Insecurity: Let’s experiment with RUGA
Sir: One of the biggest problems Nigeria is facing is insecurity, arising especially from farmers-herders challenges that have escalated and transformed to cattle rustling, armed banditry and kidnapping thereby heightening the tension in the country. Farmers-herders conflict mainly associated with quarrels over land resources mostly between Muslim Fulani herders and predominant Christian farmers across Nigeria. However, this tussle is more pronounced in the Middle Belt/North Central states of Jos, Nassarawa and Benue.
A 2019 report by Foreign Affairs puts the death toll as a result of violent clashes at 10,000 within the span of two years while thousands of individuals were displaced. Alas, these violent economic struggles have been politicised and then reduced to ethnic and Northern Nigeria problem. But today, the south, specifically southeast and southwest states also share in the pie of these violent clashes. These conflicts undermine the fabric of our corporate existence as they exacerbate various fault lines with grave implications.
The clashes are fueled by illiteracy, water scarcity, desertification, increasing unemployment rate, porous national borders, encroachment into grazing among others. Climate change, population explosion and growth of new settlements are also veritable sources and causal factors of most of these conflicts as stated in the latest Nigeria’s 2019 National Security Strategy document. In the documentary, it is further argued that the significant threat posed by pastoralists-farmers conflict makes it a critical issue that needs to be addressed quickly and comprehensively.
The solution to herders-farmers violent clashes in Nigeria has remained subtle due to lack of consensus, especially between the Federal Government of Nigeria and affected north-central and southern states’ governments, regarding the right methodology for curbing the menace. Two recommendations that have been proffered are “ranching and anti-open grazing bill.” The Federal Government has demonstrated a preference for ranching and has in 2019 tried to create a Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) settlement but the proposal was met with fierce critics. The Federal Government justifications for ranching are that it would constrain cattle movement and herders will be settled in an organised locality with basic amenities like schools, hospitals, veterinary clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meat and animal products.
In contrast, some state governments have prioritised Anti-Open Grazing Act which is premised on the need to protect the lives, crops and properties of indigenous farmers and to forestall the perceived Islamisation of the Middle-Belt and South-Eastern states of Nigeria by the Fulani tribes through herding.
To completely arrest this lingering scuffle, application of conflict resolution mechanism, impacting of literacy, mass orientation and education of farmers and herders on grazing laws, confinement of cattle rearing to ranches and grazing-reserves and strengthening of grazing routes remain the viable solutions to persistent problems associated with herders-farmers violent clashes.
Moreover, the RUGA settlement proposed by the Federal Government should be piloted in some affected states in order to appraise its real potentials rather than totally rejecting it without subjecting it to any form of experimentation.
• Ya’u Mukhtar wrote from Madobi, Kano State.
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