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Promoting Good Governance.

REPORT: Over 1,300 lives lost to herdsmen/farmers crises in first half of 2018

MORE than 1,300 Nigerians lost their lives in the first half of 2018 to violence involving herdsmen and farmers across the country, according to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a trans-national non-governmental organization that carries out field research on violent conflicts and advances policies on how to prevent or resolve them.

The group, in a report published on July 26, said the figure is about six times more that the number of civilian killed by the Boko Haram insurgency in the same period.

The report also noted that though the federal government has taken steps to halt the killings, the efforts have largely been insufficient.

“What were once spontaneous attacks have become premeditated scorched-earth campaigns in which marauders often take villages by surprise at night,” a report published by the ICG read in part.

“The conflict poses a grave threat to the country’s stability and unity, and it could affect the 2019 general elections.

“The federal government has taken welcome but insufficient steps to halt the killings.”

The ICG noted that the crisis is fundamentally a land-use contest between farmers and herders across the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. However, “it has taken on dangerous religious and ethnic dimensions because most of the herders are from the traditionally nomadic and Muslim Fulani who make up about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s pastoralists, while most of the farmers are Christians of various ethnicities”.

The report stated that an estimated 300,000 people were displaced between January and June 2018 as a result of the crisis, with states like Adamawa, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba being the worst hit.

Not only have the crises driven up food prices, as states affected are most food-producing states, it also “exacts a heavy burden on the military, police and other security services, distracting them from other important missions, such as countering the Boko Haram insurgency”.

Asides the deployment of more security personnel to crisis-prone areas, the ICG wants the federal and state governments to come up with realistic options to tackle the challenges.

“In the short term, some of the soldiers currently engaged in policing duties in the South East and South West should be redeployed to the troubled states; the large numbers of police personnel still guarding politicians and other privileged elite in Abuja and state capitals should also be reassigned to these areas,” the group recommended.

“Second are steps to hold perpetrators of violence accountable. President Buhari has pledged repeatedly that those responsible for the killings will be arrested and prosecuted. The government needs to ensure that both herders and farmers responsible for violence are held to account, transparently and even-handedly.

“The third priority is the disarmament of militias and vigilantes. The police and other security agencies should step up efforts to identify and arrest illegal arms producers and dealers. With the aid of informants, they also should detect and seize illegal stockpiles in remote areas. Security services should also liaise more closely with locals to persuade militias to disarm. Such persuasion, however, will yield results only when the government institutes policies that assure the armed groups and communities that support them that their interests are being addressed and that their security will be protected.”

The ICG also called on the Benue State government to “freeze and review its open grazing ban, as Taraba state has done”.

“The Benue state government should suspend enforcement of its anti-grazing law, amend the provisions to accommodate herders’ interests and encourage a phased transition to ranching.

In conclusion the ICG pointed out that “the socio-economic evolution necessary to cope with these changes – involving herders gradually giving up their traditional pastoralism and moving to ranching – will likely take many years… that transition need not be perilous to national stability or cost Nigerians, whether herders or farmers, their lives.

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