The Coalition on Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Nigeria has released a complete a review of incidents of clashes between herdsmen and farmers in several states of the federation.
There have been reports of incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen across the country particularly in Benue, Taraba, Kogi and other Nigerian states, with about 2,000 Nigerians feared killed.
The Coalition, at a joint media parley in Abuja on Monday, said it has tracked violence related to herdsmen/farmers clashes across Nigeria and is of the opinion that immediate holistic steps need to be taken to address the problem given the attendant loss of life, property, dislocation of communities, and degeneration in the quality of life for survivors.
It also said some governors found wanting in their obligations to their citizens have found the situation as a cash cow to further exploit the people for political and financial benefits rather than taking steps to mitigate the crises.
According to the human rights group, they came to this conclusion after a careful analysis of the situation using surveys, questionnaires and interviews with critical stakeholders as well as victims.
In the report, Barrister Maxwell Gowon, leader of the coalition, said it was observed that the dynamics of these crises were poorly understood by a wider spectrum of stakeholders, which has impacted support for initiatives aimed at solving the problem.
His words, “The Coalition therefore embarked on a review of the clashes with a view to making interventions that will spur rapid resolution of the crisis so that life can again return to normal for the millions of people that have been negatively affected.
“In the course of this review, the Coalition’s researchers visited some selected affected communities in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Adamawa, Kogi and Nasarawa states. These states were selected using heat maps developed from interactively plotting reported incidents against locations on the map. The selected states, with the exception of Nasarawa, were chosen because they recorded the highest number and most intense level of violence in the 18 months that were assessed.
“Researchers also polled officers of the military and security agencies that have been deployed in the crisis areas. Questionnaires were distributed; interviews were conducted, as well as surveys.”
From its findings, the group said the outcome of the review revealed that since its deployment to address the crisis, the military has made commendable efforts at restoring order as it has arrested and neutralized some of the criminal elements unleashing mayhem on affected communities.
The report says, “This is being carried out without any sentiment by the Nigerian military and in a few instances the government forces were not spared by criminal elements. For example, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai at an address on the deployment of troops to crisis areas said “We have deployed officers across Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states where to ensure peace and stability for the development and betterment of our country.”
On the allegation that troops were conniving with armed bandits to kill citizens, the coalition said its findings revealed that only criminal elements and their agents in power out to use the military for personal duties and were rebuffed harbour such conspiracy theories.
According to the coalition, “This is not only worrisome but must be discarded to avoid returning to the military to its old nature where some highly placed citizens could press the trigger from the comfort of their homes.
“The deployment of the military to these troubled zones has helped to restore normalcy to most of the affected communities even though the question of armed militias is yet to be addressed with the needed political will and courage from actors within this locality.
Our investigations also noted that most of these militias had been armed by some highly placed individuals and efforts by the Nigerian Army to mop up these arms from them have not received the needed cooperation.
“The crisis between herdsmen and Farmers in some instances is instigated by persons without stakes on either side of the divide between herders and farmers. Unrelated hostilities between warring communities are also passed off as attacks by armed herdsmen. There was an instance in Benue State at Omusu where a clear case of conflict between Omusus and Okana communities in Okpokwu Local Government Area was reported as “armed herdsmen attack” even when it has nothing to do with an existing conflict between Omusu community and herdsmen.”
The group, while commending the Army for extending Exercise Ayem Akpatuma in Taraba state, called for such extension in more states until ethnic warlords and criminal elements are forced to embrace peaceful approaches towards resolving the conflicts.