An All Progressives Congress chieftain, Bola Tinubu, has asked the government to immediately convert unused land to grazing routes as this will curb incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
Tinubu said this in Abuja on Monday at a national summit on conflict resolution.
The event, which was organised by The Nation and TV Continental, was themed: ‘Towards an Enduring Peace.’
He said, “The government must help herders gradually shift from their traditional nomadic existence to a more static lifestyle. We have to face the reality that modernity is making the nomadic way counterproductive and inefficient.
“Unoccupied, isolated land can quickly be turned into grazing areas in the affected states. In the long run, this will enable herders to better maintain their livestock and thus their own livelihood.”
Tinubu, who was represented by an Executive Commissioner of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Sunday Dare, said contrary to speculations, the crisis was not caused by religious or political differences but by water scarcity.
The former governor of Lagos State said the desertification in most parts of the North had caused herders to move southward with their cattle in search of greener pastures.
He added, “An acutely thirsty man remembers neither Bible nor Quran very well until his thirst is quenched. Dire need often pushes a man to behave as if bereft of compassion for a person in equally dire circumstance.
“No doubt the problem has exacerbated during the past decade. We must assume climate change plays a role.”
As a long-term solution to the crisis, Tinubu recommended that water catchment and conservation systems such as the prudent use of dams and irrigation sub-systems maintainable at the local level must be developed.
Also speaking, a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, noted that the crisis had nothing to do with the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari was a Fulani man.
Ribadu, who is also a chieftain of the APC, said, on the contrary, most nomadic Fulani herders felt marginalised under the Buhari government.
He said, “People have continued to misunderstand what is going on. President Buhari has nothing to do with what is going on. In fact, the Fulani are even angry with him because they think he has abandoned them.
“They think he is listening to the others and that he meets people from Benue, Plateau and never gave them an audience.
“They are saying that he gave billions of naira to others as victims but has not given them anything. But the Buhari I know is just an honest man. He is not taking sides in this struggle, but he cannot change himself because he is a Fulani man or claim that he is no more a Fulani man because it has become an issue.”
Ribadu said many of the herders were migrating southwards not only because of desertification but also because of the high rate of insecurity in the North.
He said sadly, the nomadic Fulani are never given a sense of belonging wherever they go because they are not landowners.
The former EFCC boss added, “You can hardly see any nomadic Fulani man that is part of a state assembly or the National Assembly and they form about 15 to 20 million of the population and they are marginalised. They are not in any way benefiting from what is happening in the country today.
“There has been only one attempt to address the problem and that was the nomadic education programme. Many of those who participated in the nomadic education programme are PhD holders today and those that are working are helping their communities. Other than that, I have not seen any effort geared towards solving their problem.”
In his remarks, the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Abdullahi Bodejo, said some of the solutions to the current crisis included the immediate suspension of the anti-grazing law as well as the release of herders arrested in Benue in the course of enforcing the law.
Bodejo also urged the military to stop aerial bombardment of pastoralist communities but should rather employ an intelligence-based approach to the crisis.
He added, “The recent anti-grazing laws enacted by some states should be suspended as the laws have become a recipe for conflicts.
“The immediate release from detention of hundreds of pastoralists languishing in jails without trial particularly those arrested in Benue on the pretext of violating anti-grazing laws.”