Farmers/Herdsmen clash: Kwara Police to the rescue. By AHMED 'LATEEF
With the attendant frightening casualty figures arising from the incessant clashes between herders and farmers in some parts of the country, Police in Kwara State recently convened a stakeholders' meeting to avert such violent scenario from being enacted in the state. AHMED 'LATEEF wrote on issues raised at the meeting.
Disagreement, misunderstanding and rivalry among other related vices seem synonymous with human society. Apparently, no society populated by human beings is immune from the vices. Most of the time, some of these menacing situations assume a dangerous dimension that often end in orgy of violence.
Little wonder that across the globe, crises or conflicts usually emanate from disagreement on certain issues from both sides of the divide.
These days, conflicts, internecine wars and violent threats have become a common phenomenon in not only this clime but also advanced clime. For instance, United States and North Korea are currently locked in a fierce altercation, which may eventually snowball into an all time war scenario. In the same vein, the US is also at dagger drawn with Russia as fear heightens over likely confrontation between the two powerful nations. That is just on the world arena.
Back home in Nigeria, to posit that the country is grappling with war situation is to say the least. Beside threats on the declaration of Biafra State by secessionists in South-East, militancy in South-South, insurgency in the North-East with attendant violence, another crisis situation that has put the nation on a standoff is frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
The pogrom that characterized such clashes between the two in Benue and Enugu States could not be over-emphasized with gruesome murder of innocent people. The crisis in some Agatu communities in Benue State has not abated as maiming and killing has reached an alarming proportion.
Available facts have shown that the crisis usually occurs as a result of mutual suspicion between the farmers and herdsmen. While farmers most time allege that herdsmen cause destruction to their farmlands following invasion by their cattle, the herdsmen on the other hand believe it was just an attempt to call dog a bad name in order to hang it.
This suspicion has persisted for long with unimaginable orgy of violence that has become order of the day.
But another dimension to the ugly trend is that the act of callousness is said to have been perpetrated by unidentified herdsmen leading to reprisals from both sides. Though in Kwara State, there was a time such incident was recorded in Alapa community of Asa Local Government Area. The level of destruction that greeted the violence was heart wrenching.
In the same vein, what appeared to be a re-enactment of the clash occurred recently in Yakira Area of Gwanara District of Baruten Local Government Area of the state where a farmer was allegedly killed by unknown herdsmen. This triggered a reprisal that resulted in the death of some people.
The development thus became a major concern for security agencies especially the police on how to put an end to such ugly scenario.
In addressing the menace, the Kwara State police command last week convened a stakeholders' forum at Police Officers' Mess, Ilorin where issues pertaining to the clashes between the farmers and herdsmen were brought to the front burner.
At the meeting were the state commissioner of police, Emmanuel Olusola Amore; representative of the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Zulu Gambari, traditional chiefs, community leaders and the state leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria.
Speaking at the meeting, the police boss observed that the crisis between the herdsmen and farmers became a recurring decimal because some traditional chiefs gave settlement approval to strangers under the pretext of being herdsmen.
He said reports at his disposal showed that the affected community leaders were providing shields for the strangers on account of pecuniary gains.
The police commissioner stated that it was disheartening that traditional chiefs in the habit of harbouring unknown people acted without recourse to the palace of the Emir of Ilorin and security agencies.
He said the police command would no longer tolerate such unwholesome attitude.
Amore, however, informed that vigilante groups are currently undergoing reorganization across the 16 Local Government Areas of the state in order to resolve alleged abuse of the groups.
He said the command had received reports that some vigilante groups under the guise of ethnic affiliations, were attacking innocent people instead of complementing efforts of law enforcement agencies.
Amore noted that it has come to the fore that some of the vigilante groups were established as an armed wing of various tribes while arrangements are on to streamline the groups.
The police boss, however, explained that the meeting was summoned to ensure peace in communities and localities and see what can be done to prevent crisis.
Amore disclosed that communal clash was becoming prevalent in some parts of the country owing to the influx of people in crisis ridden areas to their new places of settlement.
He said the command also noted with concern the incessant clash between herdsmen and farmers, which had resulted in various casualties.
The police boss, however, urged traditional chiefs to avoid sentiment and remain impartial while mediating on violent disputes in their domains.
"The meeting was called because of the recent incident in Kwara State where we are having influx of strange people and those presented here are representatives of Emir and there is need for them to know their roles; the roles they should play in their various communities.
"We have spoken to them about the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to solve problems in their various communities, for the mere fact that they are the leaders in those communities; the need for them to have regular meeting with all the stakeholders within their communities; the police, the Miyetti Allah and to have peace and consultative forum to sustain the peace in their communities.
"More importantly for them to see the danger in accommodating strangers just for monetary gains. There is an inherent danger in just allowing strangers that you don't know where they are coming from, you don't know what they have done before they were expelled from their various communities.
"Just for pittance of money, you allow them to settle, then they will now become a big problem into such communities, and that is why we are trying to sensitize all the community leaders to ensure that at least they know their roles, to ensure they inform the Emir they are representing, they inform DPOs, they inform Local Government Chairmen if they have problem in their various communities and getting law enforcement agents involved.
"We also spoke to them about the issue of Vigilante Group. The government is trying to reorganize the vigilante team and very soon, that one will come into place", the police commissioner said.
The Emir of Ilorin, who was represented at the meeting by Balogun Ajikobi of Ilorin, Alhaji Issa Jimoh, said the monarch had instructed traditional chiefs to report any stranger noticed in their communities to the Emirate council for appropriate action.
He said any herdsman coming to reside within the jurisdiction of Ilorin Emirate must henceforth be armed with official report from wherever he is coming from.
He said the essence of the directive was to ensure that questionable characters are not allowed in the state.
The Emir, who called for love among residents of the city, also harped on the need to offer assistance to one another regardless of ethnic affiliations.
He also warned against retaliation whenever disputes occur in local communities, saying security agencies are on ground to attend to such situations.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Ilorin Emirate Magaji/ Alangua Forum, Alhaji Abdulwahab Sanni, pointed that local communities have been grappling with nefarious activities of the herdsmen for long time.
He urged the police to sensitize the community leaders from time to time on what should be done to permanently halt the mutual suspicion, which most of the time, ends in skirmish.
Sanni also appealed to the police to improve security system in various communities to address the problem of clashes as they occur.
In his remarks, the Secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Kwara State chapter, AbdulAzeez Mohammed, said the association has been in the vanguard of harmonious living through instruction to members to value peace at all time.
"As far as Miyetti Allah is concerned, we always call on our people to value peaceful co-existence especially between farmers and herdsmen in the state, and that is why Miyetti Allah has established a monthly meeting with all local chapter leaders in the state to discuss issues concerning peaceful co-existence of our people, particularly on the cases involving clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
"The state executive of Miyetti Allah is working round the clock in all the 16 Local Government Areas to call on our people to value peaceful co-existence in the state. Concerning the rift between herdsmen and farmers, the Miyetti Allah has passed a circular recently to all the herdsmen in the state to avoid vandalization of crops in their quest for greener pasture.
"And I think a mutual understanding will be sufficient to settle the rift between farmers and herdsmen, where we can sit together and reason together, we will know what to do", he said.