Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The committee set up by the Ministry of Defence to unravel the causes of frequent clashes between farmers and herders across the country, which have led to several killings and destruction of property yesterday submitted its report to the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali (rtd).
The committee, which spent six months discussing with stakeholders across the country, blamed the crisis on the high illiteracy level of both the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers making it possible for them to be easily influenced into taking arms against each other.
It also blamed the shrinking of the Lake Chad Basin, which used to provide sources of water for cattle grazing in the North-east and parts of North-west, resulting in herdsmen having to move their cattle outside their local habitat for survival resulting in skirmishes with farmers.
The committee also discovered that issues of climate change has had serious negative impact on both the herdsmen and the farmers and was a primary cause of the conflict, even as it recommended among others, the practice of ranching to put a stop to the conflicts and killings.
Chairman of the Committee, Brigadier General Umar Mohammed Ibrahim, said there was need for both the federal, state and local government councils to increase the level of education and literacy among the people of the affected areas to stem the conflicts.
Towards redressing the shrinking Lake Chad basin, he suggested the need for Lake Chad Basin Countries (LCBC) countries to come together and work in tandem with international support to stop the lake from further receding.
While noting that population growth had also played a role in the crisis, Ibrahim said, most of the pastoral routes which existed in the past for cattle movements were taken over by development as population increased, adding that if possible, new pastoral routes should be opened.
Earlier, the Chairman told the minister that the work of the committee took them to Benue, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Adamawa and Taraba States.
“We met the Miyetti Allah representatives, Farmers Organisation of Nigeria represen-tatives, governors and most stakeholders and all the groups made sincere contributions on how to resolve the crisis,” he said.
Receiving the report, the minister said: “As you are aware, the violent conflicts between nomadic herders and agrarian communities in Nigeria have escalated in recent years and are threatening our nation’s security and political stability.
“These clashes are becoming potentially dangerous as the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east and the Lake Chad region.
“Those conflicts were historical conflicts though recently they assumed more dangerous dimensions. Previous response to address the crisis at the federal, states and local government levels has been poor.
“The present administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has taken immediate steps to address the problem. Efforts were made by the government to reform livestock management practices, address negative environmental trends and curb cross-border movements of both cattle rearers and armed herders.
“It is also important to mention here that technological and economic changes are key to addressing some of the farmers-herders violent conflicts. Our judicial system should also be strengthening to handle those cases from both farmers and herders who take the law into their hands,” he said.