Southwest Curbs Farmer-Herder Clashes with Hunters, Others
It is a battle for survival. Herdsmen need to feed their cows. Farmers must protect their crops. This has been at the heart of the herdsmen-farmer clashes in the Southwest states of Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti. The states have come up with different strategies to rein in the gladiators.
Aside from engaging stakeholders to build peace, the Ekiti State government recruited members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and hunters into a joint task force that combs the farms to prevent possible attacks. The state police command also drew a working template to ensure constant dialogue between the two groups.
Commissioner for Information Muyiwa Olumilua said the existing security networks put in place by Governor Kayode Fayemi strengthened the state security architecture to checkmate herdsmen/farmers’ clashes.
“At a point in time when herdsmen-farmers clashes were heated up, Governor Fayemi promised to look into the incident. But now, there are no longer cases of such clashes and kidnapping.
“The security architecture is what has been improved. We have enlisted traditional security outfits like OPC, Vigilante group etc. And they have been working with police and other sister agencies to provide absolute coverage for the citizens of Ekiti state.
“Even the borders leading to the state are being adequately secured. So the major reason why things are calm is because of the improvement of the security network”, he said.
Ekiti State Commissioner of Police Asuquo Amba said the command had overhauled the state security architecture to make the state safe for all residents.
CP Asuquo Amba said the command decisively drew a working template having done some threat analysis of what the major security problem that was confronting the State. This, he said, helped the command to identify some crime waves and the measure needed to take in combating the clash between herdsmen and farmers headlong.
Amba, who spoke through the PPRO, DSP Caleb Ikechukwu, added that the police had increased the visibility policing of the plain-clothed
intelligence gathering of the joint task force, stressing that the “dreaded sprawling Efon-Iwaraja, Ido-Ipere, Ise-Ikere forest that had become a beehive of activities for the kidnappers are being patrolled regularly…”
AFAN Secretary Rotimi Kolawole said herdsmen invasion on farmland has reduced in recent times, lauding Governor Fayemi’s tactical approach to stop the clashes.
In Oyo State, a combination of an establishment of a joint security force, farmers/herders forum and police constant engagements with traditional rulers, herders and farmers has helped reduce the crisis. Clashes were recorded in areas, such as Ibadan and Ibarapa. Oke-Ogun is the worst hit.
At the height of the crisis, the Oyo State Police Command summoned a meeting of all stakeholders to its Eleyele, Ibadan headquarters where they were allowed to express their concerns and how they could be addressed. At the end of the meeting, herders agreed to stop grazing in the evening while farmers also agreed to stop poisoning the streams in their farms. Herders also agreed to report foreigners (non-locals) who intrude on the communities with their cattle to the police and community heads for arrest and appropriate sanctions. The herders were also advised to join hands to establish ranches as a permanent solution to the crisis. Implementation of their agreements was supervised by the police divisions across the state.
The House of Assembly, has, however, added a new dimension to the peace building by introducing anti-open grazing law. The bill has passed second reading at the House of Assembly and may be passed into law by the end of the year.
The law, according to the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Hon. Kazeem Olayanju will protect the herders and farmers as well as all communities in the state against security breaches.
Olayanju told The Nation that the Assembly recognised that the Fulani in the state have lived together peacefully with indigenes for several decades, adding that the lawmakers are aware that they have fully integrated into the various communities where they live and do their business.
The Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Oyo State, Olumide Ayinla, praised governors of the Southwest for establishing joint security initiatives that have succeeded in reducing the menace of kidnapping, herdsmen and banditry in the region.
In Osun, the state government has recorded tremendous achievements in halting the spate of violent clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
Osun is perhaps the only state in the federation securing compensation for the farmers that fall victims of the destruction of their crops by the herdsmen.
In 2014, the administration of former governor Rauf Aregbesola inaugurated a committee on peaceful coexistence between the Fulani/Bororo and Crop Farmers with a core mandate of ensuring the security of lives and property of residents in the state. The committee, which is headed by Hon. Oguntola Toogun, has achieved huge success.
Speaking with our correspondent on the telephone, Toogun commended Governor Gboyoga Oyetola for sustaining and supporting the committee to meet its mandate.
He said the composition of the committee, which comprises members of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Osun State chapter, the Fulani, the Bororo, Women In Agriculture, state Ministry of Information, the Traditional Institution, covered all stakeholders.
According to him, the modality of settling issues likely to lead violent clashes was very clear and simple.
He said: “The victim, who is a complaint, is allowed to negotiate with the herdsmen while the committee only supervises the process. Between 2014 and now, our committee has settled over 7,000 cases amicably. Some of these issues could have resulted in violent clashes like maiming, killing and destruction of valuable property.
“We even went as far as digging 13 hand pump boreholes in strategic locations across the state to meet the water need of the herdsmen. We are presently working on a multi-national arrangement to get grazing field for the herdsmen.”
The National President of the Beekeepers’ Association, Dr. Dokun Olagunju, who also spoke with our correspondent, disclosed that leaders of farmers are now regularly meeting to sustain the tempo of the peaceful coexistence between farmers and the herdsmen.
Also, the President of the Osun State chapter of the Small Scale Women Farmers of Nigeria, who is also the National Public Relations Officers of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Chief Mrs. Janet Olaleye, told our correspondent that her members have resorted to researching into leaves to plant around their farms to prevent grazing cows from entering their farms.
In Ondo State, farmers/herders clashes have notably declined in recent times. This can be attributed to peace building efforts of the state government, police and community leaders.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Ondo State Command, Femi Joseph, attributed the decline to the constant engagement of stakeholders.
According to him, the Commissioner of Police, Undie Adie, has been spending most of the days of the week outside his office, moving around the state to engage stakeholders. This he said has promoted the peace being witnessed between the two parties.
The Special Assistant to the Governor on Hausa/Fulani matters, Bala Umaru, said the magic behind the peace being witnessed between the two parties is constant dialogue.
He said: “For the past seven months or so, I have abandoned my office, visiting Hausa/Fulani camps to dialogue with them on peace initiatives. The same way I have been engaging farmers and host communities, especially in Akoko axis where frequent clashes between the two groups are predominant.”
The approach is the same in Ogun State where several clashes have been recorded in the past.
Governor Dapo Abiodun attributed the success of peace between farmers and herders to periodic meetings with the two groups to douse tension.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, Abiodun identified the Ogun State Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) as one of the approaches to sustain the peace between the two groups which his administration inherited.
He said: “Ogun State has what we call Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) that builds the capacity of herdsmen on new technologies of rearing livestock without destroying farm produce. We hold periodic stakeholders meetings on farmers and herders’ conflict to reduce tension.”
The Ogun State Police Command said it created a line of understanding between farmers and herders.
Speaking through its Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said police discovered that those causing the problem are “migrant or transitory herders” with no attachment with the people. The “transitory herders,” Abimbola said, were the ones who often perpetuate the clashes and disappear afterwards only resurface later.
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