Search for Common Ground, a Civil Society Organisation, on Wednesday said Benue, Kaduna, Nassarawa and Plateau states lost 47 per cent internally-generated revenue annually to farmers and herdsmen conflicts.
The organisation’s Research Fellow, Dr Chris Kwaja, stated this while presenting the draft report on “Implications of Open-Grazing Laws on Relations between Farmers and Herdsmen in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria’’ in Abuja.
Kwaja said that the data was provided by a research the group conducted in collaboration with former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.
“The growth of human settlement, expansion of public infrastructure and acquisition of land by large-scale farmers and other private commercial interests have deprived herders of grazing reserves designated by the post-independence government.
“In fact, challenges relating to access to and control of natural resources such as water, arable land, obstruction of traditional grazing routes, livestock theft and crop damage are the issues that trigger the conflicts.
“The most affected states are in Nigeria’s middle belt – Benue, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Plateau and Taraba.
“It was estimated that the Nigerian Government loses 13.7 billion dollars annually as a result of conflicts between farmers and herders in these states.’’
Kwaja said that the fragile relations between farmers and herdsmen were having a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of those involved.
He added that it had also disrupted and threatened the sustainability of food and livestock production in the country.
He said that the “frightening scenario’’ had made it imperative for Nigerians to understand how, when and why resource-related conflicts between farmers and herdsmen quickly escalated into widespread violence between communities.
He said that one of the profound responses to the lingering conflict was the enactment of a law against open grazing which Benue adopted on Nov.1.
Kwaja said that the rationale for the law was to curb the menace of destruction of farmlands, attacks on farmers and threats against food security and development in a state.
He said that the passing of the law in Benue which was already having ripple effects in Nassarawa, Kaduna, Plateau and Taraba was met with resistance by herdsmen because the law was viewed as discriminatory.
He said that the implication of the anti-grazing law in Benue were political, economic, environmental, cultural and religious.
The official said that the law was seen politically as a masterstroke to alienate the herdsmen who were resident in the state.
He said that the law would also push the herding community that were mostly Fulanis, to the periphery as it implied that they could not have their way contrary to how they lived before.
He said that the migration of herdsmen out of Benue had economic consequences in terms of the contribution to the economy of the state.
Kwaja urged policy makers to take into consideration the reality on ground before proffering policies because it affected the lives and livelihood of people, adding that they could lead to greater conflicts.
He urged state and local governments to establish institutions and fund mechanisms for peace building, adding that Benue Government should also do that to foster inter-group relations.
He said that the starting point for all policies was dependent on the commitment and will-power of the institutions of the state to act in a proactive and responsible manner.
On his part, Conflict Analyst of the organisation, Ms Olubukola Ademola-Adelehin, advised policy makers and government to get to the root of conflicts so as to understood it and proffer accurate solution to it.
Ademola-Adelehin said that Nigerians needed to put a human face to the conflict and to dissect the problem from different angles and look at what would be appropriate for all.
According to her, there is need to put into consideration the livelihood of the people in order not to obstruct their freedom of movement and their right to properties.
She noted that this was the only way to address the issue.