RESOLVING THE FARMER/HERDERS CONFLICTS IN THE CONTEXT OF NATION BUILDING

RESOLVING THE FARMER/HERDERS CONFLICTS IN THE CONTEXT OF NATION BUILDING

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1.0 Introduction

The agricultural sector in Nigeria has provided employment for about 30 percent of the total population in Nigeria. Nigeria has huge agricultural potential with over 84 million hectares of arable land, of which only 40 percent is cultivated. Pastoral farming is the most predominant system of livestock farming in Nigeria and livestock owners are basically nomads travelling across the country in search of grazing fields and ready market. Due to the vast arable lands in the North-Central zone, the Fulani nomads prefer to take their livestock to these places, hence the encroachment on of the animals onto farmlands leading to the destruction of crops. This destruction in some cases causes the farmers to kill the animals which then lead to conflict between the farmers and herdsmen. The conflict between farmers and herdsmen in the North-Central region of Nigeria has continued to escalate as evidenced by recent killings in some communities and local government areas across the region especially as experienced in some communities of Agatu local government area of Benue state (NOIPolls, 2016: 1 and 2) in North-Central Nigeria in the early periods of 2016. Nigeria is made up of six geo-political zones with the North-Central Region having six states which include: Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states. Nigeria`s Federal Capital Territory Abuja is also located in the region of the country. The region lies completely in the central portion of Nigeria. And it central location account for part of the reasons why it is often call the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. The region is a combination of two vegetation belts. Half portion of this region fall within the Sudan savannah while the remaining half within the Guinea savannah. The vegetation of the region is a wonderful blessing to the people of the area-for it bestowed on them, a fertile soil conducive for serious agricultural production. Grasses in this region which are green and fresh throughout the seasons provide one of the best foliage’s for animal consumption in the whole of Nigeria and sub-Saharan region of Africa. Grassland in the Benue and Niger rivers troughs provide the best grazing site in the country and the whole of western Sudan. The agricultural potentials of the region ahead of other parts of the country is glaring and Benue in particular with food production capacity sound enough to feed the whole of West African sub-region is code named the “Food Basket of the Nigerian Nation”.

          The ongoing conflict between farmers and herdsmen across the north central region of Nigeria is costing the country at least $14 billion in potential revenues annually. The clashes, which have resulted in the death of thousands of rural dwellers over the past two decades, usually arise from disagreements over the use of essential resources such as farmland, grazing areas and water points (Ogundipe and Oluwole, 2016:1). However, Farmers-Herdsmen conflict is a crisis over grazing and farming land as well as over water points and settlements. The natural and geographical features of the north central region of Nigeria are themselves enough reasons to understand that rural conflict in communities located in this region of the country are eminent. In the process of utilizing natural resources, interests are likely to clash with each other’s-especially in a federal entity with diverse cultural heritages like Nigeria. Communities in the north central region of Nigeria are agrarian. They depend on farming for survival and means of earning their livelihoods. And the Fulani herdsmen who are livestock breeder have their animal to protect because it is their source of wealth and survival. This implies that both parties exist under condition of protecting their various interests and wealth against each other’s interruption. The desire by both parties to protect their various interest have often result in bloody confrontations between the two parties- development that affects the stability of peace in the central region of the country and also threaten the unity of the Nigerian nation itself owing to the fact this conflict in most cases assumed religious inclination. And crises with religious inclination are very quick in destabilizing unity among the Nigerian people because of the complex nature of the country in relation to religious practice and orientation.


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