Cattle rearers and farmers in Ikole Ekiti on Thursday engaged themselves in a brain storming session to find a lasting solution to the incessant clashes between them occasioned by inappropriate grazing practices.
The workshop organized by CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to peace and security in communities, provided the parties the opportunity to air their grievances and suggest ways to a lasting solution.
At the session, attended by traditional rulers and security agencies, it was noted that the resident Fulani herders were largely peaceful and controllable, but the travelling herdsmen, who migrate from neighbouring countries, were largely responsible for the destruction of farmlands.
The parties agreed, despite occasional high tempers, that the a joint volunteer vigilante group that would include the farmers, community residents and the Fulanis be created to check the activities of the marauding herdsmen.
It was also agreed that the registration of all the resident Fulani herdsmen with the traditional rulers in their respective community should be done in line with the provisions of the anti-grazing law now in force in Ekiti State.
The session also recommended that a monthly meeting between the herdsmen, the farmers, traditional rulers and the security agencies be initiated to continually track the nefarious activities of the herdsmen.
The Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Ekiti State, who gave his name as Masamu, said his association was committed to the registration of all its members to help identify criminals.
According to him, farmers should raise the alarm and notify him if they discover that cows had entered their farms, so that those responsible would be held accountable.
He said the association was prepared to ensure that what had happened in the past did not reoccur.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Oke-Ako Development Association, Ikole, Osasona Oduntan, said besides the talking, the anti-grazing law recently passed by the Ekiti House of Assembly and signed by the governor should be enforced to the letter.
PREMIUM TIMES recalls that it was in Oke-Ako that herdsmen attacked and killed some people last year, prompting the reaction of the government to enact the anti-grazing law. The law, among others, forbids herdsmen to lead out their cattle for grazing between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The law also restricts grazing to designated areas.
“We went back to agriculture because we have no jobs after graduation,” Mr. Oduntan said.
“I am a graduate of international relations, but with the destruction of our farms by the cattle rearers, we are like thrown back to the unemployment market.”
Delivering a lecture on Conflict Management Skills to Promoting Peaceful Co-existence, Olutoyin Falade said a synergy between the Fulani herdsmen, the farmers and other stakeholders would help to stem the tide of farmers/herders conflict in the area.
She noted that with the desertification in northern Nigeria, herdsmen were bound to move south for needed pasture to feed their cattle.
Ms. Falade said it must be admitted that the herdsmen had the constitutional right to move around the country, but the farmers must be willing to work with the herdsmen in order to work out a formula that would ensure peace in the local governments.
She urged the parties to work closely with the traditional rulers and the police to give force to the panned efforts to eradicate the destructive grazing of farmlands and the attendant violence associated with it.
Some of the traditional rulers who attended the workshop painted a gory picture of the menace of herdsmen in their domain, saying the problem had become intractable.
They lamented the uncooperative attitude of some of the herdsmen and their lack of commitment when accused of destroying farms.
The police Area Commander at Ikole, Monday Agbonika, said the Ikole Local Government is being used as a pilot to set the modalities for peaceful resolution of conflicts arising from indiscriminate grazing.
He said the recommendations arising from the workshop would be worked out and the structures established with the collaboration of all stakeholders.
He promised to ensure that the programmes outlined for dealing with the problem, including the training of volunteers to police the community, would be promptly and strictly pursued.
Speaking earlier, the Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, who was represented by the Programme Officer, Ebere Mbaegbu, said there had been increase in clashes between herdsmen and farmers, resulting in killings, rapes, destruction of properties, armed robbery and communal violence.
He said there was need for proactive steps to be taken given the new dimension that the conflict had assumed.
He recognised the efforts of state governments at resolving the issues, but said there was room for improvement.
“Improving communication between the cattle rearers and developing more accountability mechanisms are some of the key aspects of peace building that need to be strengthened by stakeholders,” he said.
The Chairman of Ikole Local Government Council, Peter Samuel, promised that committees would be set up in the different communities to help coordinate and handle issues relating to conflicts between the farmers and the herdsmen.
He said the committees would liaise with the traditional rulers, who would have the data of all the Fulani herdsmen living in their communities, and the police to ensure the peace was sustained.
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