Be­tween curb­ing farmer-grazer may­hem and fund­ing JTF

Daily Trust - - OPIN­ION -

There are on­go­ing ef­forts to ne­go­ti­ate peace be­tween farm­ers and cat­tle rear­ers in the coun­try. It is of ne­ces­sity to urge par­tic­u­larly gov­er­nors, po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness lead­ers of the states of the North to take these ef­forts se­ri­ously if for any­thing, to stem the frat­ri­ci­dal con­flicts in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and Zam­fara and re­cently, Katsina states to main­tain peace.

There has been by far the most prag­matic ef­fort at achiev­ing a set­tle­ment in Plateau State be­ing co­or­di­nated by some prom­i­nent lead­ers within and out­side the state at the Cen­tre for Di­a­logue, Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace, Jos. Sadly the ef­fort suf­fered a hitch last week when one party to the con­flict boy­cotted the talks cit­ing a claim of 561 heads of cat­tle, al­legedly stolen from the pas­toral­ists. Re­ports quote a leader Shehu Buba, as say­ing that his peo­ple stopped fur­ther par­tic­i­pa­tion at the di­a­logue be­cause the killing of herds­men and theft of cat­tle has con­tin­ued.

He said that his peo­ple would only re­turn to the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ta­ble if their cows are re­turned to them. The re­ports also quote the Catholic Arch­bishop of Jos, Ig­natius Kaigama as en­cour­ag­ing the Fu­lani com­mu­nity to re­turn to the di­a­logue ta­ble at the same time, ap­peal­ing to all re­li­gious and eth­nic/com­mu­nity groups to ex­er­cise self-re­straint and to con­tinue in the way of peace. Im­por­tantly, the com­mu­niqué also faulted the gov­ern­ment for fail­ing to quell the re­tal­ia­tory killings of in­no­cent peo­ple in the state and pros­e­cut­ing cul­prits of cat­tle theft, and per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lence.

Note­wor­thy is the voice added by hu­man rights lawyer, Femi Falana, who ac­cord­ing to re­ports, blamed the re­cent up­surge in killings by herds­men in Nige­ria on gov­ern­ment neg­li­gence. Said Mr. Falana, the Gov­ern­ment should have im­ple­mented the of­fi­cial pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions of the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu Pres­i­den­tial Panel set up by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to probe the 2011 Post Elec­tion Vi­o­lence and Civil Dis­tur­bances in some North­ern States, which had re­vealed that the main cause of vi­o­lence be­tween the herds­men and farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties was the de­struc­tion of cul­ti­vated crop by cat­tle. The Panel rec­om­mended an al­ready well known so­lu­tion, which gov­ern­ment en­sured each state de­fined its cat­tle graz­ing routes, which would then be har­monised with those of ad­ja­cent states.

It is dis­heart­en­ing that in our coun­try Nige­ria, gov­ern­ments have de­lib­er­ately shied away from sim­ple so­lu­tions to an un­end­ing feud, risk­ing in­stead, es­ca­la­tion to the state of in­se­cu­rity in some states, and in­sta­bil­ity in the whole polity. It a a fun­da­men­tal er­ror to imag­ine that we can even ask the ques­tion as to whether Fu­lani herds­men own land anywhere in Nige­ria as many fool­ishly do. It is akin to ask­ing if they and their an­i­mals have life. It is akin to stand­ing in front of an Igbo owned shop in Malum­fashi, Kaura Namoda or the Koma Hills and ask­ing if the shop owner also owns the land. The is­sue of own­er­ship of land can­not arise over a right to life and a tra­di­tional means of liveli­hood. Be­sides, there is the le­gal land use act, in ad­di­tion to the Con­sti­tu­tion’s pro­vi­sions on cit­i­zen­ship. Ob­vi­ously the so­lu­tion is of­ten avoided be­cause po­lit­i­cal ad­ven­tur­ers seize ad­van­tage of the con­flict to gain po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests and in the process play into the hands of or­gan­ised mer­chants of con­flict, death, and in­se­cu­rity.

In Ji­gawa State, Gov­ern­ment heard the com­mon folk speak. There the pas­toral­ists and the farm­ers are al­most one tribe for there are Hausa and Ka­nuri, but mono re­li­gious, and yet there were fa­tal con­flicts. The two sides opted for peace­ful co­ex­is­tence. Gov­ern­ment sim­ply took 30 me­tres off the shoulders of fed­eral roads, and 20 me­tres off the shoulders of state roads and des­ig­nated the ar­eas state-wide, as stock routes. This was fol­lowed by an in­tense en­light­en­ment cam­paign with farm­ers and graz­ers com­ply­ing fully. It is near­ing 6 years now that ma­jor farmer­grazer con­flicts have not oc­curred in Ji­gawa State to the good­ness of the peo­ple. This as rec­om­mended by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu should have fea­tured in meet­ings of Gov­er­nors for na­tion­wide copy and im­ple­men­ta­tion.

I come from the com­mu­nity of Nu­man and La­murde in Adamawa State, where each time there was de­vi­a­tion from an age long tra­di­tional method of cli­mate and land man­age­ment, fa­tal com­mu­nal clashes en­sued. In the cli­mate and land man­age­ment, the Fu­lani herders main­tain their cat­tle on har­vested fields, feed­ing on dry corn stock which they pay in ad­vance for, in ad­di­tion to the cat­tle dung, pro­vid­ing nat­u­ral ma­nure for the farms. The Kwete An­nual Fes­ti­val has just ended, and Fu­lani Herders par­tic­i­pated as they do each year. The Hama Bachama has pro­nounced the on­com­ing be­gin­ning of the rainy and hence farm­ing sea­son sig­nalling the move­ment of cat­tle to River Benue sandy beaches with cat­tle graz­ing mainly in the “is­lands” within the vast river. The farm­ers cul­ti­vate the banks.

It does hap­pen that a cow or cows get stolen, but the Fu­lani herds­men in their way al­ways fol­low the trail to the cul­prit’s home. The mat­ter is brought be­fore the Hama Bachama and guilt is tra­di­tion­ally es­tab­lished, and dues paid. It did hap­pen the an­i­mals strayed into a farm and the farmer headed for the Palace and sought and se­cured jus­tice and com­pen­sa­tion. It did hap­pen that tem­pers flew and fights broke out re­sult­ing in death. The mat­ters still came be­fore the Monarch, blames were traded and com­pen­sa­tion ush­ered in am­i­ca­ble set­tle­ment. This bal­ance once main­tained en­sured peace. There has been peace and quiet in the last two years with com­mu­nity con­fi­dence fully re­stored. No one should dis­turb this slum­ber for it proves again, that the en­tire cri­sis suf­fered in the past em­anated from Gov­ern­men­tal po­lit­i­cal par­ti­san­ship and in­abil­ity to deal promptly with griev­ance and de­liver jus­tice equally promptly.

Re­cently, one hears it mooted that the cat­tle rear­ers must adopt modern meth­ods of ranching cat­tle. It is naive to imag­ine that pas­toral­ists on their own should adopt modern ranching meth­ods of farm­ing on ac­quired fields. Such graz­ing re­serves ex­isted in the past and have now been turned into farm­lands due of course to in­creases in pop­u­la­tion. Ranching needs to be pro­moted such that the sig­nif­i­cant shift in par­a­digm also hap­pens nat­u­rally. Af­ter all, in de­vel­oped economies, farm­ers are also cat­tle rear­ers. Here it is dif­fer­ent. A No­madic life has evolved dic­tated by cli­matic changes. Sadly, land re­source is dwin­dling dic­tated by an in­vad­ing desert and a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. Some­thing must give. It should not be the peace we en­joy for daily living. We must de­velop re­serves sim­i­lar which can go far to min­imise and elim­i­nate farmer­pas­toral­ist con­flicts, en­abling mean­ing­ful in­te­gra­tion of both groups into the mainstream na­tional econ­omy.

Mean­while, the di­a­logues must con­tinue. Gov­ern­ments and Miyetti Al­lah Cat­tle Breed­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion must lo­cate peace in the sim­ple so­lu­tion of live and let live. It is less costly than armed strug­gle. The crime of cat­tle theft needs to be dealt with through com­pen­sa­tion by Gov­ern­ment which has failed to deal with it, and lacks ca­pac­ity to deal with the mass re­tal­ia­tory killings of ordinary folk. It is lots cheaper than fund­ing JTF with State rev­enues.

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