FULANI HERDMEN KILLING: A CANKERWORM TO NIGERIA ECONOMY

  There are several things that cause death, but killing another person is against the law since the beginning of mankind. In the past few

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There are several things that cause death, but killing another person is against the law since the beginning of mankind. In the past few months, Fulani herdsmen killing had risen tremendously in various states over the theft or killing of cows, dispute over farmland among other things. Death toll has risen to over 500 people killed during several attack by Fulani herdsmen. Early April, death toll was 257 persons killed, but with the attack in the past few weeks, death toll has risen to over 500 persons killed, in revenge to cows stolen or killed.

This growing activities of some rampaging Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country, particularly in the North Central Nigeria’s region of Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states, could pose potential threat to sectors’ development, including agriculture, mining, industries, among others. If not nipped in the bud, the nation’s economy could witness another long-drawn shock, that may be worse than the recession.

The attack in Plateau, which claimed loss of lives, in Ekiti, loss of lives and properties, in Adamawa, loss of lives and properties, in Imo, loss of properties, in Zamfara, loss of lives and properties, in Delta, loss of lives and properties and in Benue, loss of lives and properties and other states that have been attacked by Fulani herdsmen.Attacks on these states have left these states with more homeless persons and Internally Displaced persons, IDPs.

Benue, the food basket of the nation is frequently attacked by Fulani herdsmen leaving the ‘basket’ of the food basket of the nation almost empty. This emptiness has significant effect on the economy of the nation as farmers are afraid togo to their farms with the fear of being killed in the farm or fear of their wives and daughters being raped and killed in the farm.

To avert loss of lives and properties in Enugu State, Udi LGA paid a sum of N2m to herdsmen for alleged killing of some cows for the sake of peace in the local government.

The chairman Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeder Association of Nigeria in NassarawaState, MallamMuhammed Hussein expressed sadness over attack of the army on the Fulani community which killed 6 herdsmen and over 150 cows. The association believes that developing grazing reserves was the first step to take before embracing ranching,

The special town hall meeting organized by the minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed was a failed attempt in addressing the killing spree by the Fulani herdsmen, rather, several speakers who spoke during the meeting gave reasons why these perpetrators of evil fulfilled their desire. But the speakers gave several reasons for the need to provide grazing reserves. 

Following the rising spate of attacks, a number of states, including Ekiti, Benue and Taraba passed anti-grazing laws as a measure to curb these pastoral clashes, but their suggested punitive measures have been largely ineffective, except in Ekiti, where the measures have at least seen attacks go to nearly zero.

The economic impact of the strife is multi-faceted. First, the cattle industry is underperforming. It contributed 1.58 percent to Nigeria’s GDP as at Q3 2017, as against crop production that contributed 22.19 per cent. Maybe, if farmers knew some of their produce could be traded with the herdsmen for acceptable payment, there would be the incentive to provide quality feeds to the herders’ cattle, improving the meat and milk yields.

However, because violence, and not commerce is the means of exchange, the farmers are more incentivised to even poison crops they know the cattle will feed on, destroying value for both the farmers and the herders alike.

In an economy in need of diversification like Nigeria, building up national agricultural production will necessarily require a resolution to this conflict.

A second level of this is the fact that the violence decimates communities that would have been potential markets for the herders. Many communities in the affected regions have emptied out seeking refuge in other violence free places. Coupled with refugees from the Boko Haram crisis, and the newly developing displacements from the English speaking regions of Cameroon, Nigeria stands the risk of having even elevated numbers of internally displaced people within its borders.

Cattle is a source of beef and the security threatens the ability to get them to their markets in the south. Most of the communities in the Middle-Belt where the attacks have taken place are in the much vaunted ‘food basket’ of the country. The Middle-Belt has traditionally been one of Nigeria’s most agriculturally productive regions. Crops such as yam, cassava, rice, soy beans and guinea corn, amongst others which are grown in the rich soils hold the key to Nigeria’s quest for self-sustainability in food production. It will therefore not be an exaggeration to note that the current pastoral conflict raging across key Middle-Belt states probably has more economic implications to the country than the conflict in North Eastern Nigeria.

A lot of the produce from the north that goes to the south and the west such as pepper, tomatoes and grains pass through this region as well. As more and more communities abandon farming and take up arms, the impact on supply of these foods and meat to the south and the west has reflected even more on the price and food inflation has continue to rise.

Socially, youths will be affected by believing violence take a longer time to return to being productive, creating a situation where there are able bodied youths unable to work because they lack the core skills that will be their source of livelihood.

Furthermore, as numerous farming communities have been displaced, unemployment which was already an issue has escalated along with declining food production. The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations estimates that the number of food insecured people in Nigeria stood at about 11 million as at August 2017, with the number projected to increase in the short term. This scenario holds worrying implications on economic, social and security.

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, stated in 2016 that Nigeria spends about ₦6.6 trillion a year on food importation, an amount which dwarfed the 2016 national budget of ₦6.06 trillion.

The federal government recently called for arms mop up, both legally and illegally acquired arms, perhaps the most important measure is being overlooked, which is mopping up Fulani herdsmen arms, get the Middle-Belt farmers back to work so that food production will be rooted in the country. Other countries have disarmed groups in the past, and it is time for Nigeria to do the same.Nigeria should not wait until the Fulani herdsmen are capable of taking on entire military formation like Boko Haram, or worse, or until other groups get access to military grade weapons.

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