Premised on the need to better understand the remote and immediate causes of the continued conflict between herdsmen and farmers in North-west Nigeria, the Centre for Democratic, Development and Training (CEDDERT) with support from ENABLE2, a DFID-funded project has revealed that bandits from border countries are responsible for the farmers-pastoralists conflicts and attacks in North-west geopolitical zone of the country.

The Director of CEDDERT, Dr Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, said this during the maiden edition of CEDDERT Seminar Series themed: ‘Pastoralists and farmers’ Conflict in Nigeria.’

 According to him, the findings of CEDDERT were contained in its research in Dansadau, Sabuwa and Birnin Gwari in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna States.

In his presentation, Mohammed noted that the essence of the series is to present fact-based and credible information regarding authentic causes and nature of conflict to the general public, stakeholders and especially to policy makers.

“Three conflict areas where herders-farmers conflicts thrives namely Dansadau in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State, Sabuwa Local Government Area of Katsina State and Birnin Gwari communities in Kaduna State were investigated using various qualitative research methods such as focus group discussions and in-depth interviews.

“The conflict has five varying dimensions and levels of causes ranging from the phenomenon of cattle rustling by armed bandits who are usually non-residents; to incursions between farmers and herders into each others’ territories and resources.

“Emerging ethnicisation of the conflict exacerbated by the activities of the vigilante groups by regarding all Fulani as bandits and treating them as such combined with the deliberate strategy pursued by the bandits to make their action appear as if it is the defense of Fulani interest.

“Again, the nationalisation of the conflict in which Fulani’s fleeing from cattle rustlers in the North in turn becomes victims of same Fulani bandits and the host communities in the South who cannot distinguish between the bandit and the victimised.

“There is also an international dimensions of the conflict whereby through the bilateral and ECOWAS pastoral legislations, pastoralists from other countries easily access the country in order to cause mayhem.

“Also central to the conflict has been the decisions by State Governments to convert parts or whole forest reserves into private farms or settlements” he said.

While assessing the state of the conflict, the Team Leader of ENABLE2, a DFID-funded project, Kelvin Conroy noted that the conflicts between farmers-pastoralists in North-west zone have affected agricultural productivity in Nigeria as many farmers and pastoralists have fled the region because of the activities of bandits.

“ENABLE2 is concerned about the activities of bandits in Northwest Nigeria and its implication on agricultural production, food market and business. We supported this research in order to put the conflicts between herders and farmers in perspective with a view to providing quality factsheet to policymakers in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states.

“Hundreds have been displaced their homes and villages and force to seek refuge elsewhere. Business and farming activities have been destroyed. Markets have been abandoned and investors driven out of these communities. Peasant farmers have lost between 50-75 per cent of their annual productive capacity.

“Prior to the conflict, over 500 cattle was being brought to the market on market days; since the conflict, none are brought to the market and where they are managed to be brought they hardly exceed 10,” he said.

Speaking on the seminar series, the representative of Kaduna State Governor and Permanent Secretary of Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Abdulkadir Kasim, said the government of Mallam Nasir e-Rufai was doing everything within its resources to put a stop to farmers-herdsmen conflict in the state saying, “Kaduna State is working hard on improving grazing reserves in the state. We have identified four new grazing reserves for herdsmen and we are intensifying efforts to improving them. El-Rufai is committed to put a stop on herders-farmers conflict in the state. Hence, the Kaduna State Government is anticipating the outcomes or recommendations from this dialogue meeting as we look forward to implementing them,” he said.

While stressing the need for an urgent action to curb the escalation of herders-farmers conflicts, CEDDERT and ENABLE2 recommended that the National Security Adviser (NSA) in conjunction with the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defence and affected state governments should set up a standing committee to regularly brief the NSA on reconciliation in all conflict areas.

“The federal government should take the lead and liaise with other ECOWAS member states to find solutions as well as intensify efforts to recover weapons in the hands of criminals. Where there are security problems the state security committee should invite relevant community leaders and stakeholders to discuss and resolve the problem. state governments need to be proactive in taking decisions which have implications for security, this is in terms of land allocation, grazing areas. There is an urgent need to restore and demarcate cattle paths and grazing reserves.

“Advocacy groups should engage with farmers and pastoralists in affected areas to promote better understanding and reconciliation among groups in conflict and importantly,  regularly engage stakeholders; traditional rulers, conflicting group leaders, law enforcement agencies with a view to promoting reconciliation. Again, the media as well as advocacy groups should learn how to conduct investigative and balanced journalism; understand how to report conflict rather than inflaming sentiments through opinions and more so, liaise with research oorganisations for evidence-based information for content-based journalism.