The solution to the frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen is ranching
A few days after former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar expressed concerns over the increasing wave of violence between herdsmen and farmers in some North Central states, no fewer than 11 persons were ambushed and gruesomely killed by suspected herdsmen at Diyan junction in Rim District of Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State. The victims were returning from Makera market in a vehicle when they were reportedly ambushed by their assailants.
Although General Abdulsalami has put the financial cost of the incessant violence at $13.7 billion, we must point out that the losses to the economy as a result of the activities of these crises are far higher, and indeed cannot be easily quantified. Aside the thousands of people that have been killed and property that had been razed, several families are today dislocated with countless citizens physically and psychologically maimed for life. The future ambitions of many Nigerians, particularly children, have been cut short or disrupted while the local economy suffers grievous harm. This is not to talk of foreign investors who are scared by the many violent conflicts in the polity.
What is more worrying is that because of these incessant communal conflicts, many communities across the country are self-arming either to protect themselves or for reprisal attacks as bloody battles for supremacy and for the control of land become increasingly alarming. Only recently, some communities on the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State erupted in an unprecedented violence that claimed the lives of many inhabitants. Governor Samuel Ortom has revealed that no fewer than 1,900 lives had been lost to the lingering clashes between farmers and the herdsmen in Benue State alone this year.
We therefore call all relevant stakeholders: states/federal government, legislatures, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, security agencies and communities on the urgent need to frontally tackle these deadly and criminal conflicts, which are spreading to other states in the federation and threatening the brittle peace. That is also why we wholeheartedly welcome the land use plans, especially the anti-open grazing act recently enacted by some states, including Benue. With farming as their major occupation, there is absolutely no way the people can cope with open grazing by the cattle breeders.
At a time the nation needs to embrace agriculture not only for food security but also to take many of our young people out of the streets, the authorities cannot continue to look the other way or act in a manner that suggests they have taken sides. As some of the governors, including Samuel Ortom of Benue, who incidentally belongs to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), have argued, the solution to the frequent clashes between the farmers and herdsmen is ranching, and that is what the anti-open grazing bill he recently assented to is all about.
As we keep reiterating, one of the curious tragedies of modern Nigeria is that we have come to accept the category ‘nomadic’ as a permanent description of a vital segment of our populace. We have gone ahead to create schools, map out grazing trails and sundry other things to enshrine this unfortunate doctrine. The consequence has been the ever frequent bloody clashes between nomads and settled landowners and farmers in nearly every part of the country. Besides, by allowing them to roam the length and breadth of the country, often herding evacuated cattle, we violate the rights of these animals and endanger the health of citizens through exposure to the elements and a cocktail of diseases.
The authorities, both in Abuja and the states, must therefore begin to fashion long-term solution to the challenge that is generating violence in several theatres at enormous cost to the nation.