Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Country Director, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Dr Babatunde Afolabi says that the fatalities recorded from the herder-farmer clashes outnumber those of the devastating insurgency in the North East.
Afolabi, stating this at the launch of the HD Benue Dialogue Process held at the Benue Hotels in Makurdi on Thursday, estimated that Nigeria loses about USD 14 billion per annum to the herder-farmer clashes.
Afolabi lamented that the crisis had further worsened the prevailing security crisis in the country, especially with the proliferation of small and light weapons, the increased crime rate, rape, criminal destruction of livelihoods, cattle rustling, drug abuse, arson and kidnappings.
While stressing the need for all stakeholders to dialogue in order go seek workable solutions to the herder-farmer impasse, the HD Country Director warned that if the crisis worsens, the devastating effects to Nigeria can better be imagined than experienced.
He said the mission of HD is to help prevent, mitigate, and resolve armed conflict through dialogue and mediation, adding that the Centre is currently involved in more than 40 dialogue and mediation initiatives in over 20 countries of the world.
“Since early 2013, HD has led and facilitated three inter-communal dialogue and conflict mediation processes in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, specifically in Plateau and Kaduna states,” he said.
“The dialogue efforts were community-driven, enabling communities to be more directly involved in finding lasting solutions to their issues and concerns, and to build trust and confidence.
“Now, specifically for farmer-herder issues, HD has actively sought to prevent and mitigate the effect of farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, especially in the aftermath of the conflicts that erupted in early 2018.”
Afolabi expressed the hope that the Centre will in due course extend its mediation efforts beyond Benue and Nasawara to the other frontline states.
“We hope to achieve these in strict conformity with our overarching organisational principles of Humanity, Impartiality and Confidentiality.”
Various stakeholders including traditional, religious and community leaders who spoke at the event stressed the need for all hands to be on deck to engage in dialogue with a view to ensuring an enduring peace in the Nigerian society.