Kudos to Ganduje as confab on livestock reform kicks off
By Adamu S. Ladan
A national conference on farmer/herder clashes in some parts of the country is kick starting in Abuja today.
Addressing newsmen over the weekend in Abuja, Chairman of a committee recently set up by Kano State, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to organise the national conference, and former Chairman of the Independent National National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, said the confab would hold between today, Monday and Wednesday this week.
According to him participants comprising government officials, traditional rulers, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), academia, development partners and others are expected at the confab.
He said resource persons and researchers with deep knowledge of livestock management and reforms would deliver lectures during the confab and provide a roadmap for the country.
Jega said the confab with the theme, “Sustainable Livestock Reforms and Mitigation of Associated Conflicts in Nigeria: Farmers/Herders Clashes” is aimed at addressing the challenges associated with the livestock sector and associated conflicts.
He said, “The primary objective of the conference is to bring together a range of stakeholders for cross-fertilisation of ideas with regards to how to reform the livestock sector in this country.
The reform he added is expected to bring significant value addition to the economy of Nigeria and would ensure sustainability, and promote social cohesion rather than conflicts.
“The stakeholders expected at the conference are drawn virtually from all the segments of Nigerian society. Without sounding modest, I think we can say this is perhaps, the best or one of the best groupings of arrays of stakeholders in an inclusive process in order to address a national problem.
“And there is no doubt that given the competence and calibres and the capacity of the people we are putting for this conference, the deliberations are going to be very rich and therefore impactful in terms of producing a blueprint to addressing this problem on a sustainable basis.” Jega assured.
As the saying goes better late than never, this is indeed a commendable step taking in the right direction. It’s been long overdue for the north to look inward to find a lasting solution for this intractable problem that has ravaged the region for almost a decade.
However, banditry violence has affected populations living in the northwest states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina as well as Niger, Plateau, Benue and Nassarawa from the north central.
The violence which began as a farmer/herder conflict in 2011 has intensified between 2017 and 2022.
The incessant attacks and raids in the North West and Central regions have further illustrate the complex dimension the crisis had assumed, and how compounded it’s becoming for the authorities to tackle.
Daily the nation is awaken by the growing banditry that is devastating communities across states within the region with accompanying horrific stories spotlighting killings, mass abductions and raids by bandits, with fatalities competing far more than the protracted insurgency in the northeast.
Recent statistics show violence in the northwest and central states appears more deadly than the insurgency involving Boko Haram and its affiliate, ISWAP which after 12 years according a source has consumed more than 40,000 and displaced 2.2 million.
Conversely, according to a research group, Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project; bandit militias have killed more than 2,600 civilians in 2021 alone, an increase of over 250 percent from 2020.
It said the figure far exceeds civilian fatalities resulting from the Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgencies.
A Nigerian risk analysis group SBM Intelligence also said a tally of media reported deaths shows 782 people killed in the northwest region compared with 441 in the northeast over the first three months of last year.
But the impact goes far beyond death tolls. In 2021, bandit gangs targeted schools for mass abductions and ransom. More than 1,400 students were abducted. Though most were released there are still some in captivity.
The UN’s migration agency IOM figures show northwest and central Nigeria had 728,000 displaced people in 2020. That number rose to 980,000 in 2021.
From the attacked on Kaduna bound train, to kuje prison jailbreak at the nation’s capital Abuja, the deadly armed gangs have been unwavering sending signal that they are proving to be an elusive enemy.
Just recently, they massacred over a hundred people in Bakori local government, Katsina state. Hardly a day passed without reports of raids, killing, abductions or other forms of criminality committed by the nefarious gangs.
They attacked security personnel and outfits, storming, killing and slaughtering dozens of locals, as well as destroying sources of livelihood hampering agricultural activities and heightened the risk of acute food insecurity.
This is even as Nigeria’s military has intensified offensives, including air strikes against the terrorists’ hideouts across the regions.
This has created monumental humanitarian crises where hundreds of thousands are rendered refugees, widows and orphans who are without proper care.
Worst still the IDPs and host communities are competing for scarce resources such as water, land and food which are themselves hitherto inadequate.
More intricate for some analysts are indications that the north east terrorist may be growing cooperation with the bandits in the northwest and central region, such as in the attack on the Abuja to Kaduna train.
Worried and concern by the situation people and governments of states within the regions have been proffering all kinds of solutions.
But the most dangerous of such solutions are the ones coming from community leaders advocating for self help.
Worst still also is that some state governments are keying to such fragmented approach regardless of their depressing consequences in order to deal decisively with the situation in their respective communities.
The government of Zamfara state for instance, had earlier directed individuals to prepare and obtain guns to defend themselves against the bandits.
This measure is gaining currencies within the region and beyond.
A video clip circulated in the new media revealed a traditional ruler issuing a red alert to whole Fulani ethnic group in his domain that if attacks on his subjects did not ceased he will armed his peoples to exterminate that particular ethnic group found in the area.
Ethnic jingoists particularly from the southwest like Ganiyu Adams soon have also taken a cue from the development as a strategy to deal with activities of bandits and kidnappers that are fast spreading to the region.
The sympathizers of this measure further point to the success of Civilian Joint Task Force, (JTF) an amalgam of local vigilantes and volunteer neighbourhood watchers, in combating the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast to buttress the possible value of their position despite the fact that the modus operandi entirely differs.
However, there is every reason to be concern on the development. Because though the measure could stem the activities of the bandits for a while it would in the long run create huge problems capable of engulfing the whole west and central Africa sub region.
This is because advocates of this self help measure are full of campaign of ethnic extermination and collective punishment to deliberately and systematically destroy a race or cultural group.
There is also palpable fear that the bandits’ ethnic group may not only be the target but anyone who opposed those genocidal intentions.
The proponents of such self help measure point to the failure of the federal government’s current counter banditry effort to bring about the needed respite.
However, one will be quick to say that the consequence of such approach not only in Nigeria but in the sub region can only be imagine as it will generate spates of attacks and reprisals all over the sub continent.
Thus, internationalizing the crises and creating windows for merchants of deaths. It’s instructive to refresh our memories with what happened in Rwanda, Central Africa Republic, Darfur and Liberia among other catastrophes the content went through or has to grapple with.
This is more so if we are to take into consideration the spread of Fulani race along the central and sub Saharan African countries.
Many African countries would be engulfed by this conflict if the agenda of those trying to push ethnic coloration to this crisis are to succeed.
Most disturbing however is that the media is playing central role in promoting this dangerous agenda.
It’s nonetheless comforting to note that the conference will among others underscore the role of citizens engagement, media support and inter-cultural Communication as panacea for the conflict mitigation.
It’s therefore hopes that the conference will take a serious look at this area and proffer solution to avert the catastrophe it might generate including genocide and its consequences on the entire west and central African region.
Another area of concern to individuals, bodies and institutions that the conference should focus on, is lack of awareness on the plights of the victims of the conflict in this region. It is believed that little attention is being given to them on the national and international media landscape.
The conference also should go further to bring to focus the media’s role in shaping better understanding of this complex and fluid landscape of insecurity to collectively, create a measure of order and security in the sub region.
This should be done conscious of the fact that, asides the general roles of information, education and entertainment, the media in a free environment is capable of mobilizing public opinion on topical issues, influencing government’s policy and enhancing social interaction and integration among various components of the society.
Of importance also is for the conference to explore areas of collaboration between the media and all stakeholders in the management of these security challenges using democratic principles.
While commending the Kano state government particularly the governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje for the initiative and hosting the conference. it’s hope that its outcome will lead to the resolution of this intractable security challenges. confronting the north.
Adamu S. Ladan
Is the Executive Director, Media Centre for Research Education and Development (Mcred)