Being the text of a lecture delivered at the 3rd session of the 14th Synod of Egba Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) on Friday, 27th April, 2018, by Professor E. B. Otesile.



Let me start by thanking my Lord, the Bishop of Egba Diocese, for giving approval to me to deliver this lecture. My Lord, I am very grateful. May our heavenly Father continue to renew your strength for fruitfulness in His vineyard, in Jesus’ name.



During this presentation, I hope to discuss the following:

  1. Who are the Pastoralists (that is, the herdsmen or cattle shepherds)?
  2. Who are those troubled by the herdsmen (that is, the crop farmers)?
  • What are the causes of farmer-herdsman conflicts?
  1. What are the consequences of the conflicts? And finally,
  2. What do I think can be done to control the conflicts?

Pastoralism is a form of livestock production system in which the production of domestic animals, such as cattle, sheep and goats, account for most of the family income. In Nigeria, herdsmen can be grossly classified into the following four groups:

  1. Agro-pastoralists (mixed farmers): This group of herdsmen lives continuously in permanent settlements all year round, with their herds grazing near their residence. They practice crop farming in addition to some livestock farming and are thus referred to as ‘Mixed Farmers’. Their leaders enjoy political rapport in areas where they reside, and often secure customary rights of land ownership.
  2. Semi-nomadic (Transhumant) Pastoralists: This group of herdsmen have a permanent base, where the elders may stay throughout the year with some of the livestock, mostly lactating cows and calves, and engage in crop cultivation for domestic consumption. They graze around on limited well known routes. Compared with the nomadic group, they keep relatively smaller herds and maintain good relationship with crop farmers, including renting land.
  • Nomadic Pastoralists: This group of herdsmen undertake extensive (long range) seasonal movement with no permanent place of residence and no regular crop cultivation. They move their animals generally in the southwards direction during the dry season and return back north during the rains.
  1. Urban pastoralists: This consists of emerging crop of wealthy Nigerians (mainly but not only the Hausa-Fulani) who have systematically transferred the wealth into livestock. Initially, the cattle are kept in the owners’ urban or semi-urban premises, or in care of agro-pastoralists. As the herd size increases, more herdsmen are hired to care for the animals, including search for pasture over long distances, where necessary.

It should be noted that farmer-herder conflicts is not peculiar to Nigeria. According to the London Economist, “nomadic cattle are a convenient means to store wealth and avoid the kind of scrutiny that can be applied to bank accounts or property. Moreover, you do not have to buy the land where the cattle graze. In each dry season, big herds of cattle come down (southward) from Chad and Sudan for grazing in Central African Republic. These are massive herds, usually armed, sometimes accompanied by uniformed soldiers, and are indifferent to international borders and customary land rights”. The United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa reported that herdsmen were involved in the majority of ongoing African conflicts, including those in the CAR, Chad, Mali, north-eastern Kenya, Somalia and Sudan and were implicated in international crime networks. These encompass human trafficking, drugs, illegal migration, and jihadist and religious extremist groups. The loss of family herds due to drought, disease, conflict or theft often leaves the herders with little choice but to offer their services to others more powerful than themselves. An African Union study in 2010 estimated that 268 million Africans, about a quarter of the population at the time, were herdsmen.


In Nigeria, the States mostly affected by the herdsman-farmer conflicts are Adamawa, Benue,

Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and Taraba; other States affected are Bauchi, Kogi, Kwara, Zamfara, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo.

Throughout the country, members of the host communities in which clashes occur are mostly crop farmers, although they may possess a few livestock. In the middle belt zone of Nigeria, the conflicts are particularly frequent and severe because all of the most fertile pockets of land have been occupied by crop farmers. Besides, many of the crops produced, such as tomatoes and yams, yield poor crop by-products, and so there is little or nothing left for cattle to graze. Indeed, the conflicts, more often than not, are concentrated around the crop farms and water points including fertile flood plains and river valleys, and involve the access to and ownership of land.


From ancient times, herdsmen and crop farmers existed in a mutually beneficial relationship. Herdsmen are paid in cash or kind – for cattle, sheep and goats, and their products such as meat, milk, yoghurt, cheese and butter. In turn, crop farmers are provided with animal manure to fertilize their farm lands, receive payment for grains such rice, maize, sorghum, millet and groundnut, in addition to crop by-products needed to tide animals over the dry season of scarce pasture.

Farmer-herder conflicts are also as old as history: Judges 6:3-6 (Message Bible) reads: “When Israel planted its crops, Midian and Amalek, the easterners, would invade them, camp in their fields, and destroy their crops all the way down to Gaza. They left nothing for them to live on, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. Bringing their cattle and tents, they came in and took over, like an invasion of locusts. And their camels—past counting! They marched in and devastated the country. The People of Israel, reduced to grinding poverty by Midian, cried out to God for help”.


In Nigeria, some people are of the view that farmer-herder problem is a continuation of tribal and religious conflicts that precede the unification of the nation by colonialists. It was recently reported that General T. Y. Danjuma (rtd.), a former Minister of Defence, described the killings by herdsmen as a target to ethnic cleansing of the people of Taraba (State) and Nigeria at large. However, the relative absence of such widespread bloodshed throughout much of Nigeria’s post-independence history suggests more recent factors are responsible. Specifically, it appears that the upsurge in farmer-herder violence are due to the joint effect of several recent developments including:

  1. Environmental degradation across Africa’s Sahel region:
    • Firstly, a consequence of global warming.

In some regions of the world including the sub-Saharan Sahel region, stretching across West Africa, climate change due to global warming is characterised by less rainfall, drought, crop failure, and overgrazing leading to soil erosion by water and wind. Vast tracts of grassland have been thus transformed into desert.  This has driven many herdsmen into the more rainy southern parts of the continent. Other nationals entering Nigeria’s grasslands, especially the middle belt region, place additional pressure on land resources. These new arrivals generally are not familiar with local grazing routes or the surrounding people, raising the likelihood of violent misunderstandings occurring. Indeed, more than 60% of the reported cases of conflicts occur during the dry season. At least eleven states in northern Nigeria (Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Bauchi and Gombe) are threatened with desertification. These 11 states account for about 35 percent of the country’s total land area and are key areas of livestock rearing and agricultural production such as beans, sorghum, tomatoes, melon, pepper, and onion. In northern Nigeria, desertification threatens the livelihoods of some 40 million people.

  • Secondly, by deforestation through wood fuel and charcoal production.

Firewood and charcoal account for about 50 percent of national primary energy consumption in Nigeria, and the ever increasing demand for these fuel exacerbates the rate of desertification in the north. Nigeria has an annual deforestation rate of about 3.5 percent, that is, an average yearly loss of between 350,000 and 400,000 hectares of forest cover. Official figures indicate that Nigeria loses over 10.5 billion naira ($34.3 million) every year to environmental challenges such as deforestation, drought, and desertification.

  1. Drying up of Lake Chad: Lake Chad had, over the centuries, sustained agriculture and livelihood of millions of people – in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, which are all directly connected together by the Lake. However, due to the combined effect of climate change, construction of dams and irrigation facilities on the path of the rivers that feed it, Lake Chad, which used to cover an area of 25,000 square kilometres, had shrunk to just 2,500 km2 from 1960 to date. That is, 90 per cent of the water has gone. Concomitantly, the associated plant and animal life, including livestock, have declined. Persons who have thereby lost their livelihood migrate elsewhere to work for other people, or become ready tools for nefarious vocations such as cattle rustling and Boko Haram.
  2. Expansion of land area for crop production and urbanisation: With the rapidly increasing human population of the country, more and more land is opened up for residential and commercial use, including crop farming. This results in progressively less area available for grazing by nomadic cattle. Furthermore, the traditional cattle routes are closed up and or obstructed in the process. Consequently, in order to gain access to pasture, nomadic herdsmen have to either trek cattle on the highways or, in the hinterland, forcefully clear whatever obstruction is in their path.

4.      Boko Haram insurgency: The grasslands of the North Eastern zone, including Bauchi, Bornu, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States, traditionally carry 35 to 40 per cent of the nation’s cattle, sheep and goats, and contain 225 (61%) of the 415 nationally identified grazing reserves. The Boko Haram crisis has, compelled herdsmen to move their animals away from this troubled zone, to more peaceful parts of the country.

  1. The rise in cattle rustling: The rise of cattle rustling in West Africa, by criminals including Boko Haram, has been devastating for cattle owners. Cattle rustling by Boko Haram is said to be the second major problem of Fulani herdsmen in northern Nigeria. In response to this threat, many herdsmen have armed themselves with semi-automatic weapons, a move that has frequently led to heavy casualties when they come into conflict with crop farmers. Unfortunately, herdsmen often blame nearby crop farmers for their loss of livestock, even in cases where the actual perpetrators were their Fulani kinsmen.


Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari blamed the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who armed his supporters to ward off the rebellion against him, for the spread of arms to other African countries. According to President Buhari, Gaddafi’s supporters who had filtered into Nigeria, are now being used to fuel killings across the north-central region of the nation.

This month (April 2018), Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna State, was reported as having said that “the roots of herdsmen mass murder and kidnappings in other parts of Nigeria is in the policy of ‘Paying Fulani Herdsmen’ by some Governors. They appeased a monster with public funds and now the monster is going door to door: Sahel, Savannah and Mangrove forests. Any Governor of a state operating the policy of Conditional Cash transfer to Killer Herdsmen is their patron. And he must be seen and treated as a national security risk.” Obviously then, political factors also influence herdsman-farmer conflicts.

More often than not, farmer-herder conflicts follow the destruction of farmland or when the herdsmen take their cows to a community pond to drink water, especially where it is the community’s only source of water: The farmers may kill some cows following the destruction of their farms, followed by a reprisal attack by Fulanis. Also, when the villagers resist water pollution, they are attacked, injured and in some cases killed by the herdsmen. Neighbouring villagers often mobilise to the scene in a reprisal and kill some of the herdsmen. The herders, thereafter, may invade the community, kill people and set houses on fire. Not done, they go to the neighbouring villages and unleash similar terror on the residents. Many people run away to become internally displaced persons, especially in the nearest urban centres. In some cases, the invading herdsmen occupy and give Fulani names to the “conquered” villages. A cultural organisation in Plateau State, Berom Youth Moulders Association, has asked the Federal Government to reclaim the 54 communities in the State which were allegedly completely sacked, their inhabitants displaced, and were forcefully occupied by Fulani herdsmen between 2001 and 2018. The communities have been renamed by the Fulanis: for example, Dankum was renamed Mahanga and Fass renamed Tafawa.



Herdsman-farmer conflict has important sociocultural, political, socioeconomic and security significance, which may be summarised as follows:

4.1. Sociocultural and political dimensions:

In West Africa, Fulani hegemony is believed to have developed in response to the need to obtain, and control, the resources of diverse agricultural communities on whose land and produce they depend, for feeding their livestock. The Fulani established ethnic aristocracy, whereby they expect to occupy the highest political offices in any community in whose politics they participate. Secondly, through the instrumentality of Islam, and in cooperation with networks of fellow Fulani, they overthrow the rulers of several existing agriculture-based States, replacing them with theocratic Islam regimes that they control.

This tendency to dominate others is believed to be the reason for:

  1. the Fulani pastoralists’ support for Othman Dan Fodio in his 19th century Jihad in Northern Nigeria,
  2. the annual recurrent clashes between crop farmers and cattle herders for land, previously only in the north, later spreading to the middle belt, and now also in the southern zones of Nigeria, and
  • the current fear that the creation of grazing reserves, or colonies, might as well be the starting point of political domination, of the host communities, by the settler Fulani (towards “dipping the Koran into the sea”).

The Federal Government has, through the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, explained the reason for its planned establishment of cattle colonies, is to quickly curb the incessant bloody clashes between farmers and herdsmen. Chief Ogbeh said that there was no truth in the speculation that the government was conspiring to grant supremacy over communal land to herdsmen, and that the policy would not transfer communal land ownership to herdsmen wherever it was established. Contextually, this explanation however contradicts the intention of both the Grazing Reserve Law of 1965 and the contentious Bill of 2016. A political analyst, Michael Baca, is of the view that “as someone who aggressively ran on a presidential platform promising to tackle Nigeria’s security and economic woes, President Buhari will need to reduce farmer-herder violence in order to be judged a success”.

  1. 2. Socioeconomic importance:

Pastoralism is the main livestock production system in semi-arid Africa. Historically, it developed as a strategy to cope with the uncertainties associated with climatic change and livestock disease outbreaks. Pastoralism produces livestock at relatively low prices, provides employment, food and income for herdsmen and their families. It is a wealth bank for the herd owners. Ordinarily, by converting plants that are not otherwise useful into meat, nomadic pastoralism can be regarded as an enterprise that converts “waste to wealth” (as in case of the cattle in this Bishop’s court!).

However, herdsman-farmer conflicts hinder the growth of Nigeria’s agrarian sector and economy, as violence disrupts farming activities, reduce crop yields and thus threaten national food security. According to the Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture, James Anbua, rice worth over eight billion naira has been lost to herdsmen attack this year in Benue State. A former Military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, estimated that Nigeria loses 13.7 billion dollars annually as a result of farmer-herdsman conflicts in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau States. Unfortunately, being regarded as “malicious damage”, insurance policy does not cover farm destruction by herders. Vanguard (January 29, 2018) opined that when Nigerian farmers cannot plant crops or the crops planted are destroyed by herdsmen and their cattle, farmers’ labours are lost, and foreigners will be needed to supply the shortfall, resulting in avoidable foreign reserve depletion.

4.3. Security implications:

In its editorial of April 24, 2017, PUNCH observed, among others, that in 2016, herdsmen killed over 400 people in Agatu, Benue State, and confiscated their land. They also killed 40 people in Ukpabi-Nimbo, Enugu State; they massacred 808 people, destroyed 1,422 houses, 16 churches, 19 shops, and one primary school in 53 villages in Southern Kaduna, Kaduna State, up to January 2017 (quoting the Roman Catholic Church). To date, human slaughtering continues, most especially in Benue and Taraba States. General T. Y. Danjuma (rtd), a former Minister of Defence, was reported as describing the killings by herdsmen as a target to ethnic cleansing on the people of Taraba and Nigeria at large, and called on the people to rise and defend themselves against the killers that are being protected by the military. Indeed, many groups of people have formed self-defence forces: They include the National Council of Tiv Youths, Middle Belt Youth Council, the Middle Belt Forum (Youth Wing), the Agbekoya Farmers Association of Nigeria, and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). Although set up to protect vulnerable communities, groups like these however generally present another security challenge to Nigeria. For example, the evolution of Ombatse, an ethnic militia founded by members of Nasarawa State’s Eggon people, was initially formed to counter perceived herder encroachments. However, Ombatse later transformed into an organization engaged in acts of political violence and criminality. At one point, it came into direct conflict with Abuja, reportedly killing over 70 Nigerian security personnel in a May 2013 ambush. Also in Benue and Oyo State and elsewhere, members of the army, police and other security agencies were reported to have been killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen. The heinous crimes of the herdsmen placed them as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world in the 2015 Global Terrorism Index. Thus, farmer-herdsman conflicts have heightened insecurity of life and property, exacerbated the proliferation of both ethnic and vigilante militias, light arms, and inter-communal tensions in Nigeria.

4.4. Religious dimension:

All over Nigeria, most, but not all, of herdsman-farmer conflicts involve Muslim Fulani herdsmen and non-Muslim, non-Fulani, mostly Christian, crop farmers. This has heightened ethno-religious hostilities at both national and local levels. Prominent Christian clerics have claimed that the Fulani herdsmen act as proxies for northern Nigeria’s elites and/or Boko Haram, while some Muslim organizations have alleged and denounced the maltreatment that Fulani herdsmen suffer at the hands of Christian communities and some State government agents. It appears to me that it is not easy to disaggregate the religious and ethnic or sociocultural causes of the conflicts.

This January (2018), the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar III, was reported as having expressed shock that the Federal Government and its security agencies had done nothing about herdsmen bearing arms in the country, despite the series of attacks they had launched against communities in different parts of the country. He asked: “How is it possible for Fulani to attack settlements or communities to carry out killings of innocent people, destroy property and disappear without trace?” He said that any Fulani man caught killing is a criminal, and should be treated as such. He stated that what is going on is not an ethnic or a religious problem, it is an economic problem. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, speaking through Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, said: “Herdsmen may be under pressure to save livestock and economy, but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood. We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought, rather than introducing ‘cattle colonies’ in the country”. The Leadership of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria in the South East (this January, 2018), similarly rejected the proposed plan by the Federal Government to establish cattle colonies in States across the Federation as a means of solving the farmer-herdsman clashes. Professor Ben Nwabueze (cited by Oseloka H. Obaze, 2018) explained that “two or more herders will be needed to follow and tend 100 cows. Accordingly, 300 herders will be needed to tend 30,000 cows. A colony of 30,000 cows requires 300 herders living in the colony. This means that 300 Fulani herdsmen and their families will be lodged in the body of a State under the scheme. The implications of a herders’ violence-multiplier effect remains salient”. Prof Nwabueze cautioned that “the deadliest of the implications of the establishment of cattle colonies in every State of the Federation is the religious and cultural implication. We are yet to fathom fully the macro implication of setting up cow colonies”.



5.1. Efforts made by State Governments to control the problem.

This February  (2018), the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, called on Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country, especially in Benue and Taraba states, to relocate to Kano State which the Governor said has “vast grazing land” to accommodate herdsmen and their cattle. The Governor added that his administration was already in collaboration with the Federal Government and foreign agencies to convert the Falgore Game Reserve into a modern grazing land. He said “Falgore Game Reserve is being underutilised, and can take care of millions of herdsmen and their cattle in Nigeria”.

Some of the States that are experiencing herder-farmer conflicts have enacted legislation to regulate grazing, including banning open grazing, in an attempt to minimise the conflicts. Such States include Ekiti, Benue, Edo and Taraba. The Premier Times of 9th April, 2018 reported that the Ogun State House of Assembly is set to pass a bill to regulate the grazing of cattle in the State, as part of measures to prevent further clashes between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers in Yewa North Local Government Area of the State. On the other hand, the Metro News of 6th February, 2017 reported that the Bayelsa State Government had donated 1,200 hectares of land to cattle herdsmen for ranch development, and that more ranches would be donated to the herdsmen in order to control indiscriminate grazing and maintain peace and order in the State. Mr Shitu Mohammed, State Chairman, Cattle Ranches Management and Control Committee, stated that even though there had been no cases of violence by herdsmen in the State, the Committee was set up by the State Government to foster cordial relationship between the herdsmen, farmers and the people of the State.

The use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips that is, microchips, for the identification of cattle is one of methods proposed as solution to the problems of cattle rustling and herder-farmer clashes. For use, a microchip is coded with the owner’s details, and embedded under the skin of cattle. All details of the owner are entered into the Animal Identification Management System (AIMS) of a GSM company, which serves as an information repository. The benefits include the following:

  1. The true owner of lost or stolen animals can be determined and contacted to recover his or her property,
  2. Cattle thieves (rustlers) can be apprehended and,
  • The actual owners of cattle that have destroyed other peoples’ farmlands can be identified and made responsible for the loss incurred by farmers.

The Katsina State Government, in December 2017, launched an Animal Identification Management Solution (AIMS), powered by MTN, at Runka Game Reserve.  The intention was to combat rustling of cattle in the State. Beforehand, the State Government had had extensive deliberations with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), a pressure group representing the socio-economic and cultural interests, in addition to protecting the land rights of Fulani pastoralists.  However, many people worry about the public health consequences of the presence of microchips in the body of animals that will become food for humans.

5.2. The case for a change from nomadism to settlement (sedenterisation) of herdsmen and their cattle.

Globally, the potential value of the cattle industry is enormous, considering the diversity of its products including meat, milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, hide, bone meal, blood meal and manure. Several countries, such as Uruguay, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia and Brazil, have more cattle than people. Conversely, Nigeria has about one cow to 9 persons. Worse still, nomadic Nigerian cattle yield about one litre of milk per day compared to 10 litres per day in the Philippines, 40 litres per day in Israel, as much as 45 litres per day by Holstein-Friesian cow in India. No wonder, there is a supply gap of about 600,000 metric tonnes in Nigeria’s dairy output and demand. To fill this gap, Nigeria spends about $1.3 billion annually on importation of dairy products alone. It should be emphasised that the nation’s cattle, sheep and goats provide about two-thirds of all animal protein consumed in the country, and over 90% of them are held by the Fulani herdsmen. Beef is relatively less expensive than other major sources of animal protein in Nigeria.  Yet the industry remains undervalued due to the informal nature of its pastoralism and the loss of much energy and weight by the animals during process of long distance trekking. Obviously then, there is an urgent need for modernising Nigeria’s cattle production methods to boost the animals’ productivity and contribute to the efforts to conserve the nation’s foreign exchange reserve. As currently practised, it is clear that nomadic husbandry cannot facilitate the realisation of production levels that can satisfy national requirements. Rather, a system of intensive management such as can only be achieved in ranches or grazing reserves, is imperative for optimum productivity of cattle to meet the needs of the country.

5.3. The Ranching alternative.

Many commentators on the farmer-herder crisis have called for a transition from nomadism to ranching. Ranching is a system of livestock production, in which the land is individually owned and usually fenced. In Nigeria, ranching has a long and unsuccessful history dating back to the early colonial era. Commercial ranching in Nigeria began with the establishment of the African Ranches Limited, the performance of the Ranch was not favourable, and the ranch was forced out of business in 1923. Immediately after independence, several ranches were created by State Governments, all in collaboration with international agencies. They included: The Bornu (Breeding) Ranch, a USAID project, near Maiduguri, which began in 1963, the Manchok (Fattening) Ranch in the West of Jos, Plateau state, also started in 1963, and the Mokwa Ranch, established in 1964. All of them have failed. In the south-west, ranches that were established, but have collapsed, include Lagos State Dairy, Agege, Ogun State Dairy at Ikenne and Beef ranch at Odeda, Iwo Road Dairy at Ibadan, and the various Western Livestock Company’s ranches, established with the financial assistance of the World Bank in the 1980s, including Upper Ogun ranch and Ogboro ranch, Oyo State; Akunnuu ranch, Ondo State, and Imeko ranch, Ogun State. The story is not much different elsewhere in Africa. Even in South Africa where a substantial proportion of ranches remain, they are perceived by the indigenes as an unacceptable concentration of land in the hands of few (mostly white) owners, and there is a gradual reversion to more traditional tenure systems. Thus, experience so far gathered does not appear to support the suggestion that Nigerian governments should invest in ranches, especially in this economic depression era. Rather, ranching should be a private concern, irrespective of the persons involved. As far as the nomadic Fulani are concerned, apart from the huge capital outlay required, the herdsmen are not yet sufficiently educated to cope with the demands of the scientific technicalities of ranching.

5.4. The Grazing Reserve (or Grazing Colony) alternative.

The Nigerian Grazing Reserve Act (1964) and the Grazing Reserve Law of northern Nigeria (1965) were part of the policy measures intended to address the constraints confronting livestock development in Nigeria. Thus, grazing reserves were established to protect grazing lands from crop farming, provide easier access by pastoralists (through the creation of stock routes), and encourage the settlement of herdsmen, through legally secure titles to grazing and water. The Grazing Reserve project entails the gazetting, demarcation and development of the reserves including the provision of the basic needs such as pasture, water resources, and other infrastructure for a group or groups of herdsmen. Existing Forest or Game reserves were transformed to grazing reserves. The first Grazing Reserve, the Rumar-Kukar-Jangari, was established in 1964 by the Northern Region government in the present Katsina State. Similar conversions took place at Wase, Zamfara and Udobo Forest Reserves in northern Nigeria, with technical and financial support from the US Agency for International Development, USAID. In the national Development Plans including the Second (1970-1975), Third (1975-1980), and Fourth (1980 – 1985), the Grazing Reserve concept was emphasised as a national development Strategy for cattle production. Under the Third National Plan (1975-1980), a total 22 million hectares were planned as grazing reserves. By the end of the plan period (1980), only 2.3 million hectares (about 10%) had been acquired as grazing reserves by the northern state governments. A major cause for the low implementation of grazing reserves establishment is said to be the high compensation levels stipulated for land acquisition by the Federal Land Act of 1978. Further, only few of those established were formally gazetted by the State Government concerned leaving the original objectives of land ownership or lease, largely unfulfilled. Several of the grazing reserves that were established have been abandoned by the erstwhile residents as the infrastructures have decayed.

In the year 2016, the Federal Government presented a Bill for the establishment, preservation and control of National Grazing Reserves and Stock routes to the National Assembly for enactment into law. Among others, the Bill “empowers the National Grazing Commission to take over any land in respect of which it appears to the Commission that grazing on such land should be practised, and any land acquired by the Commission through purchase, assignment, gift or otherwise howsoever”. The intention of the Federal Government was, among other reasons, to prevent people, particularly farmers, from encroaching upon stock routes and grazing areas, and selling those areas that have been mapped out as grazing reserves since 1962.

The consideration of the Bill by the National Assembly was accompanied by widespread furore, especially from citizens of the middle belt and southern States of Nigeria. The Bill was subsequently dropped. The sentiment expressed in the editorial of the Punch on April 24, 2017, more or less captures the fears of the protesters, which is that the grazing routes that have been abandoned for decades, are planned to be reopened by the Federal Government, in an attempt to placate Fulani herdsmen. In reality, much of the routes have either been cultivated or deployed for other purposes by the locals. The paper was of the opinion that cattle herders have no special rights above farmers, fishermen and landowners in Central and Southern Nigeria, and that the plan can only escalate the violent campaign that has rendered the country a killing field for the Fulani herdsmen and could pose a threat to Nigeria’s stability. Sixteen northern Nigerian states were reported to have agreed to the establishment of cattle colonies proposed by the FGN. However, Taraba and Benue States and all the 17 states of Southern Nigeria have refused to volunteer land for the cattle colonies.

Looking back, had the Federal and northern State governments faithfully implemented the Grazing Reserve Law of northern Nigeria of 1965, the current conflicts might have been milder, since presumably, citizens would have over the last 50 years, gotten used to the concept and existence of grazing reserves. Like the crop farmers, the Fulani are bothered about the human and animal losses that they suffer through various conflicts. From recent pronouncements, it appears that most Fulani leaders have come to the realisation that nomadism has to yield to sedenterisation eventually. It seems that the lack of a ready and feasible alternative to nomadism is what the Fulani worry and quarrel about.

The most urgent challenge in the establishment and sustenance of grazing reserves is the development of affordable livestock feed resources and infrastructure which can be undertaken by the producers themselves. The extant national policy on agriculture appears to assume that cattle production is the exclusive preserve of Fulani herdsmen. However, in the various geopolitical zones of Nigeria, several individuals or groups of other tribes have realised the enormous potential of, and ventured into, cattle production, some with remarkable success. Thus, I think that if all interested citizens are encouraged to participate in modern cattle production, the expected national production targets might be met, sooner than later.

5.5. What else can be done to control farmer-herdsman conflicts?

To bring to an end farmer-herder conflicts, I am of the opinion that the various causes of the crisis, identified vide supra, need to be addressed. Efforts to bring Boko Haram insurgency and cattle rustling to an end should be intensified so that herdsmen that were forced to leave the troubled areas can return home. The Federal Government should also intensify efforts to arrest desertification in the Sahel through the aggressive planting of drought-tolerant trees.

Muhammad Hussaini, the Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) in Nasarawa State was reported as saying “If you force a Fulani man not to move with his cattle, you are inviting trouble.” Proponents of nomadism point out that the constitution guarantees free movement of persons and goods across Nigeria, that no State can withdraw that right, and that the various laws passed by States to regulate cattle movement are contestable in courts of law. They also cite the Supreme Court judgement on the matter [A. G. Ogun State Vs Alhaja Ayinke Aberuagba (1985) 1 NWLR PG.395] wherein States were barred from interfering with inter-state commerce and the free movement of goods and services. However, one wonders, if the right to free movement is synonymous with right to free destruction of other people’s lives and properties? Furthermore, in view of the stiff resistance against the introduction of cattle colonies, and the variety of extant problems causing the conflicts (enumerated earlier), it is unlikely that implementation of settlement of nomadic  herders and their cattle into grazing reserves can be quickly effected in most geopolitical zones of the country. The body language of the Federal Government does not indicate that in the near future, reliable security help can come from Abuja to any State that is perceived as being hostile to herdsmen. It seems to me therefore, that pending the time the Federal Government can restore peace and harmony in the troubled areas, there is an urgent need for each State to fashion out effective means of safeguarding the interests of her citizens. This may include dialogue by the relevant stakeholders, in order to agree on how to prevent and settle incidents of destruction of farmlands and human lives, and the attendant dislocation of livelihoods in the food producing areas of the State. For example, the Chairman of MACBAN in Anambra State, Alhaji Sadiq Gidado, said that in the South East, the Association works in synergy with the security operatives, the indigenes and the State government through the Cattle Menace Control Committee. Dr Mohammed Lawan Yahuza, who has a long work experience with Pastoralists, noted that one of the most important dimensions of the escalating crisis is the breakdown of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. In the past, when conflicts arise, they are settled by village heads and Fulani community leaders, and where there is need for compensation, there were traditional systems of assessing damage done, and the amount to compensate for the damage done, to discourage profiteering.

Many analysts predict that, in spite of her various problems, Nigeria’s population will continue to grow at a fast rate. This requires more food for more mouths, and more land for the cultivation of food crops. It also means progressively less land for nomadism, and most likely, more farmer-herdsman conflicts. Experts have pointed out that even if the settlement of cattle herds is implemented, herdsmen in grazing reserves might still need to look for pasture, outside the reserves, during the dry season months of each year. This means that grazing reserves are likely to minimise conflict, rather than put an end to it, in the foreseeable future. Thus, I think that at the Federal level, it is desirable that a consensual policy framework to protect the interest of both animal and crop farmers be fashioned out, to replace the recently jettisoned Grazing Reserves Bill.

Ordinarily, the cattle industry is not of prime economic importance to the indigenes of the southern geopolitical zones and most parts of the Middle Belt. It thus seems expedient that the Federal Government should, for such areas, consider a policy shift from the production of cattle to other sources of animal protein such as poultry, fish and pigs. Compared to cattle, these species reproduce faster, are well adapted to confinement and require much smaller space. Also, it is not difficult for most citizens to engage in the husbandry of these species, and thus contribute to meeting national animal protein requirements, without engendering conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herders.

I thank you all for listening.