The recent attacks by Fulani herdsmen is on the increase, with the most recent attacks in June 2016 occurring in Ossissa community in Ndokwa east local government area, Delta state and three more communities (Ugondo, Turan, Gabo Nenzev) in Logo Local Government Area, Benue State, total killings involving no fewer than 60 persons. The Federal Government recently ordered an inquiry, military crackdown on the group and affirmed its plans to establish cattle ranches as a solution to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria.
This turbulence stands out because of the seeming boldness of the perpetrators and the mystery surrounding their real agenda. While many believe that it is a simply a farming, grazing land and water dispute, whereby they clash with farmers who accuse them of damaging their crops and failure to control their animals, the Fulanis under the cattle breeders association claims that they are being attacked by gangs from farming communities who try to steal their cattle and they are just defending themselves. But why do these attacks extend to mass killings and butchery? That is the argument before us now, to fully understand the fundamental purpose of what this militant group demands, the cost of their action and seek a proper way forward to curb their attacks.
According to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, these Fulani militants are the fourth deadliest militant group in the world with a record killing of 1229 people in 2014.
However, the Federal Government has stated that inquiries have established that most of these herdsmen who were involved in these clashes in Nigerian communities are not Nigerian citizens and due to the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol; which has given the right of free movement to citizens of member countries, it cannot stop non-citizens of Nigeria from grazing their cattle across the country.
The Fulani people
The Fula people also known as Fulani in Hausa language, are a mass population widely dispersed and culturally diverse in all of Africa, but most predominate in West Africa. The Fulani’s generally speak the Fula language. A significant number of them are nomadic in nature, herding cattle, goats and sheep across the vast dry grass lands of their environment, keeping isolate from the local farming communities, making them the world’s largest pastoral nomadic group. They are massively spread over many countries, and are found mainly in West Africa and northern parts of Central Africa, but also in Sudan and Egypt. The main Fulani sub-groups in Nigeria are: Fulbe Adamawa, Fulbe Mbororo, Fulbe Sokoto, Fulbe Gombe, and the Fulbe Borgu.
According to Mercy corps, the incessant attacks have a drastic effect on food security and have caused a loss of $14 billion in three years. This global humanitarian organization, funded by the British Department for International Development (BFID) carried out a research between 2013 and 2016 on the causes and effects of the perennial clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria. The study also pointed out that ongoing, conflict is thwarting the country’s economic development to an enormous extent, and if conflicts were resolved the average household affected today could see income increase by at least 64 percent, and potentially 210 percent or higher. And also, states affected by Herdsmen-Farmers conflicts lost an average of 47% of taxes (Internally Generated Revenue) during these attacks.
Other economic impacts include: impeding trade practices, reduction in crop yield, displacement of farmers, loss of lives and properties, loss of products in storage and destruction of public and private buildings.
Here are some of the attacks by Fulani Herdsmen compiled from various news headlines:
Several agencies have proffered solutions to the federal government such as, mediation by both community heads and herdsmen associations, provision of security and patrols on attacked communities, fencing and funding solutions for displaced farmers, etc.
I do hope this conflict is resolved amicably soon enough to avoid more loss of lives or avoid an imminent retaliation.