The farmer/herdsmen crisis in Jos, Plateau state, has caused the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) chapter of the University of Jos to hold a symposium in which stakeholder’s proffered possible solutions to the menace.
The chairman of the association, Dr. Chris Piwuna, during his address challenged Nigerians to put heads together toward tackling the scourge. He said that a state of anarchy was gradually setting in, and warned that Nigeria’s nationhood was under threat. Mr. Piwuna appeals to stakeholders, especially farmers, herdsmen, security agencies and the government to be sincere in their approach to the issue, saying that the incessant violence could snowball into unmanageable dimensions if not tackled.
The ASSU Chairman lamented that the massive human and material losses over time and called for sacrifices from all sides toward lasting peace. Noting that the violence was a struggle for Nigeria’s limited arable land, he therefore advises that the Nigerian government seeks out ways to settle cattle breeders so as to minimize open grazing that had often led to clashes over the destruction of crops.
According to papers of Prof. Omotoye Onorode of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, titled “Herdsmen/Farmers Clashes Today: Ecology, Class and Categorical Politics in Contemporary Nigeria”, he noted that modern cattle rearing system had become “increasingly inevitable” to avert constant clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria’s rural communities.
Onorode, said that modern cattle breeding system would take cognizance of equity in land allocation for the two groups.
“The society is in deep crisis; the old system of symbiotic living is dead and the new system cannot be formed because of the social and political interest not giving room to new ideas.”
“There is inequality in securing land which is the main requirement for these groups. The quest for wealth has subdued the need to chart ways for a peace charter between the herdsmen and farmers,” he said.
The university don alleged that monies proposed for grazing reserves and ecological funds had been misused by successive governments, while the 1978 land law meant to facilitate easy access to land had only benefited capitalist landowners. Noting that prejudices of fear and ignorance had bred distrust among the groups, he said that the problems could be reconciled through more interventions toward ensuring a better life for the rural population.
Mr Ephraim Sheyin, Zonal Manager, Jos zone of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), during his remark said that suggestions toward ending the violence had often failed because those concerned were not involved in their planning and execution.
“Government has made many suggestions. Some have suggested ranching, grazing reserves and cattle colonies”
“These suggestions have often hit the wall because of mutual fear and suspicion caused by lack of, or poor consultation. All stakeholders must be involved in the search for peace so as to reach agreements accepted by all parties,”
He regretted that most policies were always formulated by elites who had no farm or cattle and urged the government to relate closely with rural farmers and herders since they were the ultimate determinants of the success or failure of such policies.
Sheyin noted that the clashes were purely a direct economic struggle over a limited resource – land.
“Our land resources are shrinking while human and cattle population is increasing. In 1950, our population was 33 million, but we are currently close to 200 million.
“The fight is about who should get the limited arable land. Any other thing is secondary,” he said.
Mr Abdullahi Ardo, Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Plateau State Chapter, during his remarks decried the absence of infrastructure in their communities, saying that the situation was breeding frustration among the rural areas. He also alleged that the clashes were being fueled by the media who usually draw conclusions about attacks without proper investigation.
Mr Aboi Madaki, President, Plateau Initiative for the Development and Advancement of the Natives (PIDAN), blamed the clashes on land confiscation. Madaki cautioned herdsmen against accommodating in their midst, foreign militias usually accused of carrying out the attacks. The symposium, which was chaired by Prof. Lami Lombin, former Director General, National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, was attended by four former Vice Chancellors of the university.