By Joan Ejembi
The Forum for Farmer-Herder Relations in Nigeria, an initiative of the Search for Common Ground (SFCGs), has identified lack of sustainability of government policies as the key factor responsible for the lingering Farmer-Herder conflicts in the country.
Speaking Saturday in Abuja at a meeting of the forum, Conflict Analyst-Nigeria, SFCG, Bukola Ademola-Adelehin said the essence of the recently inaugurated forum of academia and practitioners from different states bridging the gap between peace practitioners and researchers from both government and non governmental institutions, is to share views, experiences and discuss the current dynamics of farmer-herder conflict.
She said the forum also aims “to identify areas for policy research with the view of generating testable evidence for multi level policy influencing, to build synergy between researchers and practitioners to generate evidence based findings critical for effective policy influencing.”
Shedding more light on the major thrust of the forum, the forum seeks to increase knowledge sharing between peace building practitioners and research institutions on farmer-herder conflict and issues in Nigeria and .
In addition, she said it would facilitate joint identification of research areas on farmer-herder conflict, joint analysis of policy implications and recommendations for policy influencing as well as joint policy influencing engagements on farmer-herder issues and conflict.
Also in his presentation on Assessment Of The Current Responses To Farmer-Herder Conflict In Nigeria, Peace and Conflict Research Fellow, Dr Chris Kwaja, noted the worrisome dimension the issue has assumed in recent times.
He said records have shown that N6, 500 people have been killed and 62,000 people displaced as a result of farmer-herder clashes in affected states between 2010 and 2015.
He disclosed that Federal revenue to the tune of $113.7 billion has also been lost during the years under review.
He said although government had in the past intervened towards addressing the farmer-herder conflict in different ways such as establishment of 415 grazing reserve, establishment of National Committee for Nomadic Education, deployment of security agencies to states affected, launching of the Great Green Wall initiative, enacting of grazing reserve routes, the efforts were all short-lived.
The expert described the farmer-herder conflict as “relationship that has been fractured, a relationship of centuries, that was associates with cordiality, cooperation and interdependence but today we are talking about disharmony, violent confrontation, suspicion and they are drivers to all these all of which are avoidable because if the institutions charge with the responsibilities of responding or managing the issue acted well, we wouldn’t have been where we are. Also, if the individual, communities or conflicting parties have been able to manage the issue without using violence as the first resort or only resort, we won’t be where we are today.”
On the reason for the recurrent crises, Dr Kwaja said: “The problem is sustainability of action. We have not been able to implement policies in a very sustainable manner. The grazing routes for example, government established them but most of them were not gazetted. With planning we can protect these routes but urbanization came and population so lots of these routes have been blocked. If we had proper planning, sustainable policies and strategies, we would have been able to address this so we need to look at all these issues, how did we plan them and what is on ground , what can we do differently or if it is a success, how can we sustain it.”
As part of the way out of the issue, he recommended that in its intervention, government should adopt the soft approach of dialogue, mediation and participatory approach rather than militarisation.
He also emphasized collaboration with traditional rulers and capacity building as custodian of peace.
Also, he recommended the establishment and strengthening of the community Vigilante to enable them function in a more viable way and also collaborate with other government security bodies.
In a remark, an expert in Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies as well as Security Strategist, Prof. Isaac Olawale Albert, said solution to the Farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria is not in the hand of government alone.
The Director, Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan said: “The people are key stakeholders in finding lasting solution to the issue,” emphasizing that “The best solution will come from the farmers and herdsmen themselves.”
Also corroborating the Prof., a Political and Security Analyst, Senator Iroegbu said the military approach to finding solution to the conflict currently being explored in the country, should be de-emphasized and dialogue and negotiation through stakeholders be emphasized.
Iroegbu, who also observed that most of our law makers are aloof when it comes to the issue of farmer-herder conflict, stressed the need for their engagement to facilitate policies that would help address the issues.
On her part, Gender Activist, Deborah Ene Edeh observed the need to deal with traditional conflict mitigation platforms such as women to have a voice in the peace processes.
Lamenting the lack of commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture in the farmer-herder conflict in the country, she said people with disability, who are farmers, should be taken into consideration in implementing interventions for the issue.