” or “Yoruba.” It is important to go beyond the superficial if the problem is to be solved.

The contradiction between the cattle herdsman and yam farmer is not based on their respective nationalities. The conflict is not primarily ethnic. The underlying force is economic. It is not because the farmer is Tiv, Agatu or Yoruba that clashes happen; it is because the production process of the herdsman is incompatible with that of the farmer. The farmer defends his farm as a source of livelihood.

So policy should assist the nomadic herdsman to produce beef in a way that is compatible with the modern system of production. The herdsmen are stuck in a pre-capitalist mode of production in an age when beef is made available to the market in a sophisticated manner. Technology has even made the process so advanced that the atavistic method of the herdsmen would have no place in it. So, it is time the government designed up-to-date agricultural policy that would include programmes on development of grazing land and production of beef.

The problem is further compounded by the destructive impact of climate change on the ecosystem. In the northern part of the country from where the herdsmen move downward to clash with farmers there is an ecological battle with desertification. It is suggestible to Ogbe as he works on the solution to pay more attention to the interplay of the forces of economics and ecology as a policy is being designed.

For instance, the recovery of the ecosystem to create vast grazing land to grow livestock in the northern part of the country could be part of the programme. The scientific management of the grazing lands would also pose its own challenge when they are created. All these are to be squarely addressed in a carefully designed policy. And that would be a fundamental way of looking at the problem.

  • caltu

    When a problem arises, Nigerians prefer to speak big grammar about it, instead of tackling it head on. That the herdsmen move their stock from place to place is per se not the issue. The challenge is that these herdsmen do not care a damn when cultivated farmlands are being ravaged by their stock. They just move as if everywhere is a grazing ground. If truth be told, will the herdsmen move their stock through a millet or corn farm in the North? That they provide us with protein is mute; do they provide us with carbohydrate?
    They also now carry AK-47. Instead of shooting wide animals that attack their stock, they now shoot locals for complaining about the devastation they cause. And all Nigerians are talking about is policy. Do herdsmen read policy.
    Let us be clear, this is a problem that has been allowed to fester in Nigerian fashion. And sooner or later, it will become a monster as it is gradually turning into. We do not need a policy, we need a firm action action against those who think that they can protect their property by destroying other people’s property.

  • Ademola Onitiju

    Jon West’s comments encapsulated a lot ! From Serial—-of the establishment to the the Life Patron of Miyyetti Allah. Placation and indulgences granted the” super citizens” and their cousins across the borders of the northern Savannah regions of West Africa created the atmosphere for impunity to be emboldened. So long as the “super citizens” remain adamant to the call for national dialogue to address issues precipitated by the demands of modern nationhood, identification of citizens, records, documentation, maintenance of credible national database so long would peace, egalitarian co-existence remain unattainable. Demola Onitiju.

  • Edim Asekong

    Buhari came to check insecurity. Now insecurity is checking Buhari.

  • KWOY

    The article glossed over some issues in the typical nigerian style of denials. One is, from where do the herdsmen get their sophisticated weapons? Two is, how are the element of “rape” & “kidnapping” in the herdsmen’s activities to be explained?… In any case, this is one of the reasons state/regional police is inevitable, bcos it enables responsibility for own security & promptness in response.

    • Iskacountryman

      from awka…

  • Jon West

    It is a sign of the sub-optimal nature of the Nigerian state that in the second decade of the second millennium, animal husbandry is still conducted by pastoralists , using medieval methods and processes. The largest economy in Africa has very few ranches and cattle have to move thousands of miles in search of grass, leading to this constant conflict between farmers and herdsmen and the constant spectre of malnourished animals .

    Is it not an oxymoron that a policy that encourages and even mandates the restriction of cattle to ranches and abattoirs and the intercity and interstate transport of cattle by rail and road cattle truck should already be in place? Instead what you have is Audu Ogbe, serial slave of the establishment, telling his Idoma people that he will end the clashes in Benue State, by importing grass from Brazil for the herdsmen, as if the nation owes raw materials input to a totally private enterprise.
    In any case, as with palm oil and Malaysia, the Brazilians took samples of the elephant grass that we are about to import from them, from Nigeria and adapted it for cattle fodder.
    The trouble with Nigeria is really a question of leadership and education. Why are we still contending with this situation in 2016? Why can’t state houses of assembly issue laws against grazing in their lands? What are these imbeciles in these houses afraid of? That the Fulanis will do what for Gods sake?
    Cattle rearing is a purely private enterprise and the Life Paatron of the Miyetti Allah Cattlemen’s Association is now the President of Nigeria. He should propound policies and legislation to replicate his ranch in Daura all over the North and then apply technology to devise all season fodder for the cattle. Let this bloodletting end. Nigeria has had enough of this Fulani-induced rivers of blood.

    • Iskacountryman

      which fulani induced what?…you encroach on our gazetted routes and kill our cattle for free meat…is that part of the farmers defence of his farm for livelihood?

      • William Norris

        There are gazetted routes for cattle? That’s news, never read of that anywhere.

        That still doesn’t give cattle herders the right to carry military rifles. If your cattle or routes are disturbed in any way, the proper thing is to file a police report.

        • Iskacountryman

          go and read the northern nigeria gazette and colonial government papers…

          • William Norris

            That still doesn’t give the herders rights to carry military rifles and worse use them on their fellow citizens.

            If there are such things are grazing routes, fine, same old problem of antiquated laws in so many areas of national life. The laws need to be updated in view of present day realities.

            You seem to imply the routes are in the North. Fulani herdsmen roam and kill people as far south as Imo, Abia and Ekiti States. Are there grazing routes in the southern states too?

          • Iskacountryman

            the bush is a dangerous place to traverse…

          • William Norris

            And you’re an IDIOT.

          • Iskacountryman

            who am i to disagree if you say so…

        • Baron Roy

          When I read comments from people like Iskacountryman and his ilk, the following come to mind:
          1. Fredrick Lugard should be post-humously tried for the 1914 Amalgamation
          2. This country should be operating regionalism
          3. The terrain and people should be separated peacefully or not into two or more independent countries
          4. Abortion should be legalized so that Iskacountryman and his ilk would be aborted at birth

      • NIBC

        Did you just equate the live of your cattle to the hundreds of lives and that of a whole community? That is barbaric. And that is assuming your cattles were attacked for free meat purposes and not actually attacked for grazing on farm. Whatever the case, i think you owe the thousands of lives and their families an apology for making such a comparison.

        • Kelly

          I don’t know why anyone should be surprised that these animals equate human lives to cows, these is how wicked they are and I still don’t blame them in anyway, we asked for it and so we have gotten it. How we are made to share the same space with these creatures still beats my imagination, for there is nothing that we have in common with these wicked creatures that justifies us sharing the same space with them as one nation. Nothing and I mean nothing, if you still doubt read what @iskacountryman is writing here, and don’t look further as this is the true mindset of every hausa/fulani man. Pathetic!

      • Itodo Okey Santos

        Gazetted routes? When? It is only in sick county that a fellow human is equating 500 human lives with cows.

        And what is this accusation of farmers killing cattle for free meat? Are you saying that a farmer retaliated and killed a cow as a pay back for destruction of his/her farm is a justification for killing over 500 people both women and children and burning their houses?

        What is wrong with some Nigerians?

        • Iskacountryman

          if you are mad enough to kill a cow, we understand, that is retaliation…BUT when you go ahead to butcher the cow and eat…now that is aggravated stealing and genocide…

          • Itodo Okey Santos

            I never knew that genocide can be committed against cows. Lol. On the other hand, let’s take that some one stole a cow. I guess there is law on stealing in this country. Killing hundred of human beings both women and children, raping and burning down their homes is nothing but a display of barbarism and sadism. Anyone that is entertaining any oita of justitification on such acts is not far different from those that committed those heinous acts. This is 21st century.

          • Iskacountryman

            if you steal one cow…that is rustling and eat it in your village… ba magana…but when you slaughter more than 10, without making use of the dead…you are trying to exterminate the owners, whose lives depend on the cows…hence the genocide…did i ask you what century it was?…

          • Itodo Okey Santos

            When cows in their hundreds ravages a farm that someone have worked on for almost a year to feed his family, sell the produce and use the money to send his or her children to school, buy clothes, pay house rent, pay medical bills etc, what is the owner of the cows trying to do?

            Don’ forget that the farm didn’t go to the cows. It was the cows that went to the farm. In a simple words; it is provocation and injustice.
            Am still replying you because am giving you the benefit of doubt that you may be missing something on the whole issue.

            I feel that it is either you don’t really understand what is at stake here or you are ……………. what I rather hold back from saying.

          • Iskacountryman

            are you blaming the owner of the cow for the cows appetite?

          • NIBC

            Let me believe you are raising this dust for discussion sake and not that you truly meant what you have been posting up there all along, because if you really do, then i am scared for this country, for having people like you with this kind of perspective and mentality. But i really want to believe the first, that you are just seeking attention by raising such annoying comments. Either way, i think you should be ignored.

          • Iskacountryman

            thanks for ignoring me…and remember beef costs money…

      • Baron Roy

        Are you crazy? What do you mean by gazzetted routes? What arrant and arrogant rubbish!!!

        • Iskacountryman

          lawless fellow…

  • FrankNinja

    The clashes between the herdsmen and the farmers is a sign of climate change. It is happening in Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast practically all across the West African coast as less foliage in the Northern Savannahs has forced the Fulani herdsmen to stay longer in the southern wetter zones to feed their cattle often trespassing on farms. The use of military-grade weaponry by the herdsmen have meant that clashes have become violent and deadly.

    The solution is not to establish federal grazing routes which interferes with territorial rights and will raise the spectre of ethnic conflict significantly.

    Instead, Nigeria should first demilitarize the herdsmen by recovering AK-47s and other guns and require the Fulani Cattle Herders to negotiate directly with host communities leased land for ranches and invest in buying or producing cattle fodder such as elephant grass. After all, Brazil uses a version of Nigerian Elephant Grass to feed its cattle because Elephant grass is a fast growing high yield plant that meets nutrition requirements.

    • Iskacountryman

      is that so…