The presidency says it is “coming up with a conference of stakeholders on infrastructural and agricultural development” in order to “find short term and long term solutions to frequent conflicts between farmers and cattle rearers.”
“The conference will tap into experiences and best practices to draw up a planned development 20-30 years ahead based on population and development projections and will take into consideration environmental impacts,” said the presidency in a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
Why this matters:
Pres. Buhari is worried about the negative flak he is receiving over the unrestrained killings by herdsmen especially in the Middle Belt region.
Only today, TheScoop published an open letter to the president by former ambassador, Iyorwuese Hagher, who said “The protection of lives of citizens is the most sacred responsibility of the state and your presidency. Your government has failed woefully in this regard. Mr President there is no greater corruption than the government looking the other way while the strong bullies and kills the weak with impunity and pleasure! It is unfortunate that family members of those that were hacked to death will remember you as the genocide president!”
As the tide of public opinion crystallises against the president over his handling of the crisis, the presidency realizes that it faces a race against time to push back against what it describes as “unfair and unkind” insinuations that Buhari is condoning the killings.
Why it is hard to take the presidency seriously:
But it is very difficult to take the presidency seriously on this matter.
Why? The short answer is that we have heard all of this before. Nothing in the latest pronouncements feels like there is a renewed urgency or determination by the presidency. There isn’t even a timeline for the proposed conference.
On three other occasions in the past, the FG had made pronouncements about taking actions on this matter, but each time the pronouncements end up being mere proclamations without committed implementation.
The proposed grazing areas: Two years ago, President Buhari told a visiting delegation from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue of what he intends to do to end the frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen. He said “a plan to map out grazing areas will soon be presented to the Nigerian Governors Forum as a temporary solution to the frequent conflicts until cattle owners are persuaded to adopt other means of rearing their cattle.”
Of course, several states expressed resistance to giving up portions of their land as grazing reserves. However, Buhari never formally tabled the details of that plan and how his government intended to see to its implementation. In the two years since then, the FG has also not begun the process of “persuading” cattle owners to adopt other means of cattle rearing like ranching.
- The proposed national conference: Almost a year ago, the minister of agriculture, Audu Ogbeh said the federal government will hold a national conference to discuss and proffer solutions to he farmers/herdsmen clashes. Ogbeh said the government would engage all stakeholders involved in cattle breeding, as well as farmers to discuss and analyse the situation with a view to finding the solution to the crisis. In fact, a Local Organizing Committee for the conference was inaugurated in July last year. Nothing happened after that.
Another point to note is that a committee supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was set up to look into the root causes of the clashes. that committee submitted a report. No visible action has been taken concerning the said report.
The Osinbajo road show: Late last year Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office said he had begun consultations with stakeholders over the matter following a visit to some of the affected communities where clashes had occurred, resulting in deaths and displacements. The Vice President met with some Northern leaders at the State House, including the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II; the Lamido of Adamawa, Muhammadu Musdafa; and elder statesman Alhaji Ahmed Joda, among other leaders of the Fulani communities.
Osinbajo said the meeting was going to be the first in a series of meetings with stakeholders. Nothing was heard about that effort afterwards.
Now, the presidency has announced yet another conference. Unfortunately, its antecedents on this conflict since taking over power has been poor. It does not give much reason to hope.