Abuja, Nigeria. January 9th, 2018 – Without doubt, security is an enabler of national development so there can be no sustainable development without peace and security hence the strategic nature of security is constantly evolving. From the terror strikes in the North-East to the herdsmen and farmers conflicts in the North-Central to militants operating in the South-South, the challenge of security is a national issue and no region in Nigeria is insulated. The tension between herdsmen and farming communities has been in existence for years, but has seen dramatic escalation in recent times. For instance, the most recent attacks occurred on New Year’s Eve in Guma and Logo government areas of Benue State which involved the loss of about 50 lives and several properties as well as the displacement of people.
Herdsmen and farmers conflict in Nigeria is a land resource based conflict particularly in the North-Central region of Nigeria. Herders and farmers are in constant violent conflict over herdsmen’s increased need for access to grazing lands against the expansion of farmland by farmers. A past poll which highlighted the views and perceptions of Nigerians regarding the conflict between farmers and herdsmen revealed that 25 percent of the respondents confirmed knowing people who have been directly affected by the crisis. This could be either through loss of lives and properties, displacement of people, loss of livelihoods and economic destabilisation.
Conflict is an aspect of life that is very often avoided for the fear of loss of lives and properties. The opinions of Nigerians regarding the level of satisfaction on how government has been handling the crisis revealed that half (50 percent) of the respondents surveyed were dissatisfied with the government’s handling of these conflicts. This supports the report by Government Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN) which revealed that 79 Percent of Nigerians rated the government’s handling of the recurrent clashes between herdsmen and farmers as generally poor. Also, it is worthy to note that the North-Central zone accounted for the highest number of Nigerians who specifically mentioned that they were dissatisfied with government’s handling of the crisis. This is no surprise considering the huge negative impact of these conflicts on the inhabitants of affected areas and across the nation as a whole. For instance, media reports estimate the number of deaths from such conflicts to be over 5000 from 2016 to 2017 and over $17 billion lost in properties within the same period.
In conclusion, a significant proportion of Nigerians have been directly or indirectly affected by the series of conflicts between herdsmen and farmers both in the past and in recent times. Also, there is a high level of dissatisfaction in the manner the government has been handling the crisis between the herdsmen and some farming communities in Nigeria. Thus, there is an urgent need for government and other stakeholders to adopt both short and long-term approaches in resolving the clashes.
In the short term, there is need to strengthen security arrangements for herders and farming communities especially in the north-central zone in order to maintain operational readiness. There is also the need for effective communication and collaboration between the Join Task Force (JTF) and the local authorities, local vigilante groups and the citizens of the troubled areas in order to synergise efforts through useful information sharing to enhance community watch. Also, the Federal government should strengthen conflict mediation, resolution, reconciliation and peacebuilding mechanisms at state and local government levels, and even within rural communities particularly in areas that have been most affected by conflict.
As a long-term approach, the government should establish grazing reserves in consenting states and improve livestock production and management in order to minimise contacts and friction between herders and farmers. Finally, it is clear that internal security has continued to be a major challenge in the country; hence there is an urgent need for the review of the national security policy and strategy to accommodate these new dimensions of security challenges arising from the herdsmen and farming communities’ clashes in Nigeria.
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