Stakeholders at a meeting organised by the Federal Government in Abuja have differed over solutions to killings by herdsmen in Benue and other states.While some insisted on return to grazing reserves, others urged herdsmen to ranch their cattle, to forestall clashes between them and farmers.
In his remarks, Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, blamed criminal elements and not religious motives for the killings. He linked the murders to demographic, environmental, social and economic dynamics.
He said: “In 1963, Nigeria’s population was 52 million. Today, it is about 200 million, which is four times the old figure. Yet, the land space has remained the same, or has even shrunk, if we take into consideration the effect of desertification to which Nigeria loses 400,000 hectares of land every year.
“Against this background, the contest for land and other natural resources is bound to be keener, and the friction more. There is also the case of the Lake Chad, which has shrunk from 25,000 square kilometres to 2,500 square kilometres.”
In his address, the Birma of Biu and Chairman, Council of Kingmakers, Alhaji Ibrahim S. Birma, recommended grazing reserves, as opposed to ranching, urging state governments to identify grazing routes within their states to avoid further clashes.
But the representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Peter Ogunmuyiwa, opposed a return to grazing. He urged herdsmen instead to adopt ranching as is done globally. He said it would be almost impossible to recover lands earlier designated as grazing reserves, in view of population explosion and development.
For the National Secretary, Miyetti-Allah Association, Baba Othman Ngelzarma, identifying grazing reserves and making them attractive are the solution to the clashes. He argued that compensating farmers without doing the same for herdsmen would only breed bitterness.