9th January, 2018
A don, Prof. Lai Olurode, on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to unmask the groups instigating the recurring crises between the farmers and herdsmen in Benue for peace to reign.
Olurode, a professor of Sociology at University of Lagos, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the government should initiate a policy aimed at earmarking some resources for the production of feeds for the cattle of herdsmen.
He also said that a sociological survey should be conducted to establish the kind of symbiotic relationship existing between herdsmen and farmers, adding that incidents, which were aggravated by some faceless groups in the affected areas, could also be isolated.
“So, I think through that way, the hostilities between the two sets of people will cease, as we begin to see a more symbiotic and simpler co-relationship between the herdsmen and the farmers.
“But government needs to put down a lot of resources to encourage people to do this; otherwise people will not be encouraged and then, the hostilities and killings will continue.
“Whether we like it or not, we cannot completely say that the herdsmen are not part of the society, they are; some of them don’t even eat the meat of their cattle; they produce the meat for the entire Nigerian community.
“The same thing applies to farmers; all the crops that are being destroyed by the cattle are meant for you and me. We need to live in this country together and the earlier we understand this, the better for everybody.
“What we need is a more beneficial relationship between the two groups (herdsmen and farmers) because all these demarcations, rulings and approaching the issue through the legal point of view, as some states have done, are not really going to perfectly work.
“If states continue to say `don’t come to our states to rear cattle’; it will continue to bring acrimony between brothers and sisters,’’ he added.
The don also called for a comprehensive sociological study of the protracted farmers-herdsmen crisis so as to enable the government to tackle all the contentious issues more scientifically and contain the conflict.
Olurode, who is a former INEC National Commissioner, disagreed with calls from certain quarters on the government to declare herdsmen as terrorists because of the attacks in Benue.
“I think the government needs to carry out a sociological study, a survey, to know where there were serious crises; where there have been very serious breakdowns of law and order like Benue State. There should be a thorough study to ascertain who the groups really are.
“Maybe, not all Fulani herdsmen were involved. Besides, what kind of relationship hitherto existed between the Fulani herdsmen and the communities?
“When we ask such questions and have concrete answers, we can then use the facts to fashion the way forward.
“People, who are urging the government to declare the Fulani herdsmen as terrorist groups, are ignorant and sentimental.
“What is the basis for that? Is it just because of reported incidents of violence all over the place? That will not get us into the root of the matter.
“What we need is a better understanding; we need to know if the ranks of the herdsmen have been infiltrated by unscrupulous politicians or the Boko Haram insurgents.
“Or maybe, the herdsmen are working for other purposes; only a scientific study will give us reliable answers to some of these issues and problems,’’ Olurode said.
However, Mr Nkem Lemchi, the Lagos State Chairman of African Democratic Congress, said: “The killings are becoming gruesome and threat to the unity of the nation.
“It is a pity that the Federal Government is not really decisive over the matter; it should attack the activities of the herdsmen with the same vehemence it applied on the IPOB (Indigenous Peoples of Biafra) matter.
“All we hear from the government is mere condemnation of the dastardly acts of the herdsmen. They should be declared terrorists; while their financiers are fished out and dealt with,’’ he said.