Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
At last, the prolonged violent crises between cattle breeders and farmers in Agatu land, Benue State, which have claimed several lives and property, may have been laid to rest.
This is because the warring parties have agreed to sheath their swords and embrace peace at a town hall meeting held in Abuja to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the leadership of the cattle breeders and prominent Agatu farmers resolved on the immediate cessation of hostilities between the Idoma in Agatu and the Fulani nomadic community carrying out grazing activities in the area.
At a joint world press conference by the two parties, the national leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) was directed to order its Benue and Nasarawa States chapters to immediately order all Fulani herdsmen carrying out grazing activities in Agatu to immediately withdraw and move to Nasarawa State while dialogue towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict is ongoing.
Agatu youths, the communiqué read at the conference further stated, should desist from patrolling the river banks until when better understanding is achieved between the two parties.
The communiqué also urged the federal government to set up a high powered committee that will include the leadership of the Idoma Initiative and MACBAN to comprehensively look into the immediate and remote causes of the crisis with the view of finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
The suggested committee should also be mandated to ascertain the level of destruction of lives and property on both sides with a view to giving adequate compensation.
“The federal government should draw up a roadmap to commence the immediate reconstruction, rehabilitation and re-integration of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Agatu back to their various communities.
“A peace football match should be organised between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and a joint team comprising the Idomas and the Fulanis. The football match should be played at the National Stadium, Abuja and be organised in conjunction with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The match should be aimed at raising awareness of the peaceful resolution of the conflict and to raise funds towards the reconstruction of the properties destroyed in the crisis.
“All future conflicts arising between the Idoma people of Agatu and Fulani herdsmen should be addressed through dialogue rather than violent means as was the recent case.
“We condemn in its totality the proliferation of firearms especially among the warring parties and pledge to collaborate with the federal government and the two state governments of Benue and Nasarawa to encourage the laying down of arms by both parties and to also appeal to the government to consider granting amnesty to those who accept to lay down their arms and embrace lasting peace.
“The federal government, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, is urged to address the issue of grazing reserve and mapping out of the primary, secondary and tertiary cattle routes in Nigeria in order to put an end to the problem of perennial clashes between local farmers and Fulani herdsmen. The Ministry of Agriculture is urged to propose a bill to resolve the above issue while the National Assembly is urged to consider and pass such bill into law expeditiously.
“We urge the Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, to immediately visit Agatu with his cabinet members for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and ensure that rapid development of the crisis areas is commenced. We believe when this is done, it will go a long way in pacifying the victims of the crisis,’’ the communiqué said.
The communiqué was signed by Mr. Paul Edeh, the Convener of Idoma Initiative; Alhaji Muhammadu Kiruwa, the National President of MACBAN and Baba Othman Ngelzarma, the National Secretary, MACBAN.