National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, on Saturday, broke his silence on the farmer-herder conflict and the growing violence in the country, calling for government takeover of “unoccupied public land” and turning same into ranches for cattle herders.
Tinubu, who suggested that such ranches be leased to herders at a very low price so as not to give the impression of free land for the herders, urged governors to also provide feed and water in the ranches.
The former Lagos governor, in a statement personally signed by him, attributed the violence between farmers and herders to growing poverty, the proliferation of weapons, increasing criminality and “weakening of social institutions.”
He said unless the issue of violence was addressed, it would be difficult to resolve the knotty issues at the heart of the conflict, just as he called for compensation for farmers and herders who have suffered losses and to help them break the cycle of poverty.
As part of further solution to the crisis, Tinubu called on the Federal Government to summon a meeting of governors, heads of security agencies, traditional and religious leaders as well as representatives of farmers and cattle herders.
“The purpose of this meeting would be to hammer out a set of working principles to resolve the crisis.
“There have been sporadic disputes in the past but this one is more severe. The reasons for the greater violence of this current dispute are myriad.
“Economic hardship and its resultant dislocation, proliferation of weapons, generalised increase in criminality, and weakening of social institutions all play a role.
“Desertification, increased severity and length of the dry season, diminution of water resources, impairment of land fertility and population growth also contribute in no small measure. Thus, any durable solution must get at most, if not all, of these issues,” he said.
“Farmers have a right to farm their land unmolested. Herders have a right to raise their livestock without undue interference.
“However, when conflict between these groups arises to such an extent, we must set forth clear principles and policies to remove the tension, in order to allow both to proceed toward their stated goals and to live in harmony and according to their respective rights.
“Just as I cannot go into your house and take your shirt because I do not have one of like colour, no one can destroy the crops of a farmer or seize the cattle of a herder simply because such destruction sates their anger or their selfish, short-term interests.
“If such a condition were to hold, then all would turn into chaos; all would be in jeopardy of being lost. To destroy the crops or seize the property of the innocent farmer or herder is nothing if not an act of criminality,” he stated.
The APC leader also suggested the establishment of an enduring forum for farmers, herders and other stakeholders for constant discussion of issues and mitigation of conflict. He chided those giving the crisis an ethnic colouration, saying ethnicity was neither the cause nor the origin of the conflict.
“More to the point, those who cast this as exclusively a matter of ethnic confrontation are mistaken. This is no time for reckless chauvinism of any kind, on either side of this dispute.
“This matter is not ethnic in factual origin or actual causation although in the minds and hearts of too many it has become ethnic in recrimination and impulsive action,” he said.