Stakeholders and experts in conflict resolution in Nigeria, Monday in Abuja, proffered panacea to the lingering herders-farmers clashes in the country.
They spoke at a National Summit on conflict resolution organised by Vintage Press Limited publishers of The Nation and TV Continental with the theme: “Towards an Enduring Peace.”
The Summit was aimed at creating a platform to find lasting solution to the seemingly intractable herders- farmers clashes in the country.
The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fuani Socio- Cultural Association in their presentation, said the search for enduring peace between farmers and herders in Nigeria was fundamental to the attainment of food security, development, progress and the achievements of the Sustainable Developments Goals, SDGs.
National Secretary of the group, Engr. Saleh Alhassan, said: “For enduring peace to reign in the rural communities, there are short, medium and long term which include a review of the Land Use Act to accommodate the interest of all land resources users.
“Halting of aerial bombardments of pastoralists communities in Zamfara by the Army in the name of targeting bandits but rather adopt critical intelligence to target the real bandits and criminal elements masquerading as herders.
“Acceleration of the establishment and development of grazing reserves by government as an intermediary strategy for the eventual modernization of the livestock sector.
“The suspension of recent anti –grazing laws enacted by some states which they said have become “recipe for conflicts”, and ” the Immediate release from detention of hundreds of pastoralists languishing in jails without trials particularly those arrested in Benue on pretext of violating anti-grazing laws.”
On his part, Baba Usman Ngelzarma, National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, said: “The farmer-herders clashes have been hijacked by crisis merchants who are politicians of questionable character, religious extremist as well as their arsenic and bigots.
”However, our major concern is the 5th estate of the realm which is the media who are supposed to be the Vanguard of peaceful existence. Unfortunately, recent events have shown that the media has taken sides and has portrayed the herdsmen as the criminal as well as the terrorist and this is unfortunate and does not in any way portray the true story.
“The major issue is the generalisation of the group as bad. This generalization must stop. There is no community in Nigeria that does not have its challenge of bad eggs among them and the herders community is no exception. Crime and criminality must be identified and treated as such without profiling and portraying an entire ethnic group as criminals.”
For the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, the conflict has taken an unfortunate dimension as gangs are taking advantage of the clashes to further wreak havoc on communities.
“What I want to draw out and emphasise is that the herders- farmers conflicts have developed into some criminality. Whether it’s in Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa or Plateau State, one thing I’ve noticed is that there are gangs that are armed and hide under the guise of the conflicts to attack farmers.”
Idris, who was represented by the DIG in charge of operations, Habila Joshak, further stated: “Today, there are so many gangs waiting to intercept the Fulanis with their cows. Sometimes, they take out these animals, slaughter them and when they don’t finish the meat and when you go out with security operatives on patrol, you see a lot of meat littered on the rocks and in the field.”
Setting the tune for the discourse, Dele Alake, former Commissioner of Information and Strategy in Lagos State, in his opening remarks, said Nigeria was at a critical juncture that was in contrast to the country of peace and harmony envisioned by its founding fathers.
He said Nigeria was uniquely blessed with abundant natural resources and had what it took to be at the top, adding that ” in recent times, we have been challenged and confronted by all manners of threat to,our political stability. We won’t sit and watch till the apocalypse.”