Growing up was a beautiful experience for me. My parents and I lived in the North Eastern part of Nigeria where seeing cattle rearers move around our houses with their cattle was a normal life routine and often at times, they will ask for rice from my mum in exchange for Nono (cow milk).
I remember travelling to the village with my parents for Christmas and on this particular Christmas, we got to the village and my grandfather introduced us to a tall, slim and wavy-haired young man, whom he said his name was Ibrahim and that he is a Fulani boy. Ibrahim was a cattle rearer who had come into our village with his cattle. As he was grazing his cattle, the animal swallowed a poisonous substance and died the next day. Ibrahim was devastated and confused when my grandfather found him along his farm. He explained to my grandfather about how he is afraid to go back home with the news as his father may disown him. Ibrahim stayed with my grandfather for some time and my grandfather eventually took him to his father and explained to him what had happened. Ibrahim’s father was not hard on him as Ibrahim had feared. Ever since that incident, both families had become friends and Ibrahim had travelled down from his village to spend the Christmas with my grandfather.
About 15 years later, we can only wish that the story is the same as things have completely taken a turn around. What used to be a peaceful co-existence between farmers and herders has deteriorated into one of Nigeria’s major problems and has become a security threat to the entire country.
Both Governmental and Non-Governmental organizations have embarked on a quest to finding out how we as a country got into this horrifying situation and how we can get out of it with so many lives already lost, many displaced and many living under severe fear and threat.
Against this backdrop, Basic Rights Watch had yet another opportunity to collaborate with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES); an International Non-Governmental Organization to organize a two-day conference on “Dynamics of Farmers-Herders Conflicts: Implications on Nigeria’s Foreign Relations. The two-day conference which held at Stonehedge Hotel, Central Business District Abuja had in attendance seasoned facilitators and discussants from the academia, civil society organizations, politicians, diplomats, ECOWAS, INGO’S, young people and participants from different ethnic groups.
It is alarming to note that in 2018 alone, over 1,300 persons have been killed and over 30,000 persons have been displaced in the farmers-herders conflict across Nigeria. This was revealed by one of the resource persons at the conference. How pathetic!
Brainstorming on how we got to this critical level, Professor Oshita Oshita attributed it to failure to do long term planning in the agricultural sector which has left us with ad-hoc interventions. Weak laws and order has resulted in the spread of criminality, particularly in the ‘hard to reach’ parts of the country. He went further to say that public policies in the agricultural sector have been partisan, weak and often ineffective, usually designed to benefit a sector.
Mrs Raheemat Momodu, attributed Governance deficit as a major reason why the crisis has persisted. More so, the free movement protocol and the question of Nigerian sovereignty clears the air about trans-humans.
Our Lead, Austin Ekwujuru moderated the session on understanding the dynamics of conflict, its importance in other to proffer sustainable solutions.
In conclusion, as a solution to the farmer-herder conflict, both parties must realize that their relationship should be symbiotic and mutual. The Government should also desist from being biased in their approach to bringing a lasting solution to this terrible menace that is gradually wiping out human lives in Nigeria.
Eunice Enoch is a Program Assistant at Basic Rights Watch
Follow here @EuniceEnoch1