Herdsmen Crisis: Presidency blames climate change, politicians; explores solution

Cattle herd used to illustrate the story.
A herd of cattle used to illustrate the story.

The presidency said on Sunday that the ongoing killings linked to herdsmen are amongst the multifaceted implications of climate change.

The presidency also restated the claim by President Muhammadu Buhari that politicians are behind the killings, saying his administration has evidence to prove that.

He appealed to Nigerians to be patient and continue to live in unity while his administration finds a lasting solution to the crisis.

“The Presidency is appealing to all its citizens as well as members of the international community to refrain from spreading false stories and inflammatory statements concerning the recent herder-farmer clashes,” presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday afternoon.

Thousands of lives have been lost after decades of violent confrontation between farmers and pastoralists.

The violence has continued since Mr Buhari assumed office in 2015.

Most of the attacks have been against villagers in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau and Nasarawa States in recent months. The attackers regularly storm settlements to carry out their carnage, often in large numbers.

As many as 500 people were killed in an attack that lasted for days without emergency response from security agencies in Agatu in 2016.

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Towards the end of last month, about 200 people were feared killed in a weekend-long attack in Plateau State, a tragedy that shocked the nation because security agencies were said to be on ground in the state as part of a military operation.

In Benue alone, hundreds of villagers have been killed in relentless attacks since the January 1 killings that left over 100 people dead.

While some of the attacks are linked to herdsmen by security agencies, the possible culprits in many others remained unknown because they were never officially disclosed.

In recent months, Mr Buhari has blamed the attacks on remnants of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s militia. His top officials like the Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali and Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris have blamed enactment of anti-open grazing laws in three states for the crisis and called for immediate abrogation those laws.

In today’s statement, the president, who continues to describe the killings as “farmers-herders clashes”, said the issues are complex to understand or resolve. He, however, promised that his government will explore all possible avenues to end the killings.

“The Nigerian government is working closely with state governments and the security services – as well as international partners – in order to resolve this ongoing issue.

“The clashes between herders and farmers are historical. The causes of these confrontations are varied and complex.

“Climate change, specifically the drying up of the Chad Basin, has led to more pressure on the population in the North of Nigeria, which further compounded the problem.

“As President Buhari indicated lately, there is evidence of involvement of some politicians using criminals to perpetuate the killings.

“Climate change is an issue of global significance and the Nigerian government is determined to continue working closely with its neighbours in order to ensure that a long-term solution can be implemented.

“The federal government makes no distinction amongst the population and works tirelessly to protect all Nigerian people.

“We are strongest as a nation when we are united and it is through unity that we will overcome this challenge,” Mr Buhari said.

The statement appeared aimed at dousing tension arising on the backdrop of growing allegations that the president is not disturbed by the bloodshed and is reluctant to end it.

Several groups, including faith-based entities, have staged protests to demand an end to the killing and for the president to declare armed herdsmen as terrorists, in the same manner as he proclaimed separatist Indigenous People of Biafra a terrorist organisation and proscribed it.

The president has pushed back against the allegations, and defended herdsmen as largely peaceful individuals who go about their businesses with sticks without access to heavy weaponry.

He said those behind the killings are not necessarily herdsmen but criminals whom he had ordered security agencies to ruthlessly confront.

Mr Buhari’s excuse that politicians are sponsoring a large chunk of the carnage has been debunked by his critics who mocked him as inadvertently admitting his own incompetence as president by complaining in the media when he should be deploying state resources to expose and clamp down on such politicians if indeed there is any truth to his claim.

Last month, the federal government launched an initiative aimed at ending the crisis. The plan includes the creation of large, government funded ranches in 10 states, whose governors the government said, are already part of the agreement.

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