The Enugu Forum is a veritable platform for informed debate on socio-economic issues with the objective of proffering ideas to enhance the quality of policy decision-making. Although based in the Southeast region, its focal issues often target public policy in Nigeria and across our continent. The Forum has been done for well over a decade and is facilitated by African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage) in line with its mission to promote evidence-based policies. The Forum comprises civil society organizations, private sector organizations, government technocrats and academia.
The September 2016 session of the Forum featured a policy dialogue titled “Everywhere as grazing land: The pastoralist question and intergroup relations in Nigeria”.
The Forum observed:
- The conflict between herdsman and farmers has increased in magnitude in recent years. The conflict is however not isolated to any particular region but appears to occur across the country, and even in other parts of West and Central Africa.
- It was also pointed out that relationships between herders and farmers has not always been fractious. These relationships have existed for years and in many cases are still peaceful. Not all herdsmen were involved in violence.
- Climate change and security threats, the growth of agriculture and the increasing competition for land were pointed out as some of the causes of the increase in conflicts. These factors were aided by a range of factors including the availability of small arms and the absence of dispute resolution mechanisms.
- An often forgotten part of the conflict involves cattle rustling with such cases rising over the last few years as well.
- Effective official responses to the conflict, however, have been slow and inadequate; thus, resulting in avoidable casualties to both lives and property.
- The conflicts also seem to have political undertones with instances of perpetrators shielded from arrest or from the judicial process.
- Finally, the distinction was made between the owners of cattle and the herdsmen. This distinction, although not always apparent, was considered important for understanding the dynamics of the herdsmen and farmer conflicts.
The Forum recommended:
- The recommendations for resolving the herdsmen and farmer conflicts were to revisit the 2014 Confab report on pastoralism. The Confab report was based on deliberations by various stakeholders across the country.
- The permanent resolution of the conflict will require a resolution of the political issues behind the conflict which will involve equity, justice, and fairness for all parties involved.
- The cattle and herdsmen should be monitored using modern tracking techniques. Among the suggestions made was: 1) the need for each cattle for the herdsmen tending the cattle to be uniquely identified. Proper monitoring will make it easier to resolve disputes and deal with infractions before they devolve into violence. The Anambra state model is a good example of such an exercise. It was also suggested that beneficial owners of cattle be identified and involved in the monitoring process.
- The regional nature of cattle movements also means that the national borders need to be secured and international movements of cattle and herdsmen tracked as well.
- In some cases, the police are not particularly well equipped to track and apprehend herdsmen. This is mostly due to the superior knowledge of informal “bush” routes by herdsmen. As such, a special force to monitor and track herdsmen was recommended.
- A recommendation was made for herdsmen to change their mode of operation away from informal techniques to more modern methods of pastoralism. This would involve the purchasing of land for grazing and more business-like attitude to herding. This would also involve disclosures on wages paid to herdsmen to prevent labour abuse by owners of cattle.
- Laws regulating the movement of cattle in major cities and on major roads were also suggested. This is in keeping with the best practice internationally.
- Local security outfits and vigilante groups should also be supported to act as a counter weight to herdsmen who are most often armed.