Nigerians express dissatisfaction over Government’s mediation between farmers & herdsmen

Abuja, Nigeria. April 19th, 2016 – Latest opinion poll results released by NOIPolls has revealed that about 5 in 10 Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction over the government's handling of the crisis between farmers and fulani herdsmen across some north-central states of the country. This latest finding corroborates recent media commentary which has called on the government to urgently intervene to curb further killings and destruction of lives and properties; because the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen could escalate into a national crisis if not properly managed.[1]

In the same vein, respondents suggested the need for dialogue to identify & discuss the remote and immediate causes of the crises. This is in line with global practices in conflict resolution and intervention as contained in the United Nations peace-building guidelines[2]. In addition, respondents further recommended the provision of grazing reserves by the government; justifying the recent decision by the federal government to explore the establishment of grazing reserves for herdsmen across selected states of the country[3].

More findings revealed that while about 6 in 10 Nigerians are aware of the recent conflicts between farmers and herdsmen; residents of the North-Central zone, the most affected region, accounted for the highest proportion of Nigerians who are most aware of the conflicts and series of attacks launched by herdsmen around the region especially in Benue state. This finding highlights recent news reports on the spate of attacks in Benue state, which has resulted into hundreds of deaths and displacement of thousands of citizens residing in the Agatu area of Benue state[4].

Finally, about 1 in 4 respondents (25 percent) admitted knowing people who have been directly affected by the conflict, with the country's northern region accounting for the largest proportion of Nigerians in this category. This finding affirms another recent news report which stated that the conflict between farmers and fulani herdsmen has resulted in the death of many residents in Mesuma village of Gashaka local government area of Taraba state.[5] These are the key findings from the Farmer-Herdsmen Conflict Poll conducted by NOIPolls in the week of April 11th 2016.

Brief Background

Herdsmen and farmers conflict in Nigeria is a land resource based conflict especially in the North-Central region of Nigeria. According to a report by Human Rights Watch in December 2013, violence between herdsmen, farmers and local communities had killed about 3,000 people since 2010. Herders and farmers are in constant violent conflict over herdsmen’s increased need for access to grazing lands against the expansion of farmland by farmers. Recently, there have been reported cases of Inter-communal conflicts between farmers and herdsmen in some states. The conflict that drew a lot of media attention was the Agatu conflict which claimed over 500 lives[6]

Ensuring national security and resolving inter-communal and/or intra-communal conflict in Nigeria is one of the agenda of this present administration. Threat to Nigeria’s national security are those actions or sequence of events that threaten to decrease the quality of life of Nigerians and prevent the people from making choices that will improve their conditions[7]. Consequently, this will ultimately lead to conflicts and breakdown of law and order.

The Nigerian state is predominantly an agrarian society providing employment for 30 percent of its population[8]. Nigeria has huge agricultural potential with over 84 million hectares of arable land, of which only 40% is cultivated.[9] Pastoral farming is the most predominant system of livestock farming in Nigeria and the livestock owners are basically nomads travelling across the country in search of grazing fields and ready market. Due to the vast arable lands in the North-Central, South-Eastern and South-Western zones, the Fulani nomads prefer to take their livestock to these places, hence the encroachment of the animals onto farmlands leading to the destruction of crops. This destruction in some cases causes the farmers to kill the animals which then leads to conflict between the farmers and the herdsmen.

The conflict between the herdsmen and Farmers which is as a result of the destruction of arable crops and killing of livestock mostly in the North-Central, South-Western and South Eastern zones of the country has continued to escalated as evidenced by the recent killings in some local governments in these zones especially the Agatu people in Benue[10]. Recently, there has been growing media recognition of the lingering conflicts between these two parties. Some Nigerians opine that the government is underrating the seriousness of the conflict and requesting that they should resolve the conflict either through dialogue, diplomacy or establishing grazing reserves for the herdsmen to avoid further clashes or attacks. Sequel to this, NOIPolls, conducted a poll to ascertain these views and perceptions of Nigerians regarding the conflict between farmers and herdsmen.

Survey Findings

In light of the continuous crisis between herdsmen and farmers in some communities, the level of awareness of Nigerians was assessed and the result revealed that while 60% of respondents are aware of the conflict, almost 4 in 10 are unaware. The North-Central zone accounted for the highest percentage of the respondents who acknowledged awareness of this conflict considering the series of attacks of various magnitudes around the region, especially in Benue state. This is followed closely by respondents from the North-East zone (68 percent) where residents of Angai and Ndole villages in Gashak local governemnt area of Taraba State have reportedly fled their communities after herdsmen invaded the areas killing scores of persons.[11]

Conflict is an aspect of life that is very often avoided for the fear of loss. The opinions of Nigerians regarding the major cause of the lingering conflict between the herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria was evaluated and the result revealed that the major cause of the conflict as pointed out by the overwhelming majority of Nigerians (48 percent) is that the ‘herdsmen’s cattle invade farms to graze’. It is worthy to note that most respondents from the North-Central zone accounted for the highest number of Nigerians who made this assertion.

Other reasons cited includes ‘lack of understanding’ between the herdsmen and farmers (13 percent), ‘lack of grazing areas’ for the herdsmen (10 percent) and ‘tribalism/ethnicity issues’ amongst others mentions.

Subsequently, one quarter (25 percent) of the respondents confirmed knowing people who have been    directly affected by the crisis and the residents from the North-East had the largest proportion of Nigerians in this category. This can be traced to the continuous crisis going on in the region as stated in a news report by Premium Times that the conflict had resulted in the death of many residents in Mesuma village of Gashaka local government area of Taraba state.[12]

The respondents’ perceived level of satisfaction on how government has been handling the crisis was assessed and the outcome revealed that half (50 percent) of the respondents surveyed are dissatisfied with the way the government is handling the crisis. This supports report by Government Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN) which revealed that 79 Percent of Nigerians rated the government’s handling of the recurrent clashes between herdsmen and farmers as generally poor’[13].

In addition, respondents from the South-East zone (76 percent) accounted for the largest proportion of respondents who asserted to this statement. This assertion could be as a result of the aftermaths of the Abbi Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area in Enugu State where news report revealed that the community was invaded by herdsmen who unleashed havoc on the people, killing a brother and sister asides razing down several houses.[14] Conversely, 31 percent expressed their dissatisafaction while 19 percent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

Finally, in suggesting possible ways in which the government can resolve this crisis, 29 percent of the respondents cited ‘dialogue to identify their problem’ whichis in line with global practices in conflict prevention, resolution and intervention as contained in the United Nations peace-building guidelines[15].  Also, another 29 percent stressed that the government should ‘provide grazing reserves for the herdsmen’ and this too corresponds with federal government’s proposition to establish more grazing reserves in the country[16].

Other suggestions include ‘passing a law of restriction on herdsmen’ (14 percent), ‘providing adequate security and tight border’ (7 percent) and ‘educating both parties’ (5 percent) amongst other recommendations.

In conclusion, this survey has revealed that the recurrent clashes between the host farming communities and the nomadic cattle herders over the use of agricultural land is still pervasive in Nigeria as 60 percent of Nigerians have showed awareness on the subject and 20 percent of this proportion personally know victims affected by the conflicts. This portends grave consequences for rural development and demonstrates great potential to affect various aspects of rural life.

In the interim, due to the high level of dissatisfaction expressed by Nigerians on the way and manner the government is handling the crisis between the herdsmen and some communities in Nigeria, there is need to apply educational and campaign methods to create better awareness and compliance rates of stock routes between farmers and herdsmen. Teach farmers and herdsmen on conflict prevention and educate both parties on the need for peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding. Also, government, traditional and other local institutions should be more responsive to the plights of victims by using appropriate mechanisms at their disposal for effective resolution and management of conflicts.

Due to the domesticated practice of animal husbandry in Nigeria, it is important for the government to establish ranches as it remains the best global practice in animal husbandry. This would serve as the permanent solution to the unending clashes and effectively address the menace of arable crop farmers and herdsmen crisis.

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of April 11th 2016. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise - within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at www.noi-polls.com

Disclaimer

This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

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[1] http://dailypost.ng/2016/04/12/herdsmen-farmers-clashes-may-become-national-crisis-oshiomhole-warns/

[2] http://www.unpbf.org/application-guidelines/what-is-peacebuilding/

[3] http://www.themaceonline.com/senate-news/297-national-grazing-reserve-bill-scales-second-reading

[4] http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/02/7000-persons-displaced-in-fulani-herdsmen-agatu-farmers-clash-in-benue/

[5] http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/201685-suspected-fulani-herdsmen-attack-taraba-communities-kill-15.html

[6] http://www.punchng.com/agatu-monarch-godwin-onah-ig-wrong-on-death-toll-many-killed-by-herdsmen-hunger/

[7]http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/12/what-is-national-security/

[8] "Labour Force Statistics, 2010". Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. 2010. Retrieved 11th April 2016.

[9]https://fmard.gov.ng/

[10]http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/02/7000-persons-displaced-in-fulani-herdsmen-agatu-farmers-clash-in-benue/

[11]http://dailypost.ng/2016/04/12/taraba-residents-flee-as-fulani-herdsmen-attack-villages-kill-scores/

[12] http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/201685-suspected-fulani-herdsmen-attack-taraba-communities-kill-15.html

[13] http://exclusively9ja.com/2016/03/10/buharis-approval-rating-slips-the-first-time-in-months-poll.html

[14] http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/02/fulani-herdsmen-invade-enugu-community-kill-two-19-missing/ 

[15] http://www.unpbf.org/application-guidelines/what-is-peacebuilding/

[16] http://www.themaceonline.com/senate-news/297-national-grazing-reserve-bill-scales-second-reading