We have been decisive in dealing with Farmers/Herders Crisis – SGF

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Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of federation, says the federal government has put machinery in place to mitigate the conflict between farmers and herders

By Maureen Chigbo

BOSS Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation, says that President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has been decisive in dealing with the crisis between farmers and herdsmen in the country.

“I think for anybody to accuse this government of being lethargic in dealing with herders and farmers’ conflict is quite unfair. This is because we have been very decisive and even the categorization of the Fulani herdsmen is not the case,” Mustapha told journalists last week in Abuja, adding: “I am a herdsman, but not a Fulani.’’

According to him, it is a lie, particularly in the northern part of the country, to say that all herdsmen are Fulani. “We are all herdsmen, we are all farmers; some are arable farmers, some are herdsmen and all these are farming in the agricultural sense it’s all termed as one. One is animal husbandry, the other one is arable farming or crops, which are all farming and I think the dimensions of the conflict in this country often time comes with different interpretations.”

Stating that the farmers/herdsmen conflict is not new, Mustapha noted that it has been with us. The only difference, according to him, is that communities were more intact and did not have a lot of extraneous influences. “They have a defined pattern of resolving their conflicts in a particular location. If the herdsman allows his animals to go into a farmer’s plot and there is destruction, the local community would sit down; assess the level of destruction and the herdsman would be asked to pay.

“If, unfortunately, the farmer kills an animal that belongs to a Fulani man or herdsman, then the community would sit and establish the justification for that action and if there’s no justification, the farmer would be asked to pay. So, we have a communal way of resolving a conflict.

“When I hear people talk about ranches and reserves, this has been in existence. In Adamawa, where I come from, there are several reserves established by law dating back to the days of Northern Nigeria with defined cattle routes; this Abuja is a cattle route defined and gazetted in laws of Northern Nigeria and similarly in several parts of this country,” he said.

“There is a major contention going on now, and partly economic with the growth in our population; with the growth in urbanization, we have taken some of those reserves and turn them into our residential areas. We have belt across those cattle routes because there is a traditional pattern of movement that have been established over the years.

“We do so many things in this country not minding the consequences that will confront us in the future. We have belt across the cattle routes with urbanization. We have taken the grazing reserves and apportion it among elite farmers. We have fence over the places, and the animals will have to feed and get to a source of water. And this is a seasonal movement that’s why they are called nomads.

“We have nomadic fishermen. We have nomadic herdsmen. We have nomads in different places and that is why in the early 1970’s, the military thought it fit to build nomadic school for them. There is a commission for nomadic education. Most of us do not think that is important, but it was important to ascertain things,” he said.

He observed that people move across a certain area at a certain time, stressing the need to establish schools that will go along with them. “We did that and even set up a commission, but we did not look at the economic aspect that is now rearing its head. There is competition over land, control of resources. So much has happened as a result of climate change that were not even factored into the whole thing, but that’s the dynamics to it.

“So, for anybody to say that the government has been lethargic in dealing with that crisis is totally being unfair on the government. There is crisis. Government and the people must sit to proffer solutions to the crises and I think that is the attempt that the minister of Agriculture has been making when he spoke about colonies. He was almost lynched because people didn’t understand the concept.”

Stating that colonies basically talk about a certain number of ranches clustered in the same place, Mustapha noted that it’s the language that is used in Brazil and several other countries, but because of the politicization of the matter, it is taken out of context and blown out of proportion.

“In the midst of all these conflicts, we are unable to sit down and look at the reality of what is facing us as a nation that must live together. Both farmers and herders must live together and pursue their businesses without infringing on each other’s rights. So, I would say we are doing our best, we are making provisions, so much money is being ploughed. States that have given out some portion of their land for the establishment of ranches, government is going to help them to ensure that the ranches are established.”

Mustapha also said that all over the world most countries have transited from being nomads to establishing cattle colonies, citing the example of the cowboys in the United States, US, who were nomads before and moving from one place to the other, but today grazing in the US is restricted to a ranch. “That’s what has happened all over the world. I don’t think that Nigerian situation should be any different. We must move along that direction. So that is not true. Government is doing the best it can to ensure at least that those issues are mitigated,” he said.

According to the SGF, there is a lot of mediation going on which has led to some relative calm and in the North West it is not the application of the military force that will resolve that issue. “It is deep because you won’t believe it that there is nothing to rustle now in terms cattle rustling in the North West because virtually all the cattle are inside the forest; they have all been rustled from the Fulani men and they are inside the forests like bandits. So, the Fulani man is left without a cattle and he is being hunted; so the conflict in the North West is deep and it will require the collective effort of the government and the people to be able to deal with it.”

He warned that if Nigeria is not careful, the banditry in the North West “will surface as an insurgency because it is deep and it will be worse than the Boko Haram insurgency. It deals with the livelihood of the people; you cannot abort the people, the people who used to live in those forest have all been uprooted now, the bandits have rustled all the cattle and taken them into the forest.

“So, there must be a systematic way of dealing with that conflict that requires the inputs of the traditional rulers, inputs of religious leaders, community leaders to confront that particular conflict. Some of the killings that have taken place in the North West, people are just coming in to the towns and villages to kill people without even stealing anything. They just butcher people,” he said, adding: “We have that kind of killing in Katsina. So, there is a major problem and we have to as a nation look at these issues.

“We are not isolating because there are crisis erupting all around our borders. Mali is not quiet, Libya has come up in arms again, Sudan has erupted. All these things have a way of igniting more conflicts with countries that shares similarities with them. So, it’s a complex situation and I know that government is decisive in putting apparatus in place to deal with it,” he said.

– Jun. 3, 2019 @ 14:07 GMT |

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