After years of clashes between them, indigenous farmers in Benue State and Fulani herdsmen operating in the state and its environs said yesterday that they had reached a nexus of understanding that they need each other for peaceful coexistence in the Benue valley.
Accordingly, they have agreed on ways to ensure peace among them.
Speaking at a peace meeting brokered by the New Economic Partnership For Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in Abuja, representatives of both farmers and herders agreed that well equipped cattle ranches is the way out of the violence that has claimed hundreds of lives, with millions displaced from their ancestral homes in North Central Nigeria, especially in Benue and Nasarawa States.
Both sides declared that they are more than ready now to coexist again in peace and harmony.
The herdsmen were represented by chairman of Miyeti Allah Cattle Herders Association in Awa local government area, Iliyasu Awa and a member of the association, Musa Mati Muhammad, while Emmanuel Kaha and Sylvester Igba represented the farmers at the meeting.
“Ranching is the best global practice in the world for animal husbandry. We are ready to go back to our homes and coexist with the Herders because we are all farmers. But the right things should be done to have them ranch the cattle,” Kaha said.
In his response, chairman of the cattle herders announced that they were ready to go into ranching if the right mechanisms and equipment like Dams and trainings are provided
Awa said his members had reached an understanding with most of the affected indigenes to return to their homes, with a promise that the herders will conduct their livestock in orderly manner to forestall peace.
He however raised concern that the herders are still being harassed by security personnel believed to be operating on the directive of the state government whenever they step into the troubled communities.
Awa who earlier said the crisis was triggered by the enactment of the anti-grazing law introduced by the Benue State government, called for a review of the law to accommodate the Fulani herdsmen and their grazing activities.
“Because of the grazing law, the herders have been restricted to Awa local government alone which is making it more difficult for them to feed their herds of cattle. Because of development, grazing routes have been blocked. No Dams, no reserve for the cattle,” Awa said, adding that even the federal government is not doing enough to resolve the issues.
In her remarks, national coordinator/CEO of the NEPAD, Gloria Akobundu, said NEPAD will make recommendations to the federal government to intervene and take the herders and the farmers to the state government along with all stakeholders to help actualise the understanding between both parties to coexist again.
Princess Akobundu restated the need for all hands to be on deck to work together to come up with solutions to the farmers/herders crisis.
For us to achieve the government’s agenda of economic diversification through agriculture and ensure sustainable food production there has to be peace. We are also working with the security agencies, farmers and headers to see how we can have peace for agricultural production,” she said.