By Wole Mosadomi
Minna— Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has said 2,500 lives were lost, while no fewer than 62,000 people were displaced within one year in Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue states as a result of violent clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
Similarly, he also said the country lost $13.7 billion within the same period due to the clashes in the four states.
Abubakar, who made these known while addressing the opening of a one-day forum on farmer-herder relations in Nigeria at his Maizube Farms, Minna, Niger State yesterday, said the statistics were so alarming and disturbing and, therefore, called on government to take urgent steps to forestall future occurences.
He said the steps to be taken should not be left in the hands of the Federal Government alone but should be a collaborated efforts of the three tiers of government and even individuals and other relevant bodies in order to save the country from further calamities.
General Abubakar said: “The Federal Government loses $13.7 billion annually as a result of farmers/herders conflicts in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau states. On an average, these four states lost up to half (47 per cent) of their internally generated revenue.
“The hidden causes of these conflicts on every sphere of our national life are enormous and it has been estimated that about 2,500 persons were killed nationwide in 2016 and this is why governments at all levels should put in place appropriate policies and responses that would guard against recurrence of such clashes between the two warring bodies across the country.”
General Abdulsalami pointed out that the recent crisis in Plateau, Benue and other states have led to loss of lives, properties, displacement of persons and families and also resulted in untold hardships to the affected communities and even individuals.
“The development should be a wake up call to all relevant stakeholders, states and federal government, legislatures, traditional rulers, civil society organizations, security agencies and communities on the need to address these deadly conflicts that are expanding gradually to other states in the federation. The current situation is threatening the fragile peace in the nation,’’ he said.
Abubakar noted that in the past, the relationship between the farmers and herders was cordial and wondered on what could have led to this frequent clashes now.
According to him, “there is a breakdown of communal trust, conflict resolution mechanisms and these conflicts have become deadly.”
He commended the Search for Common Ground for its initiative and for collaborating with the General Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development Studies, and expressed optimism that the Forum would recommend sustainable solutions to farmers/herders clashes in the country.
Project analyst Search for CommoN Ground, Bukola Adeleye, in an address at the forum, traced the causes of farmers/herders clashes to struggle for control of arable land and water in the affected areas, adding that the conflicts should not be given any religious colouration.
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