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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Tackling farmers-herders clashes in Plateau

By most comments from Nigerians, Plateau is rated as one of peaceful states in the country, presenting a unique, friendly weather and abundant tourism potential.


These attributes have, no doubt, given reasons why the state has witnessed patronage from both local and foreign tourists.

However, concerned citizens of the state expressed concern that the plateau may seem to exist on past glory and status due to some evolving socio-political challenges, sometimes, resulting in violence.

For instance, they cite a religious violence in 2001 in which many lives and property worth millions of naira were lost.

During the violence, hoodlums took the advantage and razed down the one of the largest markets in West Africa – Terminus Market – located in Jos.

They believe that the state has not recovered from the huge economic loss that the violence and other ones have caused it as many investors are discouraged from investing in the state.

Observers also raise concern about the trending clashes between herdsmen and farmers that can further deplete the potential of the state.

Farmers. Photo credit: smeonline.biz

The clashes between the two groups, like other disturbances, will not occur without blood-letting and loss of property, as they observe.

In most cases, the clashes, when they occur, will displace many people, forcing them to seek refuge elsewhere.

They observe further that Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, Mangu, Bassa and few communities in Jos South local government areas of the state are worst hit in such conflicts.

They also note that although successive governments in the state had made efforts at subduing the conflicts, they have been recurring.

Worried by the development, Gov. Simon Lalong of the state constituted many peace committees to address the issue with a view of providing a way for peace.

The government also established a peace building agency and a special security committee, headed by a lawmaker, Mr Yusuf Gagdi, to proffer ways of finding lasting peace in all parts of the state.

These efforts notwithstanding, concern citizens insist that clashes between farmers and herders recur daily in different parts of the state.

But the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, observed that constant clashes between the two groups indicated that government had not paid enough attention to agricultural sector.

“While the farmers produce enough food for us to consume, the herders produce beef and other nutrients from their cattle for the consumption of the public.

“They are both vital aspects of our existence; but because we concentrate too much on oil, these groups are often alienated, margnalised or treated with indifference.

“I urge governments at all levels to invest heavily in supporting these groups; in fact, huge amount of money should be budgeted to ensure herders have all it takes in rearing animals.

“The government should provide farmers with good and modern agricultural tools alongside soft loans to enable them to produce enough food.

“It is my firm belief that when government is able to meet the needs of the two groups, the incessant attacks and counter-attacks between them will die a natural dead,’’ the cleric said.

Kaigama, however, urged the herders and farmers to live in peace for the development of the state.

Similarly, the Church of Christ in Nations, pleaded with the state government to ban open grazing urgently and address the ongoing face-off between herders and farmers in the state.

Rev. Dachollom Datiri, the president of the church, observed that open grazing had made farmers to suffer loss.

He also charged the security agencies to live above board and intensify efforts in unmasking the unidentified gunmen to face the wrath of the law.

Supporting Datiri’s view, former state Gov. Jonah Jang, said: “There is no gainsaying that the time is now and most appropriate for open grazing to be outlawed.

“I wish to call on the government of Plateau to enact its own anti-open grazing law in the interest of our people and the longevity of the lives that God, in His provision, chose to give us.’’

Pushing further on the need to curb farmers and herders clashes in the state, the Plateau Youth G17, presented to the state House of Assembly a bill seeking the enactment of anti-open grazing law in the state.

Presenting the draft bill to the state House of Assembly, the convener of the group, Mr Dachung Bagos, said “the bill seeks to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock.’’

Bagos said if the bill was passed as law, it would ban open grazing of animals and allow the establishment of commercial ranches, as against the public ones or cattle colonies being proposed by the government.

“Ranching is purely a private business; if you want to rear your cows you are free to get a land for that purpose, not that government should take up that as part of its responsibility.

“This bill, if giving due consideration, will go a long way in curtailing the incessant attacks and counter attacks we are experiencing on the Plateau.

“It will provide an environment that is conducive and safe for both farming and rearing of animals,’’ he said.

While efforts are ongoing to ensure peace, the Police Command in the state said it had organised a stakeholder’s meeting to find best ways of addressing the lingering clashes between farmers and herdsmen in some parts of the state.

Mr Undie Adie, the Commissioner of Police in the state, said that the clashes between the two groups had been a serious threat to peace in the state.

“We are not to apportion blames or call each other names, but I called this meeting to fashion out ways that will lead to lasting peace in the state.

“We cannot continue to kill and destroy each other’s farm lands, houses and other property; we have come together as a people to work out ways that will take us back to those old good times where we were all living as brothers and sisters,’’ he said.

The commissioner urged the people not to take laws into their hands, but to report any incidence to the nearest police station or any security outfit nearest to them.

“When you take laws into your hands, it fuels more crises, but when something happens, your duty is to report to us and we will take it up from there and do the needful,’’ he said.

However, Alhaji Sanusi Ajiya, the National Vice Chairman of Police Community Relations Committee, said that the police alone could not bring the needed peace in the society.

“It is incumbent on everybody to develop ways and agree to work towards lasting peace in the state and Nigeria in general.

“This is why I commend the Commissioner of Police for this laudable initiative aimed at bringing peace to our state,’’ he said.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Joseph Lengman, the Director General, Plateau State Peace Building Agency, said there must be a proper diagnosis of the situation, actors involved and the interests in conflicts before seeking solutions.

He observed that the inability of successive governments to find a sustainable solution to the problem was because of lack appreciation of what the problem was all about before taking action.

“We must desist from having a blanket assumption of what these clashes are all about; and so the need for us to cross-examine the problem and place it in a proper perspective before making conclusions.

“If we think that the problem of farmers and herders begins with the farmers on one hand and on the other hand ends with the herders, then we making a very big mistake.

“The components that were largely ignored or undermined must be better appreciated in addressing this challenge, because the peripheral solutions cropping up will not solve the problem.

“So, we must know what the crisis is all about before doing any other thing, because anything short of that can be counterproductive,’’ Lengman said.

He called on the people of the state to put aside emotions and swallow the bitter pills in proffering lasting solutions that would completely address the lingering problem in the state.

He also pleaded with the security agencies and other stakeholders to work diligently to sustain peace in the state.

By Polycarp Auta, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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