The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, on Monday said there was need to look for ways of dousing the tension in the country, stressing that people are hungry and at the same time angry.
The Sultan disclosed this in Abuja, at a national conference on Livestock Reforms and Mitigation of Associated Conflicts organised by the Kano state government to proffer lasting solution to the farmers-herders’ clashes in the country.
He stressed that the clashes between farmers and herders in Benue state has continued because all the suggestions made to the government were not implemented.
Abubakar stated: “Let’s keep politics aside. The issues of development especially for the common man should not be prioritised. These people that God Almighty gave us leadership over, one day, God forbid, rise up against us.
“After all these English by professors, how do we get these developments down to the common man who is a farmer, the common Fulani man who doesn’t know anything about development in his life, he only cares about cattle.
“I have been to Benue at least two times as Sultan to sit with the governors and traditional rulers to discuss peace in the Benue valley. At the end of it, the suggestions are thrown away. Nothing is done and we are back to square one. Let this conference not be in the same manner, let’s do it and let’s do well and now.
“The people are hungry – is there money? Akawi kudi? No cash! People are angry and hungry, let’s see how we can douse the tension.”
Also, the Vice President of Islamic Development Bank, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, said various farmers-herders clashes that took place at various times across the country claimed the lives of 4,000 people in seven years, with several thousand others sustaining injuries.
He said while fatalities were initially confined to the North Central, they have since spread across the country, increasing pre-existing religious and ethnic tensions.
Muhtar stressed that the northern parts of Nigeria have been the epicentre of the conflict, noting that the incident has been spreading to other regions.
He added that given the relatively poor performance of the region, in terms of education, health and other human development indicators, this situation was untenable and threatens the future of the young, growing, and promising population.
His words: “Conflicts between farmers and herders/pastoralists have been an issue of national concern in recent years. Perhaps the most significant issue of concern is the growing number of casualties associated with it.
“Between 2016 and now, at least 4000 people lost their lives in these conflicts, with several thousand others sustaining injuries, both physical and emotional. While fatalities were initially confined to the north central, they have since spread across the country increasing pre-existing religious and ethnic tensions.
“In addition to the unfortunate loss of lives, this conflict has often been manifested by an increasing number of internally displaced persons, leading to the breakdown of family units, the bedrock of our society, and disruption in education, especially for young girls. This crisis has also undermined agricultural production compromising our nation’s food security, especially during these periods of rising food prices.”
Muhtar decried the security challenges caused by the conflict. He stressed that with the passage of every single day that the crisis goes unresolved, the already fragile national security was further threatened. According to him, the country cannot continue like this.
On the way forward, he said while ranching was very important, it was insufficient to effectively address the fundamental drivers of the farmer-herder crises, because of the complexity of the crises which calls for a multi-stakeholder intervention.
Muhtar stressed that the abysmal performance of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) showed that there was for far greater political will than has been demonstrated thus far.
He said the NLTP appears to have great potential, but requires community buy-in and the full cooperation of all levels of government.
He was also of the opinion that the modernisation of the livestock sector cannot be left to the government alone given the need for financing and capacity building, while calling for support from private investors, the international donor community, and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs).
Declaring the conference open, the Governor of Kano state, Dr. Abdulahi Ganduje said the conference grew out of the need to provide solutions to the age-long conflict between herders and farmers and also propose way forward to economic development of the sector. He stressed that the theme of the conference was relevant in the current scheme of events, given the appropriateness of the time when Nigeria has been persistently experiencing other security challenges.
Ganduje stated: “For many years in Nigeria, farmers and cattle herders have been in conflict over land rights. But the disputes have reached crisis levels in recent years, killing thousands of people and displacing many thousands more from their homes, left in relics by attacks.
“The livelihoods of farmers and herders have, historically complemented each other. They exchanged produce with one another and when conflicts arose, they were addressed by traditional institutions and existing conflict resolution mechanisms.
“However, over the past few decades, a wide range of factors have resulted in tensions often ending in deadly violent conflicts between the two groups.”
The governor noted that climate change which resulted in desertification and soil erosion has enraged competition over natural resources, pushing herders to venture into new areas to seek pasture for their herds.
He noted that the Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) or ranching, which has been deliberately politicized, remains the only option that would go a long way in mitigating existential problems, as pastoralists would have lands to graze without cattle encroaching on people’s farmlands.
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja