A report by the Centre for Democracy and Development in partnership with the Pastoral Resolve has blamed the absence of government control and the provision of security in rural areas as some of the main reasons for the repeated clashes between herdsmen and farmers and other forms of rural banditry in Nigeria.
The report entitled, “Addressing Rural Banditry in Northern Nigeria”, sought to identify and document the root causes, dynamics and implications of the frequent acts of rural banditry and other forms of violence in Northern Nigeria.
There has been a spike in the number of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers, mostly in the north central region, and other parts of Nigeria.
According to the report, no fewer than 521 people have been killed and several others injured in the conflict over grazing areas in the north central region between 2014 and 2015 alone.
Last month, over 300 people including women and children were reportedly killed as Fulani herdsmen ransacked communities in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
The herdsmen claimed they carried out the attack because over 10,000 of their cattle were killed by the people of the sacked communities.
Apart from the absence of government control and provision of security in rural and agrarian communities, the report also identified the demographic shift between livestock and human population, climate change, land use rights, proliferation of small arms, and the collapse of informal conflict resolution mechanisms as reasons for the increase in banditry and violence in northern Nigeria.
“With respect to the State, the decline in its capacity to impose effective control over rural areas is a serious cause for concern, and appears implicated in the recurrence of rural banditry and other forms of social conflicts. For all practical purposes, the State is nonetheless able to impose effective control in urban areas, however tenuous it may be,” the report stated.
“The proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) is one of the most serious factors in the expansion and intensity of rural banditry and conflicts. The proliferation of SALWs in the central states of Plateau, Nassarawa, Kaduna and Benue is partly linked to the growing privatization of violence, which seems to have led to situations where non-state actors such as vigilantes and other private security outfits secure and use weapons illegally.”
The report said the result in the proliferation of SALWs is a rise in the level of banditry in the region.
It said, “This has clearly emerged in the brutal acts of banditry by criminal gangs in Zamfara, Benue and Plateau States. These practices are gradually manifesting in the emergence of a criminal economy where raids are organized for commercial purposes, especially against livestock.
“It is indeed clear that banditry, and cattle rustling in particular, can neither be profitable nor sustained for any length of time, except if there is a ready market for the rustled livestock.”
The report therefore recommended that gazetting of grazing reserves, the development of ranches and the monitoring and control of livestock movement by the federal government as a mean of reducing the clashes and banditry.
It also further advised the government to pay more attention to the provision of security in rural and farming communities as well as the provision of an effective early warning and response mechanism.
It also recommended the heightening of the effort to recover rustled cattle and prosecute offenders so as to discourage aggrieved people taking the laws into their hands, which is a recipe for violence.
“Although it is important to make concerted efforts to contain cattle rustling in the long run, short term policy and strategic interventions must seek to increase the level of rescues and recovering of stolen cattle,” the report said.
“Communities and pastoralists in areas such as Wase would be reassured when some of their stolen cattle are recovered. Also important, is the need to match recovery rates with rates of arrests and prosecution of offenders to guide against the increasing culture of impunity.
“When individual offenders are punished, it is less likely that victims would ascribe the responsibilities for the crimes on the communities of the perpetrators, thus lessening the likelihood of reprisal attacks.”
Other recommendations put forward by the report are the revival of community based conflict resolution methods and the mopping and control of SALWs.