Herder-Farmer Clashes: The New Normal

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Farmer-herder violent conflicts now take place in almost every part of the country. It is no longer news that the frequency of incidences has become the new normal. For Nigeria’s rural community dwellers, the constant clashes lead to arsons and killings and have in the last five years taken a steady rise. A 2019 report by Foreign Affairs puts the death toll at 10,000 within a two-year period. Unfortunately, these violent economic struggles have been politicised, then reduced to ethnic and Northern Nigerian problem and other forms of constructions. Today, the south shares in the pie of violence. But more worrying is that all other intended and unintended effects of the conflicts are downplayed except the (in)security consequences.

Rightly so, many Nigerians directly or indirectly affected by these clashes have accepted their fates that the state cannot help, so must deal with the issues as they come. This helplessness then presents two views; (a) an unwillingness to solve the problem by the state and the political/elite class, and (b) lack of capacity and capability to deal with it by the Nigerian state. Although, both arguments are contestable judging from many initiatives of the state such as National livestock transformation plan (NLTP), however, the seemingly slow or no implementation of the programme, could be attributed to mean either one or two of the views. For instance, if “the NLTP provides a framework and strategic direction to transform the Nigerian livestock sector and eliminate farmer-herder conflict by evolving and strengthening intensive livestock production systems, with the aim of making the sector more productive and sustainable”, according to Dr. Abdulkarem Lawal of Itad UK, one of the consultants that developed the plan and implementation Framework, what is delaying the implementation? If we are to rely on this expert opinion, it then agitates the mind why the implementation of the programme is still slow, with lives and properties been lost every day.

This analysis is not only about what this violence represents but about what it implies for the country and the citizens. While it is still very much in the North, especially the middle belt region, it has moved swiftly to the South. Many rural communities in the south are unable to handle the situation, especially the encroachment of their farms by the herders. And this has in many cases resulted in violent clashes with lives and property being lost. What this means is that in many situations, parties have taken to violence, knowing that the state will do nothing. As the government do nothing, one of its effects, is that they continue to lose their legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens. as Rotberg has rightly argued: “state failure is man-made and not merely accidental”(Rotberg, 2002:93). As the country battles the impact of COVID 19 and dwelling oil price, food security is particularly important. With low foreign reserve, it means that food importation will be another herculean task for the country. It is therefore vital that plans and programme that will transform the agricultural sector and reduce if not eliminate the farmer-herder conflicts are implemented immediately.