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THE CRISIS BETWEEN HERDSMEN AND FARMERS; A CASE STUDY OF BENUE STATE 2015-2017
1.1 Background to the Study
Fulani as a tribe is known with the business of cattle rearing. Notwithstanding this fact, a number of Nigerians and even foreigners are also found in cattle rearing. Those vulnerable to herdsmen attacks seem to condemn the entire tribe of Fulani incognizant of the innocence of the majority. Fulani herdsmen have been labelled by some Nigeria’s newspapers with various frames as a result of their clash with their farmers counterparts in Nigeria. On the real identity of the parties involved in the herders/farmers conflict, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, called for the urgent resolution of the persistent crises between farmers and herdsmen in the country, stating that Boko Haram militants are taking advantage of the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers across the country to terrorize Nigerians under that guise (DailyTrust, 2016). In addition, Sultan of Sokoto has noted that the herders moving with guns and causing violence are not Nigerians. To him, they are foreigners coming into Nigeria to cause a breach of the peace “they are terrorists and should be treated as such by Nigerian security agencies” (Daily Trust, 2016). Of these herdsmen, the Fulani are highly visible. Yet there are about 14 other groups who practise pastoralist activities in Nigeria, including the Arabs, Kanuri, Kanembu, Shuwa, and Touareg (Blench 2010). However, this has made the real identity of the herders obscure. In Nigeria today, farmer-herder conflict is an enduring feature of social life in almost all the six geo-political zones in the country. The phrase farmer-herder conflict is typically used to refer to conflict between herding and farming groups. Using this word can be misleading since it can suggest that herders and farmers are separate groups when in fact most herders are nowadays farmers and many farmers may herd their livestock at least on seasonal basis.
Centuries back, many of the low-lying areas next to rivers in Nigeria were hardly used by farmers because of some wide-range of reasons. One of such was the exposure to diseases like river blindness and malaria. Another is the problem of erosion peculiar to these riverine areas. These areas instead were mainly used for grazing by nomadic herders and fishermen. However, the increase in Nigeria’s population led to a need for much greater use of these lands, especially for food production. During Nigeria’s colonial era, large irrigation schemes to ensure freshly planted food crops became popular. Familiar problems relating to land and water use, obstruction of traditional migration routes, livestock theft and crop damage tend to trigger these disputes. But their roots run deeper. Drought and desertification have degraded pastures, dried up many natural water sources across Nigeria’s far-northern Sahelian belt and forced large numbers of herders to migrate to various parts of the country like Benue, Niger, Taraba states and the likes in search of grassland and water for their herds. Insecurity in many northern states (a consequence of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north east and of less-well-reported rural banditry and cattle rustling in the north-west and north- central zones) also brings increasing numbers of herdsmen to move to other parts of the country.
Herdsmen moving into the rain forests of the central and southern states are going into regions where high population growth over the last four decades has heightened pressure on farmland, increasing the frequency of disputes over crop damage, water pollution and cattle theft. In the absence of mutually accepted mediation mechanisms, these disagreements increasingly turn violent, thereby, leading to loss of lives and farmlands as the case may be. The menace of these herdsmen on the farmers has been a major issue not only in Benue state but also in various states (Taraba, Enugu, Ogun, Kwara, Ekiti and so on) of the country. This has been trending on various social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. as a way of creating more awareness and also exposing their evil deeds.
Finally, the government and other concerned stakeholders must act fast to combat this problem of herdsmen killing and destroying of fertile lands in the country most importantly in Benue state and make sure there is adequate security of life of the farmers throughout the whole federation. Therefore, this study will investigate the crisis between herdsmen and farmers by using Benue state, Nigeria as a case study from the year 2015-2017.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
One major problem confronting world peace today is the manifestation of conflicts in different dimensions across the globe. From Europe to America, Africa to Asia, conflicts are common phenomena (Marshall and Gurr 2005 in Jeong, 2008). Nigeria has experienced and is still experiencing conflicts of grave proportions among several ethnic and religious communities across the states. These conflicts significantly vary in dimension, process and the groups involved. Momale (2003) observed that while some conflicts arise between same resource user group such as between one farming community and another, others occur between different user groups such as between herders and farmers or between foresters and farmers. Adisa (2012) noted that the farmers-herdsmen conflict has remained the most preponderant resource-use conflict in Nigeria. Blench (1996) asserts that the rise in natural resource conflicts is as a result of human population increase and the globalisation of the economy. According to Egwu, (2011) Nigeria has experienced and is still experiencing conflicts of grave proportions among several ethnic and religious communities across the states. These conflicts significantly vary in dimension, process and the groups involved.
However the biggest challenge threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria today is Herder-Farmer conflict particularly in the middle belt region. From Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa and Benue States, there has been unceasing blows delivered by the Herders to the indigenous farming population. While the Federal government has failed to come up with a pragmatic approach that can solve the crisis, the daily news channels are littered with stories and gory pictures of ongoing attacks. Inconsistencies in government policies seem to exacerbate these conflicts. While the Benue State government has introduced an anti-grazing law as a way of addressing this problem the federal government seems confused, undecided and is even perceived as complicit. Unless something decisive is done, These crises may become intractable. Herder-Farmer have been in Nigeria for decades, and northern Nigeria has been the main theatre witnessing the escalation of the crises especially in the north central area, including Benue State particularly Kwande local government area which has witness mass destruction of farm lands, houses and human genocide within the period under review. people have deserted their farms and homes to seek refuge in other places therefore becoming refugees and displaced persons.
This study assumes that this problem can be tackled by identifying its root cause, its manifestations and implications and by diverging and proffering solutions. Herder-farmer conflict is an issue which has come to stay in Nigeria for decade and it is fast growing by the day. The Northern and central Nigeria has been the areas which the escalation of the crisis have been witnessed in mass. Benue state, particularly has witnessed mass destruction of farm lands, houses and human genocide within the period under review. People have deserted their farms, houses etc seeking refuge in other places thereby becoming strangers in other lands. This research contends that until something drastic is done the devastation will continue and not only create more security challenges but create demographic crisis of incalculable proportions.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The aim of this study is to examine the crises between farmers and herders in Benue state from 2015 – 2017 and to suggest ways of averting its occurrences first and foremost and secondly on how to care for the victims of the crises. Importantly the study aims at helping to build trust between Farmers and Herdsmen and to suggest ways in which they can co-exist in a symbiotic relationship. However, the objectives of this study are:
iii) To study the prevalence of Farmers-Herders conflicts in Benue state, Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions
The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:
iii) What is the prevalence of Farmers-Herders conflicts in Benue state, Nigeria?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The recent escalation of herder-farmer crisis has grossly robbed Nigeria’s rapid growth and development as the conflict usually result in massive destruction of cattle, food, property and human life. This obviously has caused the country a lot of setback as development cannot thrive in such areas which are affected by conflict. Therefore it is important to adopt a multidimensional approach to the solution of this crisis, including the contribution of this study
Apart from the fact that there is slow pace of development if any, the country also runs the risk of a poor relationship among the various ethnic groups as such people who formally love been involved will have the fear of travelling to the state of their enemies. This study is therefore justified under the premise that, it will serve as an eye opener for those who are affected by this particular conflict, to foster peace amongst various communities across the nation. The study could also serve as a reference point for other scholars in this study area and students can also learn from it.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study will cover farmers and herders from Kwande Local government Area of Benue state, Nigeria. This is because it focuses on the causes and effects of Herdsmen and Farmers conflicts with particular attention on Benue state. While it is true that these conflicts are becoming a national menace, we shall however focus our attention only on Benue state. Though this conflict has become one of the most topical subjects of our time, we are restricted to our time frame of 2015-2017.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
The major limitation of this research is the fact that we all are compelled to depend mostly on official information to stitch together what we can glean. Often times the victims do not survive to give their own side of the story. Official sources such as the Police have been accused of complicity and partisanship, often times the actual casualty figures are denied or deliberately played down. There is so much uncertainty and confusion concerning this crisis. Another limitation to this study is dearth of written document. To curb this problem, the study will use oral information. There is also a problem of finance that would hinder the smooth running of the study the time frame of the study is also limited.
1.8 Definition of Terms
The following terms were used during the cause of the study.
Crisis: is any event that is going (or is expected) to lead to an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community, or whole society.
Farmers: persons engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials. The term usually applies to people who do some combination of raising field crops, orchards, vineyards, poultry, or other livestock.
Herders: workers who live a possibly semi-nomadic life, caring for various domestic animals, in places where these animals wander pasture lands.
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