A Critique Of
HERDERS AGAINST FARMERS: NIGERIA’S EXPANDING DEADLY CONFLICT
Africa Report No 252, by International Crisis Group
We appreciate the International Crisis Group for the work it is doing, and particularly for the comprehensive report on the Herders against Farmers in Nigeria. We will like to point out three major important gaps/flaws in the Report, as well as our reservations on some of the final recommendations.
1. The Existence of a Fulani Supremacy Agenda is Not a Conspiracy Theory
The Report failed to appreciate the true driver of the present escalation of a long-standing and in any case supra-national conflict in Nigeria since the inception of the current administration in Nigeria by labelling it a Conspiracy Theory
On page 8, the Report alluded to “dangerous political and religious conspiracy theories”; and stated that: “One is that the attacks are part of a longer-term Fulani plot to displace indigenous populations and seize their lands.” It went on to aver that “These charges are not supported by any solid evidence ….”
By referring to the existence of a Fulani supremacy agenda as a “Conspiracy Theory”, the Report made a critical gaffe and therefore became unable to appreciate the true root cause of the Conflict. It is not surprising that it came up with rather superfluous and flawed recommendations.
Apart from such circumstantial evidences, as the blatantly unconstitutional lopsided configuration of national security in favour of the Fulanis, there are dozens of reports (as well as historic precedents) directly confirming the reality of a Fulanization agenda right from pre-colonial times.
For instance in an extensive press interview earlier in the year, Chief Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of Nigeria and presidential candidate in the 1999 elections, made it clear that the Fulani pastoralists were more bent on terrorizing and causing economic damage to farmers than merely take care of their cattle. Not only did herders bypass lush grass before proceeding to feed their cattle on food crops from the Chief’s farm, they also proceeded to burn down the palm oil plantation – an action which has no value at all for them or their cattle. Hence the elder statesman who is a frontline advocate for restructuring of Nigeria could only conclude that all the attacks (including murder and kidnapping) by the Fulani herdsmen were calculated to drive him off the land for the Fulanis to possess. In his words, “They see me as an obstacle for them to take over the land permanently” (Cattle colony, a provocative and repugnant proposal –Falae. http://punchng.com/cattle-colony-a-provocative-and-repugnant-proposal-falae/).
This reality directly challenges much of the basic premises and consequent recommended solutions advanced in the Crisis Group Report.
The US Based Chinua Achebe Center for Leadership Development (CACLD) has conducted a formal study that provided more light and conclusive evidences in the Herders-Farmers conflict. In her very credible research on the subject, the CACLD identified three distinct strata among the Fulanis involved in cattle business in Nigeria. At the top of the ladder is the super-rich and extremely politically well-entrenched cattle owner, while at the bottom rung lies the nomadic pastoralists hired to manage the herds. In the middle stratum are the killers, hired as “security men”. Most Nigerian Fulanis belong to the first group of bourgeois cattle owners while the mid and lower rungs are populated by Fulanis brought in from outside the country.
According to researchers from the CACLD, they visited pastoralists’ settlements in Abia and Enugu states where they were shown the “security personnel” category of Fulanis. Reportedly, these “were dressed differently from the normal Northern Nigerians ,….were young, less religious, most of them use drugs, and consume alcohol.”
Finally the CACLD researchers were able to present the anatomy of a typical Fulani Herdsmen Attack. It begins with complaints brought in from herdsmen on the field, being passed to the top Fulani bourgeois leadership (which include governors and top national security chiefs), who decides whether or not an attack should take place. If sanctioned, “modalities will be mapped out and a date will be chosen for the attack. Most times, Fulani herdsmen in the military and police are notified and everyone sends a representative. Neighboring settlements sends out representatives and arms cache are opened and arms are distributed to the participants”
This finding is totally consistent with all the reports concerning these terror attacks. The CACLD further reported that: “During an attack, every Fulani person in the area knows there will be an attack and all will contribute to make sure it goes on successfully. Fulanis in the higher levels of the military will ensure all commands under them stand down, and the top Fulani police officers will do the same. The road is then clear for the Fulani herdsmen to carry their attacks.”
2. Critical Role of Security Forces underplayed
When the Report notes in Pg 11: “Under the Buhari administration, the security response has been particularly questionable,” it is actually only putting things very mildly. The entire security set-up is fully Fulanized - in outright contravention of the Constitution that requires inclusion of all sections in government; and the poor performance of the security units might not necessarily reflect abilities but rather attitudes.
And although the Report consistently lumped together its call for improved security for “Herders and the Farmers,” the utter commitment of government to security and protection of the herders is not at all in question. Under the current administration, security for herders has not been in short supply. A newspaper report proudly described a typical response against cattle rustlers in January this year:
“In this operation, troops of 1 Div NA are closely supported by Nigerian Air Force (NAF) attack helicopters, Nigeria Police Force (NPF) detachments, Department of State Services (DSS) operatives and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) personnel to ensure that peace and security, as well as law and order is restored. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2018/01/26/army-launches-another-operation-against-cattle-rustling-kidnapping/
This has been the consistent response of the nation’s security apparatus to cattle rustlers see also https://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/08/cattle-rustling-air-force-recovers-665-cows-141-sheep/. The International Crisis Group report therefore comes out as pushing political correctness too far and therefore missing out on the needed solution to the crisis when it repeatedly portray the Herders as being in need of security, presumably at the same level as is needed by the Farmers.
Moreover, even though the Fulanis have consistently sought to adduce the inhuman carnages they inflict on farming communities as retaliation for rustling of their beloved cattles (e.g citations 65 and 73 in the Report) there has not been as much as an allegation that the farmers were the cattle rustlers. As a matter of fact, farmers are not spared when the rustlers come a-visiting. As observed in a newspaper report praising the army’s relentless launch against cattle rustlers: “Cattle rustlers affect the farmers as much as it does the herdsmen, as farmers have to pay protection fees…. These rustlers had dislocated farming and animal husbandry in the north west on scale that could have only been achieved by a terror group like Boko Haram. At the height of their criminality farming activities have basically slowed to a halt as the farmers either pay up protection money to be left alone or face the prospect of being robbed of livestock and other valuables.”
It is therefore exasperating reading repeatedly in the Report that Government should “shore up security for herders and farmers” (e.g. paragraph 1 of Executive Summary, page i, Step A to Help Address theConflict, pg 16, etc). It is the herders who attack the farmers. The cattle rustlers afflict both herders and farmers!
3. Recommendation calling for Government to Establish grazing reserves is Flawed
First we note the Report’s undue and uncritical sympathy for propositions made by the Fulanis as the way out of the crisis. For instance, in prefacing its recommendation that government should establish Grazing Reserves, the Report euphemistically referred to the equivalent of 50 km x 50 km cattle colony initially proposed by the federal government to be established by fiat in every state of the federation as “grazing areas”.
It also (page 18) recommends that “governments of some states, like Benue and Taraba, that recently introduced new laws prohibiting open grazing should exercise restraint in enforcing such laws and encourage a phased transition to ranching”
This is exactly the blatant demand by the Fulani Cattle Breeders Associations, demanding that laws duly promulgated (after due consultation with all stakeholders including the Fulani herders) should be reversed. Unfortunately, even the nation’s Defence minister (a Fulani) parroted the same demand as the condition for peace (http://www.pulse.ng/news/local/minister-mansur-dan-ali-wants-anti-grazing-law-suspended-id8460868.html). In repeating this same demand, the Crisis Group Report gave the impression that the required transition from open grazing to ranching was abrupt and not phased. In actual fact, the Benue law for instance initially allowed a 4 month transition period, later extended by one month, before implementation. https://www.naija.ng/1122681-benue-government-postpones-implementation-anti-grazing-law.html#1122681. By contrast, Fulani pastoralists in Ghana, when faced with similar situation, pleaded to be given only some days to adjust! (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/01/herdsmen-beg-ghana-police-boss-gives-personnel-shoot-kill-sight-order/)
In view of the foregoing, the Recommendation that government “Establish” Grazing Reserves is faulty and inappropriate. What government should rather do, is “facilitate” the establishment of such reserves. Most of cattle herding is associated with the Fulanis. If government is not establishing similar facilities for fishing communities, pork-rearing communities, and other such livestock businesses associated with other ethnic groups, neither should it do it for the Fulani-dominated cattle-rearing business.
We also note there was no reference cited to support the suggestion that 100 billion naira was disbursed by the Central Bank of Nigeria and received by all 36 state governments in 2015 for the purpose of constructing ranches (“Deficient Responses”, page 10.)
On the whole, we endorse very strongly, the very simple, logical, and actionable suggestion by the CACLD as a solution to this crisis. This requires that open grazing should be proscribed and ranches are supported by government mainly in the north, while the super-yielding grasses being touted are cultivated in the south to be harvested and sent up north. The CACLD estimates that this solution could “generate 1 million jobs in the South and about 500,000 jobs in the North” whilst totally eliminating the Herders-Farmers perennial conflict.http://www.citypeopleonline.com/fulani-herdsmen-killings-modus-operandi-involved-possible-solutions-professor-charles-adisa/
Joshua O. Ojo (Ph.D)