Still on Nigeria’s Spiralling Farmers-Herders Crises

The pastoral Fulani are the custodians of the nation’s herds, for meat, milk, ghee, cheese, hair, honey, butter, manure, incense, animal blood, poultry products, and hides and skins. In the villages, the Fulani provide the bulls used for carting, ploughing, and hauling. Thousands of Nigerians wholly or partly make a living from selling, milking, butchering, or transporting herds. The government earns more revenue from the cattle trade and from the cattle tax (Jangali) which is used to build the nation’s economic hud. The Fulani, therefore, play an important role in the economy and nutrition of Nigeria and by extension the world at large.

History identifies the Fulani as those who use mobility as a strategy for production and consumption with leadership, livestock wealth and pastoral movement in West Africa’s aberrant landscape. Movements in search of water, markets, pasturage, salt licks and highly-priced crop residues account for the spread of the Fulani in the Sub-Sahara. Bearing at least thirteen names in West Africa alone and found in more than twenty countries, the Fulani make up the continent’s most diffuse ethnocultural group.

The name Fulani has become synonymous with grazing and cattle ownership. Fulbeness and Pulaaku are determined by the extent of Fulani’s involvement in herding. The primary occupation of the Fulani is herding and farming. Less than 10% of the Fulani have jobs other than herding or farming. Non-herding jobs are seasonal and opportunistic. For example, during the wet season, the Fulani take advantage of the abundant rain and manure to plant corn, millet, sorghum, and home gardens in their backyards. The Fulani use farming to absorb the excess of labour during the wet season, reduce dependence on farmers, counter food shortages during an impending drought and get farm stubble for their animals.

Despite their contributions to socio-economic development, the Fulani are among the most neglected of Nigeria’s ethnic groups. Untouched by modernity and controlling little of their economic and political destinies. The pastoral Fulani wander ceaselessly with their animals in treacherous weather conditions, especially in the tropical rain, heat, and harmattan. Often these migrant Fulani come across life-threatening obstacles such as droughts, diseases, tribal enemies, and cattle thieves. The encroachment on the grazing land and cattle route by the land-hungry farmers exposes the animals to potentially dangerous situations leading to starvation.

Past exclusion from governance has prevented the Fulani from getting the state’s welfare services and amenities. They are enjoying only a few of the state-sponsored social welfare and outreach programs. Planners and policy-makers who are supposed to provide or to create the enabling condition for sustainable health, water, shelter, education and pasturage in pastoral areas are paying more attention to revenue extraction than to their welfare provision. For the pastoral Fulani of Nigeria, particularly those who are nomadic, the essentials of decent living, schools, hospitals, and paths are either scarce or absent. Where these amenities are found in the rural areas, the Fulani cannot reach them due to competition from other users.

The competition over a few resources resulting from the Population expulsion of the herders and farmers has resulted in significant loss of thousands of lives, undermines food Security, displaced Millions numbers of people and diverts resources meant for development. The rising conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria is already six times deadlier than Boko Haram’s insurgency. Security experts shared an opinion that banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping are a result of the failure of successive governments to prosecute and resolve the lingering Herders/Farmers Crises in Nigeria, especially in the North Central States.

The fact that banditry is a multi-million dollar industry cannot be contested as many of the splinter groups are traceable to other ethnic groups in Nigeria. The authorities must end impunity for assailants and hasten livestock sector reforms to resettle the victims of these recurrent crises especially those whose loved ones were killed in their very eyes. The land use act has equally denied the Fulani access to ownership of land either for grazing or for farming. Those confronted with these challenges were the FULBE LADDE (unsettled) but now even the FULBE WURO (settled) have been forced out of the places they lived for decades by other ethnic armed militias.

The radicalization of certain members of the Fulani community and the subsequent stigmatization and abuses that followed have mobilized Fulani leaders to take various actions to bring this menace to an end. This was the reason why the immediate past Governor of Kano State Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje OFR, Former Governor of Bauchi State Mallam Isa Yuguda and the National President of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Alhaji Baba Othman Ngelzarma led other Sixteen Pastoralists Organizations to formed a coalition at Nicon luxury Hotels Abuja on 17th July 2023.

The meeting brought together other Fulani Organizations under an Umbrella of the Coalition of Fulani groups to synergies and to find a common front in the overall interest of the Pastoralists and Pastoralism under the current political dispensation of President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR. Just like Uhaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere and Arewa Consultative Forum Speaks for their respective tribes and regions. The Pastoralists should not be an exception in this regard and there is an urgent need for them to come together at this challenging time of their history.

Available Population statistics have put the Fulanis above 40m in Nigeria and considering the dimensions these conflicts are going, there is a need to roll in all other associational groups into a single entity to assist the government’s efforts to resolve these conflicts. The suggestions that all other associations should fall into MACBAN as the mainstream body should not be contested.Though, some operate in similar inscriptions but are viewed by the Pastoralists as mere money-making entities. This is because MACBAN has been operating long before the independence of Nigeria and have off course been advocating for the Welfarism of its members including land rights, nomadic education and conflict resolution between pastoralists and farmers as well as protecting and increasing grazing reserves for cattle breeders in the country.

The biased media reportage and labelling of an entire Fulani race as criminals call for great concerns among all stakeholders. Despite the bad eggs within the Fulanis but the facts still remains that these same blacklisted race have produced eminent Nigerians in different Capacities both in private and public Sectors. Many West African leaders are of Fulani descent, including the immediate past President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, President of Senegal, Macky Sall and President of Gambia, Adama Barrow. They have equally produced past and prominent leaders in the world including the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed and the 74th President of the United Nations General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

In their sojourn, the Fulani have met serious obstacles. The problems include an aberrant landscape, struggles with competing land users over scarce land resources, chronic illiteracy, and alienation by government decision-makers.To ensure the peaceful co-existence of the pastoralists with Farmers, the government need to step in and the public follow in the bid to improve the welfare of the Fulani and their herds. Different approaches based on different theories and models were applied to solve the problems of the Fulani and to bring them into the fold of the so-called progressive society. However, every attempt has failed, leaving the Fulani at the mercy of the weather and faulty government actions that impoverish rather than promote the welfare of the pastoral producers.

The question not yet answered is why have all these efforts and resources not produced the desired result in pastoral areas. What is clear to all, however, is that something fundamental is amiss. Could it be the defective public policy or, in some cases, the lack of policy, or the failure of the Fulani to avail themselves of modernization? Maybe the problem is the abominable climate to which little can be done. The abandoned social welfare of the Pastoralists must urgently be perceived as a call of urgent National importance and hence the Government both at the Federal and States level must invest to revive the abandoned Nomadic Education. There is a need for the creation of a Commission for the resettlement of displaced millions of Pastoralists across the country.

Nigerian Working Group, a coalition of public policy experts has suggested ways to address the lingering violence in Nigeria’s livestock farming business. As there is no miracle model for solving the problems, the plan should simultaneously pursue several models including Ranching as one of the possible models in areas with lower population densities in the North East (Sambisa Game Reserve in Borno State) and North West (Gidan Jaja Grazing Reserve in Zamfara State).

Semi-intensive systems of animal husbandry should be pursued accompanied with requisite investment in infrastructure,training,extension, marketing and animal health service delivery in conjunction with the private sector. The traditional form of pastoralism should continue for a period to be agreed upon with some improvements (in the form of coordinated mobility between wet and dry season grazing areas and effective management of farmers and pastoralists relations. Development of integrated crop-livestock systems with farmers and pastoralists being encouraged to keep some animals in their farms.

In order to meet the feeding needs of herds, alternative low water and drought resistant grasses should be produced, in response to the impact of desertification on fodder production. Adding to their suggestions,it is high time that the entire Fulani organization be coopted into a single entity using MACBAN as the mainstream leader which has been the voice of the Pastoralists since the 1960s. Now that the organization is super headed by thoroughbred and experienced fully in the person of Alhaji Baba Othman Ngelzarma as Chairman.

It is expected that the leaders of the Coalition should work closely with the Security agencies to ensure the Peace and stability of Nigeria. The appointment of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as the National Security Adviser and Senator Shehu Buba Umar from Bauchi State as the Chairman Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence is a step that would aid the good intentions of the former Governors of Kano and Bauchi States (Ganduje and Yuguda) in their quest to bring to an end of this lingering conflicts that has continue to consume the lives of the Fulanis unabated.

Danaudi, National President of Arewa Youths Advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative writes from Bauchi via [email protected].


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