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Herdsmen Conflict: Over 60,000 Lives Lost and the Count Continues!

Nigeria stands out as one of the few countries worldwide where the management of livestock herding and nomadism has deteriorated to the point where it has escalated into violence. In this context, herders have resorted to armed confrontations with farmers, and the response from law enforcement agencies has been minimal, if not entirely absent.

During a “stakeholders’ interactive session organized by the House ad-hoc Committee on recurring “clashes” in Gombe State and Abuja, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ben Kalu, revealed that more than 60,000 individuals have lost their lives over the past 22 years, dating back to the onset of herders’ attacks in 2001. These attacks typically involve armed herdsmen targeting farmers, their agricultural produce, and communities for destruction. The issue of herdsmen has had a widespread impact across Nigeria, affecting various regions of the country. The problem reached its zenith during the Muhammadu Buhari administration, when armed herdsmen militias carried out destructive actions in nearly every state. This escalation occurred partly because some quarters perceived the Buhari government as either supporting or tolerating the violent campaigns of these militias. In response, individuals and indigenous communities that attempted to defend themselves often found themselves targeted, exacerbating the crisis further.

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The killings perpetrated by armed herdsmen have been particularly concentrated in regions such as Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Enugu, Ebonyi, Ondo, Edo, Oyo, and other states.

One significant issue during the Buhari administration was the reluctance to designate these armed herdsmen as terrorists, despite their being classified as one of the most deadly terrorist organizations since 2016.

Over time, the previously peaceful nomadic herdsmen turned to violence because the grazing routes they traditionally used for moving their cattle were taken over for farming and housing due to the expanding human population. The failure to settle these nomadic herders in ranches inadvertently weaponized them against their host communities.

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The Buhari regime’s perceived inability to address the situation fairly was seen as a case of favoring one group at the expense of another, allowing jobless and criminal herdsmen to victimize unarmed and law-abiding citizens.

While some might view the House of Representatives’ efforts as insufficient, there is a belief that they can only voice their concerns without taking meaningful action. The responsibility to address this issue now rests squarely with President Bola Tinubu. He faces a choice between continuing to accommodate this terrorism or taking decisive measures to eradicate it.

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Many believe that a solution to this problem is attainable. It involves expelling foreign herders while resettling local ones in their states of origin or helping them acquire lands for ranching purposes. The primary objective is to put an end to the ongoing killings and violence.

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