Increasing conflicts between herders and farmers in Nigeria

Conflicts in central and southern Nigeria between herders and farmers are increasing, due to desertification, insecurity and lack of natural resources. Help conflict-resolution and work to avoid these conflicts are immediate steps to be taken by the Government.

12 March 2018 - A report published recently by the International Crisis Group communicates the increasing violent conflicts in central and southern parts of Nigeria, as Northern nomadic herders are forcibly displaced due to desertification, insecurity, and loss of grazing land. Competition and lack of resources consumed by increasing numbers of citizens as nomadic herders migrate continues to grow, and is spurred on by a lack of intervention at the local and national government levels. This report states that President Muhammudu Buhari and his administration must immediately take steps in order to help conflict-resolution and work to avoid these conflicts in the first place.

These issues primarily began with problems relating to land and water use, obstruction of traditional migration routes, livestock theft and crop damage. Now, however, these issues are perpetuated by drought and desertification; larger, degraded environmental issues that affect pastures and water sources, and warrant long-term solutions and prevention efforts. As more and more pastoral herders migrate south, the growth in population heightens pressure on limited resources, such as land, water, and livestock. Additionally, the South’s majority Christian communities resent and spur conflict with the predominantly Muslim and Fulani herders, and are continually regarded as “Islamization force”. Increased access to and trade of legal and illegally acquired firearms furthers this violence even more. The precise death toll over the past 5 years is near impossible to calculate, but the Crisis Group Africa estimates that over 2,000 have been killed, with tens of thousands forcibly displaced and billions of dollars’ worth of properties, crops, and livestock completely destroyed.

The state and local authorities have done close to nothing; there are no early-warning or rapid response mechanisms in place, there has not been a push to arrest or prosecute perpetrators of violence or assistance to victims, and little attention has been paid to improve livestock management practices. This article calls for concrete steps for the government to take immediately, which can be read in full in the report:

  1. “Strengthen security arrangements for herders and farming communities in north-central zone”: The government must implement campaigns against theft of cattle or property! This can be done with early-on action prevention, effectively trained police and security units, increased inclusive community communication and collaboration, and awareness and prevention methods against trade of illegal firearms and ammunition
  2. “Establish or strengthen conflict mediation, resolution, reconciliation and preacebuilding mechanisms”: At the state and local government levels, this can help most vulnerable pockets of the community
  3. “Establish grazing reserves in consenting states and improve livestock production and management in order to minimize contacts and friction between herders and farmers”: From the ten states that have already consented to grazing reserves, implementing the 10-year National Ranch Deveopment Plan (facilitated by the Fao in April of 2017), which can help stabilize credit for livestock producers and herders

In the long term, government on various levels must understand and remember:

  1. “Address environmental factors that are driving herders’ migration to the south”: work to mitigate climate change and respective effects that are driving migration.
  2. “Coordinate with neighbors to stem cross-border movement of non-Nigerian armed herders”: This includes the neighboring states of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

In conclusion, these ever-increasing conflicts are the most important and pressing issues to the security of Nigeria. Unless the President steps in with formulated steps to address the needs of both sides, these cases of violence will continue to escalate. This can only be done with efficient, transparent, and equitable communication, which will then warrant stronger law enforcement, conflict resolution through social systems, grazing reserves, and most importantly, steps to mitigate and understand the causes of the environmental trends that are causing all of this.

To read the full report, click here.