In the vast and diverse tapestry of Nigeria, recent years have borne witness to a crisis that has left communities torn apart and claimed thousands of lives—the herdsmen crisis. While we commend President Bola Tinubu’s proactive stance on addressing this pressing issue, we must recognize the urgent need for comprehensive solutions that pave the path to peaceful coexistence and economic development.
According to the data from the Armed Conflicts Location and Events Data Project (ACLED), the herdsmen crisis has exacted a toll of 8,343 lives lost in 1,350 attacks since 2005. These numbers, however grim, may not convey the full extent of the tragedy. Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, has ventured an estimate of over 60,000 lives lost in this ongoing conflict, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
One of the most troubling facets of this crisis is the Federal Government’s reluctance to officially classify the armed herdsmen militias and their sponsors as terrorists, despite international designations. Instead, there have been instances where individuals and communities defending themselves were wrongly labeled as “terrorists.”
President Tinubu’s appointment of Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to lead the Livestock Reform Panel represents a promising step forward. Ganduje’s initiatives in Kano State, where ranches were established, and the promotion of modern and peaceful herding practices can serve as a blueprint for resolving this crisis.
To realize lasting peace and development, we propose the following solutions:
Dialogue with Stakeholders: Engage all stakeholders, including farmers, herders, community leaders, and experts, in meaningful dialogue to formulate comprehensive policies addressing the root causes of the crisis.
Livestock Settlements and Ranches: Facilitate the return of the livestock business community to their states of origin or the acquisition of lands from willing sellers for the establishment of secure and sustainable ranches.
Economic Support: Extend financial assistance and training to herders, akin to the support given to farmers, enabling them to modernize practices, improve livestock health, and boost productivity.
Security Measures: Bolster security by increasing the presence of law enforcement agencies in affected regions and promoting community policing to protect both farmers and herders.
Education and Sensitization: Conduct public awareness campaigns to foster peaceful coexistence among diverse ethnic and religious groups. Education dispels misconceptions and stereotypes that fuel conflicts.
Land Use Planning: Invest in effective land use planning to prevent conflicts stemming from competition for land. Urban and rural development should be pursued while safeguarding land rights.
Legal Framework: Consider enacting laws regulating cattle grazing and herd movement to mitigate conflicts arising from open grazing.
It is crucial to note that the creation of a special ministry for herders should be avoided, as this may prompt similar demands from other occupational or business groups. Instead, an integrated approach that aligns herders with the broader agricultural sector is recommended.
President Tinubu stands at a unique juncture to resolve this crisis, fostering peace, food security, and economic development. Yet, it is imperative that he takes heed of past missteps and embarks on a comprehensive and inclusive approach that benefits all Nigerians. In doing so, Nigeria can chart a course towards unity, prosperity, and lasting peace.
The Conflict Prevention and Peace Building Initiative (CPPBI) is a Nigeria-based non-governmental organization with a commitment to fostering constructive relationships among individuals, groups, and political entities across various boundaries, including ethnic, religious, class, national, and racial divisions.