From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Mutual suspicions are known to be largely responsible for clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. While farmers usually allege that herdsmen cause destruction to their farmlands following invasion by their cattle, the herdsmen on the other hand believe it was just an attempt to call dog a bad name in order to hang it.
Another aspect is that the act of callousness perpetrated by unidentified herdsmen leading to reprisals from both sides. Though in Kwara State, there was a time such incident was recorded in Alapa community of Asa Local Government Area. The level of destruction that greeted the violence was heart wrenching.
In the same vein, what appeared to be a re-enactment of the clash occurred recently in Yashikira, Gwanara District of Baruten Local Government Area where a farmer was killed allegedly by some herdsmen. This triggered a reprisal that resulted in the death of some other people.
The development became a major concern for security agencies especially the police on how to put an end to such ugly scenario. In addressing the menace, the state police command last week convened a stakeholders’ forum at Police Officers’ Mess, Ilorin, where issues pertaining to the clashes between the farmers and herdsmen were brought to the front burner.
At the meeting were the Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Olusola Amore; representative of the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Zulu Gambari; traditional chiefs; community leaders and the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). The CP observed that the crisis became a recurring decimal because some traditional chiefs gave settlement approval to strangers under the pretext of being herdsmen:
“The meeting was called because of the recent incident in Kwara State where we are having influx of strange people and those presented here are representatives of emir and there is need for them to know their roles; the roles they should play in their various communities.
“We have spoken to them about the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to solve problems in their various communities, for the mere fact that they are the leaders in those communities; the need for them to have regular meeting with all the stakeholders within their communities; the police, the Miyetti Allah and to have peace and consultative forum to sustain the peace in their communities.
“More importantly for them to see the danger in accommodating strangers just for monetary gains. There is an inherent danger in just allowing strangers that you don’t know where they are coming from, you don’t know what they have done before they were expelled from their various communities.
“Just for pittance of money, you allow them to settle, then they will now become a big problem into such communities, and that is why we are trying to sensitize all the community leaders to ensure that at least they know their roles, to ensure they inform the emir they are representing, they inform DPOs, they inform Local Government Chairmen if they have problem in their various communities and getting law enforcement agents involved.
“We also spoke to them about the issue of Vigilante Group. The government is trying to reorganize the vigilante team and very soon, that one will come into place.”
The emir representative, Alhaji Issa Jimoh, Balogun Ajikobi of Ilorin, said the monarch had instructed traditional chiefs to report any stranger noticed in their communities to the emirate for appropriate action. He said any herdsman coming to reside within the jurisdiction of Ilorin Emirate must henceforth be armed with official report from wherever he is coming from.
He said the essence was to ensure that questionable characters are not allowed in the state. The emir, who called for love among residents, harped on the need to offer assistance to one another regardless of ethnic affiliations. He warned against retaliation whenever disputes occur in local communities, saying security agencies are on ground to attend to such situations.
Chairman, Ilorin Emirate Magaji/ Alangua Forum, Alhaji Abdulwahab Sanni, pointed out that local communities have been grappling with nefarious activities of the herdsmen for a long time. He urged the police to sensitize the community leaders from time to time on what should be done to permanently halt the mutual suspicion, which most of the time, ends in skirmish. He also appealed to the police to improve security system in various communities to address the problem of clashes as they occur.
Secretary, state chapter of MACBAN, AbdulAzeez Mohammed, said the association has been in the vanguard of harmonious living through instructions to members to value peace at all time: “As far as Miyetti Allah is concerned, we always call on our people to value peaceful co-existence especially between farmers and herdsmen in the state. That is why Miyetti Allah has established a monthly meeting with all local chapter leaders in the state to discuss issues concerning peaceful co-existence of our people, particularly on the cases involving clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
“The state executive of Miyetti Allah is working round the clock in all the 16 local government areas to call on our people to value peaceful co-existence in the state. Concerning the rift between herdsmen and farmers, the Miyetti Allah has passed a circular recently to all the herdsmen in the state to avoid vandalism of crops in their quest for greener pastures.
“I think a mutual understanding will be sufficient to settle the rift between farmers and herdsmen, where we can sit together and reason together, we will know what to do.”