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How to end incessant clash between farmers-herdsmen, by Falana

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Femi Falana

Following the tragic killing of 73 people during the violent attack on Logo and Guma in Benue State on January 1, this year, Chief Paul Unongo, a former minister, had accused former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of masterminding the crisis, since he is a patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association. 

Although Abubakar promptly denied the allegation and threatened to institute a libel suit in court, the governors of Nasarawa and Plateau states, Tanko Al-Makura and Simon Lalong, respectively, publicly blamed their Benue State colleague, Samuel Ortom, for the tragic killing.

As far as both governors are concerned, it was the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition Law of Benue State that provoked the violent attack. 

But the two chief executives did not explain the basis of the reckless killing of farmers in Benue before the enactment of the law or the incessant killing of hundreds of farmers by herdsmen in other states of the federation. In fact, after the Benue incident, herdsmen in Kaduna State have killed not less than 10 people.

Apart from the fact that Kaduna has no anti-grazing law, Governor Nasir El-Rufai once announced that he had paid an undisclosed sum of money to the herdsmen to stop further killing of unarmed farmers in the state.

Even Ortom has not been left out of the blame game. In his presentation to the visiting Senate ad hoc Committee on Security, he said the authorities in Abuja should be held liable for the crisis for ignoring several warnings of the impending attack.

However, upon realising the futility of blaming the Benue State government over the tragic incident, Lalong has displayed maturity by apologising for his comments.
 
But in his reaction to the tragic incident in Benue, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and Patron of Miyetti Allah, alleged that over 800 Fulani people were brutally killed by ethnic militias in Taraba State in one weekend last year.

In denying the allegation, the Taraba State government has said that in the violent clash that occurred between the Fulani and Mambilla people in Sardauna last year, “both sides suffered casualties and the figure of death from both sides put together was nothing close to genocide.”

With respect, the revered Emir ought not to have waited for the killing of 73 people in Benue before crying out over what he has described as “these acts of ethnic cleansing” by some influential people in Taraba.

We ought to have built a nation whereby the killing of every citizen is viewed as an assault on our collective humanity.

On that note, the Taraba State government and the Nigeria Police Force should ensure the prosecution of all persons indicted by the Justice Nuhu Adi commission of inquiry, which investigated the crisis and has since submitted its report to Governor Darius Ishaku.

However, in moments of ethno-religious crises, traditional rulers, political office holders and religious leaders should desist from making inflammatory statements that are capable of aggravating violence in the society.

It is high time the political elite stopped the practice of blaming the victims of injustice in the land. Since the federal government has a legal duty to protect the life and property of every citizen, it has failed to put an end to the perennial violent conflicts between farmers and cattle herdsmen, which have needlessly claimed many lives and destruction of properties worth several billions of naira in many states of the federation.
 
The official negligence of the federal government cannot be justified, because as far back as May 2016, the authorities in Abuja had rightly decided to establish ranches, in line with modern practice in civilised countries.

The Minister of Agriculture announced the plan and Natural Resources, Chief Audu Ogbe, at a public hearing organised by the Senate Committees on Agriculture, and National Security and Intelligence on May 3, 2016.

On that occasion, the Minister of State, Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, who represented Ogbe, said as a result of climate change resulting from global warming and desertification, herdsmen had no option than to migrate southwards to find pastures for their animals, which now faced starvation in the north.

Lokpobiri pointed out that nomadic cattle rearing had become obsolete and this was why ranches were a necessity to provide adequate food to the cattle and forestall unnecessary clashes.

He further said that with ranches, the livestock would be healthier and more productive, while the herdsmen would avoid unnecessary attacks and also be able to give their children opportunity to be educated.


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