HERDSMEN-FARMERS' CONFLICT AND CHALLENGES OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA (2015 - 2020)

1.1       Background to the study

Nigeria has experienced and is still experiencing conflicts of grave proportions among several ethnic and religious communities across the states. These conflicts significantly vary in dimension, process and the groups involved; while some conflicts arise between same resource user group such as between one farming community and another, others occur between different user groups such as between herders and farmers. Indeed, farmers-herdsmen conflict has remained the most preponderant resource-use conflict in Nigeria.

Gursoy (2019) observed that violent conflicts between nomadic pastoralist and sedentary farmer communities in Nigeria cause thousands of lives and economic losses. The conflict has escalated in recent years as conflicting parties have easier access to arms and communication devices. The old, traditional negotiation mechanisms between the groups have mostly collapsed, therefore the ones who have better equipment try to get what they want without talking to other parties. According to Abbas (2009) a study of major sources of conflicts between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers shows that land related issues, especially on grazing fields, account for the highest percentage of the conflicts. In other words, struggles over the control of economically viable lands cause more tensions and violent conflicts among communities.

Social and economic factors continue to provoke violent conflicts among the Fulani pastoralists and farmers across Nigeria. In recent times, violent conflicts between herdsmen have escalated in Nigeria and are spreading southward, threatening the country’s security, stability and peace. With an estimated death toll of approximately 2,500 people in 2016, these clashes are becoming as potentially dangerous as the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East (Ajibo, Onuoha, Obi-Keguna and Okafor 2018). Yet to date, response to the crisis at both the federal and state levels have been poor (International Crises Group, 2017). Nigeria has experienced a considerable increase in natural resource conflicts since the early 1990s. The increasing conflicts between farmers and herdsmen have recently become a cause for worry, especially in wetland areas of the middle belt, North Central Nigeria (Leme, 2017). In a particular attack by fulani herdsmen in 2016 on Nimbo residents in Uzo- Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, left about 40 persons dead (Abiodun, 2016).

Since the return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria has been grappling with diverse security challenges, chief among them are insurgency, election violence, kidnapping and most recently, the herder-farmer conflicts among others. The north central states of Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa and other states have experienced conflicts that led to thousands of deaths and displacements as a result of clashes between pastoralists (herders) and local farmers in several communities. In January 2018 alone, Amnesty International reports indicate that 168 people were killed as a result of herdsmen-farmer clashes (Egbuta, 2018).

Struggle over grazing land and scarce resources have over the years resulted in perennial and growing violent conflicts in terms of frequency, intensity and geographic scope. Underpinning the escalation in frequency of conflicts in Nigeria is a confluence of environmental and demographic forces, especially desertification caused by climate change and population explosion. Expectedly, with the depletion of arable land for subsistence farming largely as a result of increasing urbanisation and the adverse effect of climate change, especially along the Lake Chad basin, there is increased struggle between herdsmen and farmers – leading to violent confrontations and conflicts, deaths and forced displacement, as well as the destruction of agriculture and livestock

error: Content is protected !!