Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has called for the enactment of appropriate states and federal legislative frameworks and strategies that would help to regulate incessant cases of farmer-herder conflicts and the attendant loss of lives and property in the country.
He also canvassed the need for stringent punishment against those fomenting troubles through wanton destruction of farmlands and cattle rustling to tame the rising wave of crisis.
Delivering a paper titled “Farmer-Herder Conflicts in Nigeria: Implications for National Security,” at the National Institute for Security Studies (NISS) Executive Management Course in Abuja yesterday, Fayemi stated that the scale of the challenge required that government move to unpack what has become a major threat to peaceful co-existence and food security in the country.
Fayemi noted that fatalities recorded from the farmer-herder clashes outnumber those of the devastating insurgency in the North-east and had led to the loss of more lives in Nigeria than in the rest of West Africa.
Fayemi who advocated for state and federal laws that would foster peaceful co-existence in spite of the nation’s diversity, stated that such legislations on regulating the conduct of farmers and herders must have a human face and must help in harnessing the country’s economic and socio-cultural potentials.
According to him, this is also in addition to ensuring that law breakers do not escape punishment.
He added that political leaders must ensure that socio-cultural and political sensitivities are borne in mind while communicating policies with the citizenry in order to avoid the risk of leaving those policies to faulty interpretations and susceptible to politicisation.
Fayemi posited that beyond Nigeria, farmers-herders conflict had become a threat to sub-regional and continental peace and stability, in terms of devastating effects including loss of lives, livelihoods and impact on the economy.
Other devastating effects, according to him include banditry, cattle rustling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons as well as extreme violence.
He however, said political leaders and policy makers have not done well in putting across the right messaging on the herder-farmer crisis.
“As political and policymakers, we must be humble enough to admit that the messaging around the farmer-herder crisis, in terms of being mindful of sensitivities and the use of polarising terminologies and concepts leaves room for improvement.”
“From the evolution of the discourse on major issues such as the Anti-grazing laws which have been passed into law in Ekiti, Benue and Taraba states, to colonies, the RUGA settlement phenomenon, the ranching options, we have not done enough to properly manage the various narratives or interpretations that emerged from this problem.”
Had government at all levels accorded due priority to the right messaging and perceptions in these sensitive issues, the often useful ideas proposed to resolve the problems would not gave been subjected to blatant misinterpretation and politicization,” he explained.
While emphasising that the farmer-herder conflict has become a threat to sub-regional and continental peace and stability, Fayemi, who is Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said a similar problem is prevalent in some West African countries, leading to the adoption of a Regional Transhumance Policy as far back as 1998.
Fayemi reiterated that Nigeria loses $14 billion annually to farmer-herder clashes, a development that may also have devastating effects on the country’s ability to guarantee food security for the people.
He also cautioned against demonising one ethnic group by the others, saying that such could lead to socio-cultural implications, including increasing distrust among the ethnic groups.
Fayemi also urged the Nigerian Immigrations Service (NIS) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to be more proactive in monitoring the country’s borders, adding that the authorities of these two institutions must ensure that only foreigners who have valid travel documents are allowed to cross the Nigerian borders with livestock. This, according to him, is the standard practice in many of the neighbouring countries.
“Transhumance across our national borders is an inevitable occurrence and has been in place even prior to the adoption of the 1978 ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods. Despite this, immigration authorities need to ensure that only persons with valid travel documents can cross borders with livestock. Where state legislations are in place to regulate grazing, those from outside Nigeria must respect the laws, and must conduct themselves in accordance with the relevant legislation,” the governor said.
While making a case for ownership and inclusivity in policy design and implementation, Fayemi said efforts must be made to ensure that policies work in the overall interest of the people.
“This has made a difference because there is a palpable sense of ownership by the citizenry. The NLTP implementation process still has a long way to go, and is not entirely perfect. However, it is a veritable tool, which with the required political will, should help us transform the livestock sector and create wealth for our country.” He added.
Earlier, the Commandant of the Institute, Mr. Ayodele Adeleke had explained that 63 participants cutting across the military and para military agencies in Nigeria as well as one participant from Ghana were attending the Executive Management Course 12.