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8,000 killed, 200,000 displaced in N/West – Report

More than 8,000 persons have been reportedly killed in farmers, herders’ conflicts and related violence in the North-West states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna and the North-Central state of Niger in the last 10 years.

Also, 200,000 people were similarly displaced with some of the victims fleeing to the neighbouring Niger Republic.

The figures were released by the International Crisis Group (ICG) via an e-mail from its African office in Kenya to Blueprint newspapers in Abuja.

This was contained in an executive summary of its principal findings as released by the senior communications officer for Africa, Mr. Nicolas Delaunay.

The group urged both the federal and state governments to reform livestock production as a way out of the herders, farmers’ clashes, the newspaper reported.

It said: “What’s new?Nigeria’s North West is suffering deadly conflict involving many armed organisations, including herder-allied groups, vigilantes, criminal gangs and jihadists.

The violence has killed over 8,000 people since 2011, and displaced over 200,000, some into neighbouring Niger. Despite several security operations and dialogue efforts, a durable peace remains elusive.”

“Why does it matter?Violence is rooted in competition over resources between predominantly Fulani herders and mostly Hausa farmers. It has escalated amid a boom in organised crime, including cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom and village raids. Jihadist groups are now stepping in to take advantage of the security crisis.”

On what should be done, the group said: “Nigeria’s federal and state governments should facilitate settlements between farmers and herders – easing friction by reforming livestock production. They should cooperate with Niger to stem cross-border flows of weapons and jihadists, as well as to better police lawless forests and gold mining areas. International partners should help address humanitarian needs.”

The report further noted that “Nigeria’s arid North-west is beset by violence between herders and farmers, which has been compounded by an explosion in criminal activity and infiltration by jihadist groups into the region. The last decade has seen thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, with many fleeing into Niger Republic next door.

“ State level peace efforts with several armed factions have had some success, but these will not prove durable unless more actors lay down their weapons. To roll back the mayhem, federal and state authorities should focus on reducing tensions between herders and farmers, including by expediting implementation of the national livestock plan.

“They should also support dialogue between the Hausa and Fulani, the region’s two communities most closely tied to farming and herding, respectively. In addition, Abuja needs to improve security and law enforcement in the region in order to curb criminality and bolster its ability to protect citizens, as well as to step up efforts to address environmental and economic issues underlying the violence.”

While pointing out that the causes of violence in the north-west were complex, the ICG noted that “at its root, the region’s security crisis derives from long-running competition over land and water resources between predominantly Fulani herders and mainly Hausa farmers, both of whom have over time mobilised armed groups (referred to by the authorities as “bandits” and “vigilantes”, respectively) for protection.

“Climate change-related environmental degradation and high population growth have intensified this struggle. Amid a boom in the trade of small arms and light weapons in the region, organised gangs operating from ungoverned forests have proliferated, engaging in cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery, including of miners and traders in the largely unregulated gold mining sector, as well as pillage of communities.”

“Having originated in Zamfara state, gang violence has since spread to five other nearby states, namely Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger, the last of which is in North-central Nigeria,” it further said.

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