Written by Oludayo Tade
FIELDING asked reporters from Katsina, recently, the governor of the state of Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje, said that his administration managed to stop the tide of robbery by establishing a ranch culture in the state. He said: “We are building the RUGA settlement in the Samsosua forest, on our border with Katsina, and we have managed to mitigate the effects of the robbery in the area. So, we are building many houses, we are building a dam, we are establishing a center for artificial insemination of cattle. We are establishing a veterinary clinic and we have already started building houses for cattle breeders. “
Ganduje advocated the abolition of nomadic livestock farming involving the transportation or hiking of cattle ranchers from the north to the middle belt and southern part of Nigeria. “There should be a law that will ban it, otherwise we can’t control the conflicts between ranchers and farmers and we can’t control the rustling of cattle that hit us hard,” he said.
For Benue’s deputy governor, Benson Abounu, it is worth embracing Gandu’s advocacy, adding that Gandu, who was once a cattle breeder, is highly informed of the situation and should be given his recommendation of a law banning nomadic grazing opportunities for fruit across the country. Olayiwola Adeleke, chairman of the Egan Local Council Development Area, LCDA, has no use, and his constituency has little appreciation for Governor Ganduje’s intervention and suggestions regarding the livestock-farmer conflict.
Even Adeleka’s position as Igan’s chief security officer could not afford him preferential treatment when the kidnappers approached him and attacked him. It is better to assume the beatings he suffered and the humiliation he suffered at the hands of his attackers. According to him: “Suddenly we heard gunshots. These people came out of the bush with guns in their hands. They ordered us to open the door. They started slapping me and my driver, beating us mercilessly. They even fired to scare people. They are young boys. “
In the wake of Adeleka’s suffering, the chairman of the Ibarapa local government, Daniel Okediji, explained that the insecurity that shook Ibarapa grew from a highway robbery to a kidnapping. He said: “In the beginning, it was the case of cattle breeders who attacked farmers on their farms; when they destroy the farm, farmers would like to react, but instead of praying, some of them will start attacking machetes on farmers. “
According to the International Crisis Group, ICG, escalated clashes between agricultural communities and crime cattle breeders are six times more deadly than the Boko Haram insurgency due to the number of civilian casualties. Between 2010 and 2015, 850 violent clashes between farmers and ranchers were recorded in the Middle Belt region, taking the lives of 6,500 people and displacing 62,000. In 2016 alone, the ICG recorded 2,500 deaths resulting from these violent clashes, with most victims in Benue and Kaduna and other southern states. Since 2018, when the crisis took on a new dimension, it is estimated that 300,000 people have fled their homelands. As farmers flee their communities, criminal herders acquire their lands and settle.
The abduction victims also confirmed the identity of their abductors. Similar experiences with the “terror” of the people of Ibarape and Oke-Ogun led to the eviction of Seriki Fulani from the Igangan community in Oyo State, for allegedly helping and supporting ranchers and mediating in paying ransom to kidnappers. The community claimed to have paid over N50 million and lost more than 15 people with many gunshot wounds and machetes still nurtured. Those who have been abducted are still struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of their victims are farmers who were allegedly raped, while some died in the process.
According to Okediji, chairman of Ibarapa Northwest LGA: “Three people were abducted in one week. They collected N2 million for the first victim, N3.5 million for the second and N7.5 million for the third. “Sunday Oyebisi is another victim of farm looting and violent livestock attacks. Oyebisi, who owns 30 acres of cashew farm, suffered a crude deal at the hands of his attackers. He said:” They would just drive away the farm owner and eat (rob) the farm. They destroyed my 30-hectare cashew farm and I reported it to the police in Ayete, but when Seriki Fulani got there, nothing was done about the case. “
The reaction of the state is quite slow and reduces the magnitude of the impending danger. The federal government, like some states, preaches a peaceful life by not administering justice to victims, many of whom accuse the federal government of pampering cattle ranchers with crime, thus encouraging other transnational criminal gangs to extract Fulani to jeopardize national security and food security.
The recent increase in food prices is not related to the insecurity of traders and livestock farmers who are displacing farmers from their homelands. The food blockade from North to South Nigeria and the consequences of this action are also instructive, highlighting the urgent need for improved protection for farmers to ensure food safety and sustainability.
Adewale Moses, another victim of livestock violence, said: “We cannot engage in agriculture without anticipating an attack. Women cannot be sent to the farm without being raped. “Perhaps this is why James Olagbenro, a traditional ruler in the affected Ibarape area, has argued that ranchers must leave the community to enjoy peace. This is by no means ethnic profiling. Linking criminal ranchers to rape, farm looting and kidnapping in southern Nigeria stems from data collected from victims of these crimes.
Uncontrolled invasion of agricultural communities and their displacement can create more serious problems for Nigeria. When ranchers drive farms off farms and nothing is done to arrest them, the implication is that Nigeria cannot meet at least five sustainable development goals and will not be able to feed its people. These are ‘no poverty’, zero hunger, reducing inequality, sustainable cities and communities, peace, justice and strong institutions.
To resolve the conflict, experts called for better governance of the country’s security and intelligence system. Calls for justice in dealing with reports and arrests of criminal cattle breeders are becoming more frequent. Porous borders must be supplied and the movement of transnational cattle breeders controlled. In the southwest, for example, open grazing and child grazing are banned, due to outrage and riots in Igangan and Sasha in Oyo State.
As northern governors explore practical initiatives such as Gandu’s RUGA settlement, ranchers are urged to conduct their activities in accordance with the laws of their states. Nigeria can also take a hint from Tanzania where the government is dealing with the conflict between peasant farmers and pastoral communities by making the land available to private commercial interests.
Dr. Tade, a sociologist and journalist, wrote via [email protected]