By Tope Omogbolagun
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas has stated that over 60,000 Nigerians have been killed as a result of the incessant clashes between herders and farmers.
He also lamented that, farmers and herders clashes which were hitherto seen as a regional or a confined conflict have taken a new dimension as it has expanded and grown into a wider conflict beyond the borders of many West African countries.
Abbas stated this in an opening address at the stakeholders interactive session held by the House Ad-hoc Committee on the ‘Recurring Annual Clashes Between Farmers And Herders In Yamaltu/Deba Local Government Area Of Gombe State, And Neighbouring Local Government Areas, including Other Regions Of The Country With Similar Incidents’ on Monday.
Abbas who was represented by the Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu, said it was because of its implications for the collective good of the nation that, the House resolved to take a critical look into the causes, nature, dimensions, actors, impact, and possible solution to the nagging national challenge.
He said, “The clashes have resulted in avoidable losses of lives and property. It is estimated that over 60,000 people have been killed since 2001. It ought not to be so.
“The number of deaths, injuries, and kidnapped persons constitutes an alarming situation and poses a serious national security challenge for Nigeria’s quest to attain food security and alternative foreign earnings from the agricultural sector. This menace requires urgent action to be taken.
“These conflicts have escalated in recent years and it is quite consequential to our national security. What is even more concerning is the appropriation of these conflicts by terror groups, bandits, and international criminal organisations.
“This has had severe consequences including the restriction of farmers from access to their farmlands, leading to food price inflation, a high cost of living, unemployment, and loss of foreign earnings that would have accrued through the agricultural sector”
On his part, the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu represented by Professor Abdullahi Mohammed Ya’u lamented that the farmers/herders conflict has taken more lives than most of the crises seen in the country, adding that the problem is still ongoing and affecting the nation’s collective socio-economic interests.
He said the NSA office has expanded its focus to tackle the security issues involved by addressing the issue through dialogue, and community engagements in collaboration with all relevant authorities.
In a memorandum submitted by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore titled ‘Memorandum On Disputes Between Farmers And Herders In Yamaltu-Deba Local Government Area, Gombe State’ stated that farmers/herders conflicts have significant impacts on the livelihood of Nigerians in Yamaltu-Deba and other places.
It stated, “Understanding and addressing these changes in access to grazing land or water sources is crucial in mitigating conflicts between herders and farmers in Yamaltu-Deba Local government area.
“Striking a balance between the needs and rights of groups, promoting sustainable land and water management practices, and implementing inclusive policies can help reduce conflicts and ensure the coexistence of herders and farmers in the region”.
Similarly, in a presentation by its national president, Khalil Mohammed Bello, Kulen Allah Cattle Rearers Association of Nigeria, stated that the failure of states and federal governments to take sustainable actions contributed a lot to the escalation of the conflict.
He said, “Some laws emerging in some states, restricting the free movement of Pastoralists, is seen as an infringement on the principle of free movement of people which is a constitutional right of every Nigerian, did not in any way reduce conflicts, rather, it aggravated it.
“Inability of the National Assembly to pass a bill for an act to establish ‘Grazing Reserves’ in each of the states of the Federation in 2016. This was largely because Pastoralism was seen as a profession practiced by mainly one ethnic group, so the bill was thrown out”.
Earlier, Chairman of the Committee, Bappa Aliyu Misau said, the issues faced by farmers and herders have reached a critical juncture, demanding our immediate attention and collaborative efforts to find sustainable solutions.
He said, “To address the root cause of these problems, we need a multi-faced approach that integrates the effort of Governments, Private Sector, Civil Society Organizations.
“We must also explore investments in agricultural infrastructure such as adequate investment in irrigation systems, storage facilities, rural road network, etc. conflict resolution and land management, continued investment in agricultural research and development, enhancing skills and knowledge of farmers and herders.”