Southwest Farmers, Herders Sign Peace Pact To Counter Food Insecurity 

The farmer/herder crisis, once uncommon in southwestern Nigeria, has expanded southward due to pasture degradation and rising violence in the North, compelling herders to migrate southward.

According to the International Crisis Groups, approximately 300,000 individuals have fled their homes since January 2018 due to clashes between farmers and herders in the region.

However, there’s a sense of hope that the ongoing conflicts may soon subside, given the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on April 18 between the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria and the Southwest Commodities Farmers Organisation, aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence.

During a day summit in Ibadan, farmers and herders in the southwest signed a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to work together for the benefit of both parties and Nigeria.

In a telephone conversation with Daily Trust, the coordinator of the Southwest Commodities Farmers Organisation, Olusegun Dasaolu, stated that the two parties are the critical stakeholders in the crisis.

He said the federal government has put in place different mechanisms to ensure peaceful coexistence without success but described this as the right step in the right direction because it involves the critical stakeholders.

Dasaolu said, “This is going to take a long way in solving the food crisis in the sense that farmers will now feel secure to go back to their farms and so agricultural production will increase and will assist greatly in the Renewed Hope Agenda of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

“We have the indigenous herders, born and bred within the system, but the intruders often come with all sorts of evil, but a correct data would help in crisis management. Strangers need to be identified. Someone moves his animal from Niger, Benin Republic and moves down to Nigeria without any record or trace of movements. Tracing such people when they commit crimes is impossible.

“However, if we have data, whatever happens in a locality will be easily traced through the database. When there is also a smooth relationship between farmers and herders, they will be able to recognise one another and solve common problems.

“Also, in the six South West states, an enabling law has been put in place by the houses of assembly to control farmers and herders’ clashes. These laws are there but have never been implemented. Putting this law into practice would guide the farmers and herders on best practices of their trades.

Dasaolu emphasised the South West farmers’ determination to uphold the success of the agreement, expressing confidence in MACBAN’s ability to assist in authentic herder identification and registration, noting that signing the agreement was just one step towards food sustainability, with both parties scheduled to convene regularly to enhance a harmonious working rapport.

The National Chairman of Miyyeti Allah, Othman Ngelzarma, acknowledged that the agreement was an opportunity to chart a way forward in ensuring the security of both farmers and herders in the region.

He noted that the Fulani are known for keeping their word and rarely violate agreements, with any breaches usually coming from the other party.

Ngelzarma said, “During the formation of Amọtẹkun, the late Ondo State governor, Akeredolu, succumbed to unconfirmed information given to him by his other colleagues. Due to this, he made a lot of statements which discredited the Fulani in the state.

“Up till now, the Fulani in Ondo State are living peacefully. It has been affirmed that it is not only Fulani that kidnap people. Other groups are also caught in the act. Some Yoruba criminals from Kwara State disguised as Fulani, and they did a lot of atrocities before they were caught, and it was proved that they were not Fulani. This is not to say that there are no criminal elements among Fulani, but they are everywhere in every tribe.

“In Ekiti State, we sat together with Fayose and formed a committee; a critical stakeholders’ committee from the state down to local government levels and that has worked to ensure peace during his time. Fayose directed pastoralists to stay in the game reserve, since he had no grazing reserve, and get registered with the local government and they all got registered under the local governments. And that was how they all got registered. He also signed a law that any pastoralist who allows his cattle to cause destruction on someone’s farmlands has to pay for such destruction and must be made to face the law, going to prison.

“Also, the same was to apply to any farmer who killed Fulani cattle. We were at the centre of everything and got everything done in Ekiti State. This was the same way that we had engagements with Akeredolu, but he never asked us to get Fulani registered or put mechanisms in place for such. I was the association’s secretary for eight years before becoming the president.

“There was never a time when such issues of registering Fulani came up in Ondo. These allegations are mere concoctions and imagination of people who resent Fulani for one reason or the other. Unfortunately, some media houses aid them in this course, thereby contributing in tarnishing the image of the Fulani pastoralists.” 

Ngelzarma emphasized that the MoU has fostered unity between farmers and herders in the South West, prompting them to collaborate effectively to address any internal issues within the pastoralist community, aiming to resolve conflicts amicably and advance agriculture. 

He highlighted the summit as a pivotal step toward finding lasting solutions to challenges faced by farmers in the region, outlining plans to identify genuine stakeholders and improve communication between farmers and herders.

Both Ngelzarma and Dasaolu emphasized the crucial role of government support in achieving success with their objectives.

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