Expert, Shehu Birma, who is a concerned stakeholder in the farmer-herder relationship, has offered a fresh perspective into the lingering crisis between the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers.
Mr Birma made the revelation while delivering a Keynote address at the special Town Hall meeting organized by the Minister of Information and Communication, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday in Abuja.
The keynote speaker traced the origin of the farmer-herder clashes to 1948, and the second in 1951 which led to the migration of Fulanin Bororo to Sudan.
He said that in 1955, there was a clash/genocide which led to the Sudanese Government issuing a quit notice to all Fulanin Bororo to relocate to their home countries but returned thereafter.
According to him, a bid to settle the returnees led to the creation of 4 ranches in FCT, Mokwa, Kachia and Mambila.
He said the ranches created have basic infrastructure, with Veterinary doctors/personals attending to the cattle and nurses and midwives attending to the human residents with basic primary education for their children.
“Subsequently, urbanization as in the case of FCT dislocated these Fulani herdsmen from these ranches or dams and power projects as in Mambila and Mokwa leading them to permanent dislocation.
“This led the Nomadic Fulanis to forcefully design their own grazing corridors and or to acquire temporary sites which inevitably are farm lands of farmers.”
“It is on record that by 1964 the government has gazetted about 6.4million hectares of land which was enacted in 1965 in 144 locations or areas in the savannah region of Northern Nigeria with about 3 between Oyo and Ogun States.
“This was primarily started by Hamisu Kano working with pastoralist on livestock vaccination.”
Neglect by successive Governments
However, Mr Birma said that neglect by successive governments rendered these ranches to be literally abandoned or have been massively encroached upon as grazing reserves.
“The cattle routes, Burtali/Labi, have also been abandoned or have succumbed to the similar factor of urbanization, creating a source of friction as the known livestock route overseers were no longer employed to preserve the routes,” he said.
According to the Keynote speaker, environmental challenges such as climate changes in addition to urbanization, encroachment and population explosion of both the human and livestock have added to factors challenging peaceful co-habitation.
He said: “The herdsman who overtime has become emotionally attached to his cattle and in the face of the above factors who cannot have guaranteed access to grazing lands and water for his animal and allowed to roam and live in the wild coupled with lack of both formal and Islamic education becomes exposed to ignorance due to no fault of his.
“And thus thinking and thought processes leads him to belief he is the only person capable of securing and protecting himself and his livestock.
“The abolition of ‘Jangali’ or cattle tax in the ‘80s by most governments in Northern Nigeria further alienated the government from the moral responsibility of providing basic human and cattle vaccines and medicine.
“These can be seen from the meagre budgetary provision by most State Governments. The near semblance of specific and direct relationship with the herdsmen and civil authority is by way of appointment of Ado’s by Emirs who equally have no constitutionally recognized functions or authority,” Mr Birma said.
He further explained that the aforementioned factors affected the Fulani herdsman and made him venerable so much so that in today’s security issues of kidnapping and cattle rustling, the Fulani man is both a victim and the oppressed.
“Kidnappers look onto his cattle to extort money from him, rustlers forcefully take away his cattle which is his source of pride, dignity, prestige and he is helpless.
“Complaints to immediate authorities and our expensive process of justice an average Fulani man living in the wild does not have the tools and means of pursuing justice.
“And a head of a Fulani family might retort to his grown up children that ‘you are all living witnesses when this misfortune was inflicted on us’, with little or no religious or formal education’ the next option is for such children to imbibe rustling or kidnapping as a means of revenge, these are practical realities,” Mr Birma explained.
The keynote speaker, therefore, blamed the constituted authority for the plight of the Fulani herdsmen, saying that State Governors who are by law vested with the ownership land are doing little to secure the Fulani pastoralists.
“By virtue of Land Tenure Law of 1962 and the presently operative Land Use Decree – All lands are vested in the State Governor. Also by a lot of reasons he is the Chief Security Officer of the State.
“In view of these, much is expected of them but in all the conflicts and the consequences of all the clashes between the farmers and the herdsmen a larger sector of the citizens being press or otherwise seems to put the blames on Federal Government.
“A seemingly small conflict which would have been settled amicably but because wealth is enviably involved i.e. livestock both the local Fulani head, the Emirate system and the local police seems to put a lot of burden on the herdsman to extract compensation disproportionate to his offence.
“The Fulani herdsman is a distinct tribe with mostly Islamic background if such conflict happens with an opposing tribe of possibly a Christian background, the conflicts is blown out of proportion, assuming ethnic and or religious coloration,” Mr Birma regretted.
Having stated the origin of the crisis as well as the metamorphosis of the clashes, the keynote speaker, recommended the re-enactment of the grazing reserves as opposed to cattle ranching.
“While the government may have good and sincere intentions insisting on cattle ranching is clearly far away from what the government can provide because of scarce resources and what the Fulani herdsmen can comprehend because of his level of sophistication.
“In this regard the National Assembly should harmonize the powers and responsibilities of the Federal and State Governments by enacting an act to adopt the previous gazettes with a view of making it a national program for the common benefit of all the interested parties as the issue of farmers/herdsmen clash seems not only to endanger livestock and food sufficiency but also peaceful coexistence of communities in the country.
“By keeping them in a grazing reserves in multiple families or groupings the government can guarantee them a source of water – by way of earth dams, primary schools to start guiding the children in a better and productive way, it also becomes easier to provide health and other social facilities.”
In addition, he further recommended that the grasses that are needed can be planted to encourage further production.
“A case in point is Kano State in this direction in the Falgore camps. Also an indigenous company in Kano called L&Z Ltd. goes to these settlements to buy fresh milk for his yoghurt production.
“And I learnt as part of his corporate social responsibility he pays additional N20 per litre to Fulani herdsman that enrols his children into formal education.”
He further encourage farmers to engage in mixed mode of farming by keeping livestock – cattle included for him to share the passion and to appreciate from the herdsman point of view no matter how little the extent.
“There are a lot of research and findings a case in point is by D. J. Stenning a post graduate student of Cambridge University who lived amongst the Fulanis for a period of 2 years to appreciate their way of life and reasons for their nomadic existence.
“Extensive intelligence service should be carried out to identify miscreants who disguise as herdsmen to create havoc and other forms of atrocities.”
Mr Birma also suggested that the press especially the social media should be encouraged not to involve itself in dissemination of information which is intended to cause further pain by blowing things out of proportion or giving it a religious or ethnic coloration.
In conclusion, the keynote speaker said that any solution that shall be proffered must consider past attempts like the Nomadic Education and the psyche of the Fulani Herdsman who felt continuously neglected and disregarded in the scheme of things.