Showing posts with label herders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label herders. Show all posts

Friday, January 26, 2024

Video - Farmers in Nigeria plead with government over insecurity

In Nigeria, farmers are calling on the government to make their communities safer so they can help relieve a food-security crisis in the country. The plea comes as village leaders complain they are not able to spend time tending to their crops because they fear being attacked.


Related story: Video - At least 30 people killed in the latest violence in Nigeria

Video - More security personnel deployed to Plateau state in Nigeria after December attacks 

Villagers missing in Nigeria two days after suspected nomadic herders kill 140


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Video - At least 30 people killed in the latest violence in Nigeria

Authorities say assailants stormed a village in the Mangu Local Government area and two additional nearby communities on Tuesday. In addition to the deaths, several buildings, including a market and worship centers were destroyed.


Related stories: Video - More security personnel deployed to Plateau state in Nigeria after December attacks

Villagers missing in Nigeria two days after suspected nomadic herders kill 140



Friday, January 5, 2024

Video - More security personnel deployed to Plateau state in Nigeria after December attacks

The additional deployment follows attacks by gunmen who invaded communities in Plateau state on Christmas Eve, killing over 150 people. Analysts believe the government needs to employ more than just a heavy hand to bring peace to the area.


Related stories: Video - President of Nigeria says Plateau state attack planners will be apprehended

Villagers missing in Nigeria two days after suspected nomadic herders kill 140



Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Villagers missing in Nigeria two days after suspected nomadic herders kill 140

Nigerian mother-of-three Grace Godwin was preparing food on Christmas Eve when her husband burst into the kitchen and ordered her and the children to run and take cover in the bush after gunmen were spotted in a nearby village.

Soon they heard gunfire, starting an hours-long attack by suspected nomadic herders who rampaged through 15 villages in central Plateau state on Sunday, killing at least 140 people with guns and machetes, officials, police and residents said.

It was the bloodiest violence since 2018 when more than 200 people were killed in Nigeria's central region where clashes between herders and farmers are common.

"We returned at 6 the next morning and found that houses had been burnt and people killed. There are still people missing," Godwin said by phone.

"There is no one in Mayanga (village), women and children have all fled."

It was not immediately clear what triggered Sunday's attacks but violence in the region, known as the "Middle Belt", is often characterised as ethno-religious - chiefly Muslim Fulani herdsmen clashing with mainly Christian farmers.

But experts and politicians say climate change and expanding agriculture are creating competition for land, pushing farmers and herders into conflict.

Nomadic cattle herders are from northern Nigeria, which is getting drier and becoming more prone to drought and floods. That is forcing them to trek further south, where farmers are increasing production as the population rapidly expands.

That means less land for nomads and their cattle, supporting the view among local people that the conflict is based on the availability of resources rather than ethnic or religious differences.

"These attacks have been recurring. They want to drive us out of our ancestral land but we will continue to resist these assaults," said Magit Macham, who had returned from the state capital Jos to celebrate Christmas with his family.

Macham was chatting to his brother outside his house when the sputtering sound of a petrol generator was interrupted by gunshots. His brother was hit by a bullet in the leg but Macham dragged him to into the bush where they hid for the night.

"We were taken unawares and those that could run ran into the bush. A good number of those that couldn't were caught and killed with machetes," he said.

Plateau governor called the violence "unprovoked" and police said several houses, cars and motorcycles were burnt.

President Bola Tinubu, who has yet to spell out how he intends to tackle widespread security, described the attacks as "primitive and cruel" and directed police to track down those responsible.

By Hamza Ibrahim and Camillus Eboh, Reuters

Related story: Video - Over 100 kidnapped from four villages in Nigeria

At least 23 killed in Nigeria after herdsmen attack villagers

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Bomb blast kills at least 50 in Nigeria

Dozens of cattle herders and bystanders were killed and several injured by a suspected bomb blast in Nigeria's north central region, a state government official and spokesperson of the national cattle breeders said on Wednesday.

The incident happened on Tuesday night between Nasarawa and Benue states in north central Nigeria.

The spokesperson of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Tasi'u Suleman, said a group of Fulani herders were moving their cattle to Nasarawa from Benue, where authorities had confiscated the animals for breaching anti-grazing laws, when an explosion rocked the area.

"At least about 54 people died instantly. Those who were injured were countless," Suleman said.

Nasarawa governor Abdullahi Sule did not say how many people were killed, but told reporters that a bomb blast was responsible for the deaths.

He did not say who was believed to be behind the explosion, but said he had been meeting with security agencies "to ensure that we continue to douse the tension" that could be caused by the incident.

North central Nigeria, also known as the Middle Belt, is prone to violence due to clashes between Fulani pastoralists and farmers, who are mainly Christian, which is often painted as ethno-religious conflict.

But experts say population growth and climate change has led to an expansion of the area dedicated to farming, leaving less land available for open grazing by nomads' herds of cattle.

The governor's spokesperson Abubakar Ladan told Reuters that mass burial for those killed were held earlier on Wednesday.

By Ardo Hazzad and Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters

Related stories: Dozens killed in ‘barbaric, senseless’ violence in Nigeria

Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

Friday, October 21, 2022

At least 23 killed in Nigeria after herdsmen attack villagers

Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the Nigerian state of Benue left at least 23 people dead, a local official said on Thursday, the latest deadly incident fuelled by growing pressure on land resources in Africa's most populous country.

Violence between farmers and pastoralists has become increasingly common in recent years as population growth leads to an expansion of the area dedicated to farming, leaving less land available for open grazing by nomads' herds of cattle.

Kertyo Tyounbur, chairman of the Ukum local government area of Benue where the violence took place, gave a death toll of 23.

Local resident William Samson said the trouble started on Tuesday when villagers killed two herders and stole their cattle. This was followed by a reprisal attack by herdsmen on Wednesday on the village of Gbeji, he said.

Reuters could not verify his account from other sources in the remote rural area.

Benue is one of Nigeria's Middle Belt states, where the majority Muslim North meets the predominantly Christian South.

Competition over land use is particularly intractable in the Middle Belt as the fault lines between farmers and herders often overlap with ethnic and religious divisions.

The Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast has worsened the problem by driving herders into the Middle Belt and further south, analysts say, while climate change and increasing aridity in the North are also contributing factors.

By Chijioke Ohuocha


Related stories: Conflict between Herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria escalates

Mass burial in Nigeria for 73 killed in violence between herdsmen and farmers

Pastoralist attack survivors unsettled in Nigeria

Friday, October 7, 2022

Women, children drown fleeing attack in Nigeria’s north

Several women and children drowned while trying to escape an armed attack in Nigeria’s troubled northern region, residents and a government official said Thursday.

The victims died when their boats capsized while fleeing an hours-long assault by unidentified gunmen Wednesday night on the Birnin Waje community in Zamfara state, said Ibrahim Zauma, a resident.

“The situation is dire because most of the people have run away from their homes. The dead bodies recovered so far is 13,” Zauma said.

It was not clear how many people might have drowned, but many who fled their homes had not returned to the area, which residents said remained volatile more than 24 hours after the violence.

Ibrahim Bello, a Zamfara government spokesman, confirmed the attack, saying that “an unknown number of mostly women and children got drowned” as they sought to escape in two boats.

He did not say whether any arrests had been made.

The attack was the latest in a cycle of violence by armed groups targeting remote communities in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions.

Authorities often blame the attacks on a group of mostly young pastoralists from the Fulani tribe caught up in Nigeria’s conflict between communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

The deadly clashes between local communities and the herdsmen have defied government measures seeking to quell the violence, although security forces have recently announced some arrests and seizure of arms.

Nigeria’s security forces are outnumbered and outgunned in many of the affected communities while authorities also continue to fight a decade-long insurgency launched by Islamist extremist rebels in the northeast.

By Chinedu Asadu


Related stories: Civilians are stepping in to keep the peace in the deadly feud between herders and farmers

Dozens killed in ‘barbaric, senseless’ violence in Nigeria

Video - Is Nigeria's security crisis out of control?

Friday, September 16, 2022

Pastoralist attack survivors unsettled in Nigeria

One sunny afternoon in April, Rahmata Adeagbo, was seated on a bed in her brother’s house where she now lives, staring blankly at the visitors.

“Ade-lo-wo … Ade-a-gbo,” the 50-year-old muttered after a long silence, painfully stringing the syllables of her late husband’s name.

On June 5, 2021, he had stepped out after receiving calls that nomadic herdsmen had laid siege to their town, Igangan, some 176km (109 miles) away from Lagos. The next time she saw him, his body was ridden with bullets, one of 11 deaths during the attack.

Before that episode, Igangan and six neighbouring towns – all in Oyo state – had experienced a number of clashes stemming from disagreements between Indigenous Yoruba farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen.

At the root of the crisis is cattle grazing on farmlands across Nigeria but the battle for resources has been exacerbated by climate change across the Sahel, worsening economic conditions and in some cases, ethnicity and religion; the nomads are mostly Muslim and the farmers are predominantly Christians.

Entire villages have been displaced and schools closed for successive sessions. Interstate food supply chains are disrupted as cattle markets have been razed and farmers have been unable to tend to their crops or have seen them destroyed.

In central Nigeria, the hotspot, as many as 13 million people are at risk of hunger, the World Food Programme said earlier this year.

Between 2016 and 2018, there were 3,641 deaths nationwide due to the conflict, according to Amnesty International. The majority of the reported victims were Indigenes and herdsmen were reported as the aggressors, launching deadly raids frequently.

But even in the southwest, where interfaith households are common and religious tolerance is deemed the highest nationwide, these clashes have become rife. In recent years, it has morphed into more dangerous dimensions involving kidnappings, rape, highway robberies, and coordinated destruction of farmlands.

In 2019, an anti-open grazing law addressing what many experts have identified as the root cause of the disagreements – resource sharing – was passed into law in Oyo. But it has not yet been implemented.

Two years later, as attacks in Igangan continued without perpetrators being apprehended, non-state actors led by a Yoruba ethnic rights activist, Sunday Adeyemo Igboho, demolished property belonging to Fulani residents.

Residents told Al Jazeera that this eviction and the controversies that followed likely spurred the June 5 attack.

Growing distrust

According to a report [PDF] by the International Crisis Group, factors that have allowed Nigeria’s pastoralist crisis to fester range from impunity and eroding confidence in the country’s security forces to the government’s poor response to early warnings.

For years, the national security architecture has been overstretched by armed groups running riot in northeast, northwest and central Nigeria.

In January 2020, as cases of insecurity spiked in southwest Nigeria, the six state governors in the region agreed to create a regional security network. It was codenamed Amotekun (Yoruba for leopard). The federal government kicked against the move citing constitutional concerns so the governors redesigned it into a state-based security vigilante to support the police, which is controlled by Abuja.

In Oyo State, the outfit launched in November 2020.

Even though the June 2021 attack remains the last full-scale one coordinated by herdsmen on residents of any of the seven neighbouring towns, residents told Al Jazeera that neither the recent reduction in attacks nor the government’s efforts had eased their fears.

Matthew Page, an associate fellow at the UK-based think-tank Chatham House, says their decision not to trust the authorities’ promise of safety is justified, explaining that “security agencies are ineffective because authorities have tolerated endemic corruption and turned a blind eye to their operational failures”.

Idayat Hassan, director of Abuja-based CDD, agreed, saying it is difficult for residents to trust the state because it has lost the monopoly of violence.

“The inability of the state to respond even when furnished with information ahead of attacks also makes citizens believe they are either complicit or abetting,” she said. “This further eroded the thin trust existing between citizens and governments.”

Peace and unease

Before her husband’s death, Adeagbo was a housewife who occasionally engaged in farmwork but her mental health has begun to suffer since and she can no longer work.

“When her husband died, she suffered a serious emotional issue,” her brother, Akeem Rasheed, told Al Jazeera. “Her husband’s death and the unavailability of resources to cater for her kids pushed her to the brink.”

Initially, he took her to the closest neuropsychiatric hospital, 77km [48 miles] from the town, for treatment. After two months, he had to take her back home because he could no longer afford her hospital bills.

“They allowed me to take her away only because I promised to keep bringing her for regular check-ups, something I have not done because I don’t have money again,” Rasheed said.

As her mental state declines, her family is clinging to the hope that she will get better and that the town will not be attacked again.

But despite no attacks in recent months, residents of other communities in the region are choosing pragmatism over hope.

Across villages in Ogun state, next door to Lagos, residents are relocating to the neighbouring Benin Republic. One of them is Clement Oyebanjo, a teacher in Agbon village who moved there briefly last February after an attack in his village killed four people.

“We are not at ease and sleep with our eyes half open because we know as long as open-grazing is not banned, these Fulani herders will come back,” says Oyebanjo who is prepared to return to Benin if another attack happens.

‘Violence entrepreneurs’

After Igangan was attacked in June, its residents created a new vigilante group. One of its members was Emmanuel Oguntoyinbo whose younger brother was shot dead on his motorcycle by the attackers while returning from a party.

“We, the youths of the town, that decided that we needed to do that because initially, the community employed some vigilantes from outside, but when the government refused to pay, they left,” the 35-year-old told Al Jazeera.

Every night, armed with Dane guns and charms, they take positions across the town while others patrol strategic places in groups. The community’s youth leader, Olayiwola Olusegun, told Al Jazeera that every household contributes money every month to provide ammunition.

In Agbon, the local vigilante group continues to recruit new members. In neighbouring Ibeku, residents are now wary of visitors and report unknown faces immediately to the town’s traditional ruler.

In Ondo State, dozens of elder residents of communities like Okeluse and Molege, have fled too, while youths who stayed behind have picked up arms to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, Wasiu Olatunbosun, Oyo State commissioner for information, told Al Jazeera the government had put in place the machinery to secure towns like Igangan. He insisted that residents who claim to stay up at night because of their fear of another attack must be opposition members.

For experts like Page, the outcome of these dynamics could be an “expansion of violence entrepreneurs” and more instability even if residents embracing self-defence is justified.

The only difference, he said, between “a vigilante, political thug, insurgent, or bandit is for whom or what cause he fights”.

By Adebayo Abdulrahman

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Civilians are stepping in to keep the peace in the deadly feud between herders and farmers

Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Dozens killed in ‘barbaric, senseless’ violence in Nigeria

Nigeria’s presidency says dozens of people have been killed in violence between farmers and herders in the country’s central Nasarawa state.

In a statement late on Tuesday, the office of President Muhammadu Buhari said at least 45 farmers were killed in the violence that erupted on Friday. Dozens more were wounded, it said.

Buhari “expressed grief over the heart-wrenching” killings and said his government would “leave no stone unturned in fishing out the perpetrators of this senseless and barbaric incident, and bring them to justice”.

Local police said the violence broke out when armed Fulani herders attacked villagers from the Tiv ethnic group over the killing of a kinsman that they blamed on Tiv farmers. The unrest continued until Sunday. The police initially gave a death toll of eight.

Nasarawa state police spokesman Ramhan Nansel earlier said military and police teams had deployed in the area to restore calm and arrest the perpetrators.

“We received a complaint on the killing of a Fulani herdsman but while the investigation was ongoing, a reprisal attack was carried out in Hangara village and neighbouring Kwayero village,” Ramhan Nansel,

“Eight people were killed in the attacks and their bodies were recovered by the police and taken to hospital.”

But Peter Ahemba of the Tiv Development Association said the death toll was higher.

“We recovered more than 20 corpses of our people killed in the attacks in 12 villages across Lafia, Obi and Awe districts where around 5,000 were displaced,” he said, adding that many people were still missing.

Deadly clashes between nomadic cattle herders and local farmers over grazing and water rights are common in central Nigeria.

The internecine conflict has taken on an ethnic and religious dimension in recent years. The Fulani herders are Muslim, and the farmers are primarily Christian.

The friction, which has roots dating back more than a century, was caused by droughts, population growth, the expansion of sedentary farming into communal areas as well as poor governance.

Violence by criminal gangs of cattle thieves among the herders, who raid villages, killing and burning homes after looting them, has compounded the situation.

The Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, has promised to go after killers of Fulani herders and Tiv farmers.

“There was needless loss of lives of our citizens. Such act of violence is most unfortunate, condemnable, and unacceptable and will not be condoned by this administration,” he was quoted as saying by the Sahara Reporters news site.

Al Jazeera

Related stories:

Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

Civilians are stepping in to keep the peace in the deadly feud between herders and farmers

Video - Nigeria community leaders try to quell farmer-herder conflict

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Video - How can a food security crisis be avoided in northern Nigeria?


Attacked by armed bandits, and being kidnapped or forced to pay levies before they can reach their farmlands. Farmers in Northern Nigeria are caught between protecting their lives, and their livelihoods. Deteriorating security in the Northwest is reducing food reserves and adding to the nation's food crisis. It's estimated output has dropped by sixty percent. The violence is compounding challenges caused by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. The UN has warned people in parts of the Northeast are also at risk of famine.

Related stories: Video - Freed schoolboys arrive in Nigeria’s Katsina week after abduction

Boko Haram claims responsibility for kidnapping hundreds of boys in Nigeria 

Nigeria is also losing control of its troubled northwest region

Video - Over 300 schoolboys still missing after Nigeria school attack

Nigeria pays $11 million as ransom to kidnappers in four years

Civilians are stepping in to keep the peace in the deadly feud between herders and farmers

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Nigeria is also losing control of its troubled northwest region

This month BBC’s Hausa language service which covers northern Nigeria reported a remarkable story of 12 Nigerian police officers being kidnapped along the Katsina-Zamfara expressway in the country’s northwest region. It was the latest in a growing list of attacks and kidnappings in Nigeria’s northwest that have often been underreported in Nigeria’s national media and almost hardly covered by the international media.

For the past decade and more, Nigeria has been battling Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram in an insurgency that has cost about 30,000 lives and displaced 2.3 million people in and around the northeast region of the country. The group, which has carried out attacks in the country’s capital Abuja as well as in neighboring countries Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, remains very active in the northeast even after splintering into the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the Jamaa’atul Ahlis Sunnah (JAS), with both carrying out attacks on civilians, aid workers, and the military.

However, for the past five years, the northwestern part of Nigeria has also become gradually engulfed by violence, with much less media coverage because these attacks have been carried out groups that have been described locally as “bandits”. These are not islamist terrorist groups with international affiliations which would more easily garner global media attentition.

Bandit is used here as a catch-all term to describe numerous groups that have carried out vicious attacks on local communities, killing scores of people, and have also been kidnapping as many as they can for ransoms. Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna states are the epicenters of the growing crisis.

The genesis of the lawlessness is not as clear-cut as the Boko Haram insurgency as it is a combination of various factors.

The northwest region makes up just over a quarter of Nigeria’s landmass and is composed of seven states, including some of Nigeria’s poorest. Zamfara and Sokoto have high poverty rates like in the northeast. But unlike the northeast, the northwest region is more homogenous in terms of ethnicity and religion: with the exception of the southern part of Kaduna State and parts of Kebbi State, it is mostly peopled by the Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups, and mostly Muslim.

Most of the actors are Fulani, the ethnic group that spreads across West Africa and is known for being nomadic pastoralists, while the communities being attacked are mostly Hausa farming communities. The current violent dynamic started soon after vigilante groups formed from the Hausa communities for security purposes carried out extrajudicial action against Fulani pastoralists as tensions mounted from increasing competition for land and water resources between the pastoralists and the farmers as the effects of climate change exacerbate.

This has all coincided with an increase in cattle rustling in the regionby armed gangs, again mostly Fulani, using increasingly sophisticated weapons and staging attacks from nearby forests. It is these gangs that have now been attacking communities and killing indiscriminately in a bid to exact revenge. There is also a nexus between the banditry and illegal gold mining in Zamfara state, with the miners accused of being collaborators but have also fallen victimsto the armed gangs.

“The population in the state, which is mainly made up of herders and farmers, have been affected heavily as they have been unable to carry out their economic activities,” says Yusuf Anka, a political commentator based in Gusau, Zamfara’s state capital. “There is arbitrary taxation on the communities by the bandits before they can plant and harvest crops. Everyone in Zamfara has suffered a personal loss to this banditry.”

Given there is very little or even no state presence in most parts of the northwest region beyond its state capitals and major towns, it has become very easy for non-state actors to run rampant in the deep rural areas. It is made worse by the fact the nearby national border in the region is very porous and for many years has become a conduit for smuggling illicit drugs, weapons, and even humans. Together with a high rate of unemployment and poverty, these factors have served to ignite and sustain the seemingly unending cycle of violence.

“It has been terrible in Zandam in the Jibia local government area of Katsina state, where we’ve experienced about five attacks in the last year,” says Gidado Suleiman Farfaru, a local civil society activist in Katsina. “All the resources of the community have been wiped out.” He said three people were killed in these attacks; and another nine people have been reported as kidnapped.

An uncertain calm has returned to the farms and surrounding areas after the government sanctioned the deployment of 60 mobile policemen in the village for the last two months, says Farfaru. The BBC story of the police kidnapping highlights the risk for even uniformed security officials.


But the disruption is not limited to rural areas anymore as there have been numerous kidnappings on major highways in the region and even attacks in cities: for example, traveling on the 190-kilometer expressway linking Nigeria’s capital Abuja and Kaduna is fraught with risk due to the high rate of attacks on travelers. This has made the train link the safer choice for traveling and even an air shuttle servicebeing mooted.

“The deteriorating state of security in the region has also provided opportunities for jihadist groups to take advantage,” says Murtala Abdullahi, a climate, conflict, and security reporter with Humangle News. “There have been reports of the Boko Haram factions trying to extend their reach from the Lake Chad region while groups active in neighboring countries such as Mali, Niger Republic, and Burkina Faso are getting increasingly active close to the region.”

The insecurity is also impacting Nigeria’s agricultural production and food security with more farmers abandoning their farms due to fears of being attacked.

“The insecurity in the northwest is causing significant problems for farmers. In many areas, they now pay bandits to have access to their farms in order to harvest—with fees often ranging in the hundreds of thousands of naira,” says Ikemesit Effiong, the head of research at SBM Intelligence, a geopolitical consultancy based in Lagos. “Even with this quasi-taxation, security is not always guaranteed.”

Effiong is worried about a fast deteriorating situation. “Food insecurity is now a national emergency and the federal and state governments in the northwest need to urgently and closely cooperate to re-establish an adequate security presence in farming areas, so normal activities can resume.”

To be clear, in its efforts to restore security to the region, the Nigerian government has launched numerous military operations over the past four years but with an overstretched military that is deployed in multiple concurrent operations across the whole country, the impact of these operations has been very limited.

“Military approach is important but it needs to be done in a way that is not excessive and targets only the right persons,” says Abdullahi. “Other approaches need to be utilized as well, addressing surrounding issues such as justice, rural development, and state presence, and improving livelihood.”

Other approaches such as a peace deal brokered with the bandits by state governors in the region only held together for a few months before it collapsed, leading to at least one state officially pulling out of the deal. This is likely due to the fragmented nature of the actors in the conflict with so many groups involved such that it is hard to have an agreement binding on all of them.

By Mark Amaza

Quartz Africa

Related stories: Conflict between Herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria escalates

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Mass burial in Nigeria for 73 killed in violence between herdsmen and farmers

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Video - Conflict between herdsmen and farmers remains deadly in Nigeria

Villages in Nigeria continue to bear the brunt of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers. Attacks carried out by Fulani militants killed more people in 2018 than Boko Haram. CGTN's Phil Ihaza has more on the growing security concern.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Video - Nigeria works to end violence in 'Wild West'

After years of military action in north-west Nigeria, the government is choosing dialogue to end killings and kidnapping mainly by nomadic cattle herders. Government officials say they want to tackle the injustices that fueled the crisis in the first place.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Dozens killed in clashes between villagers and 'bandits' in Nigeria

At least 59 "bandits" were killed by a civilian defence force when they attacked a village in northwest Nigeria, security officials and locals said.

Local reports said the death toll could be even higher, after a local government official said 15 other bandits were killed in the nearby village of Danmarke, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

"We killed 59 of the bandits and we lost seven men in the fight, which lasted for almost four hours," Bube Shehu, a resident of Danjibga village in Zamfara state, said of the clashes on Wednesday.

Shehu's account was backed by a military officer in the state but there was no immediate corroboration from police.

The worsening security situation in the northwest, President Muhammadu Buhari's strongest regional support base, is one of a number of challenges to his re-election, as voters go to the polls on Saturday.

Farming and herding communities in the region have suffered increasing attacks from criminal gangs who raid villages, steal cattle and kidnap for ransom.

The local official in Danmarke said villagers were frustrated at the lack of protection from security forces and had been forced to take matters into their own hands.

"It is high time people stand up against criminals who attack their villages instead of succumbing to them," he said on condition of anonymity.

Danjibga is a commercial hub 35km south of the state capital Gusau and has been repeatedly attacked.

Threat to security

The attacks have led to a mass exodus of residents to the town of Tsafe, and even across into Buhari's home state of Katsina, which neighbours Zamfara.

Earlier this month bandits killed 26 people when they raided seven villages in the Mada district, according to police.

Last July, Amnesty International said Zamfara state was "at the mercy" of armed bandits who had killed at least 371 people in the first six months of 2018.

In December, an influential traditional chief in the state urged authorities to allow vigilantes to carry assault rifles to defend themselves against bandits.

Last month, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said bandits were mobilised to carry out attacks and "provoke massive chaos before, during and after the elections".

Security is an election issue given Buhari's pledge in 2015 to improve safety across the country, not least end Boko Haram's armed campaign.

Al Jazeera

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Video - Unrest forces farmers off their land in Nigeria

Conflict between farmers and herders are affecting Nigeria's rising levels of poverty. Analysts say the violence is forcing millions of people, mostly poor farmers, from their lands.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Civilians are stepping in to keep the peace in the deadly feud between herders and farmers

Farmers and herders once lived harmoniously on Nigeria’s bucolic central plateau, but when Amos Lenji, a farmer, caught a young herdsman grazing cattle in his cornfields this October, he feared for his life.

His fear was rooted in a massacre that took place in June. More than 200 people, mostly farmers, were slaughtered by a gang of masked men dressed in black who marauded through the county of Barkin Ladi. Although no one was apprehended, the killers are suspected to be herdsmen.

It was the biggest bloodbath yet in a cycle of retaliatory killings between farmers and herders competing for space across Nigeria’s hinterlands. At least 1,300 were killed in just the first six months of 2018, according to the International Crisis Group. That is more than six times as many as were killed in Nigeria in the same period by Boko Haram, one of Africa’s deadliest terrorist groups.

Nigeria’s population has grown exponentially and is projected to surpass the United States’ by 2050, although Nigeria is 11 times smaller in area than the United States. Amid the boom, land has become increasingly scarce, and disputes over ownership are frequently turning bloody. New generations of farmers are planting on land traditionally used for grazing, and out of desperation, herders are grazing their cattle in fields still full of crops, destroying harvests. Many in the two groups now see each other as existential threats.

The near-constant violence has catapulted the farmer-herder crisis to the top of an already long list of security concerns in Nigeria. The country is roughly half Christian and half Muslim, and because farmers tend to be Christian and herders tend to be Muslim, the crisis has worsened the friction between the two religious communities. So far, Nigeria’s government has shown little capacity to prevent the fighting from spiraling further.

In the absence of an effective government response, locals have cobbled together groups of peacekeepers who have become the plateau’s de facto law enforcement. Barkin Ladi’s vigilantes, as they’re known, are particularly effective because they include farmers and herders. Bitrus Dung Pam, the local group leader, says he commands 30 times as many recruits as there are police in the whole county.

“When people see us, they trust us,” Pam said. “It’s not like the army or the police. We are the community.”

Pam was who Lenji thought of, standing there in the cornfield. He picked up his cellphone and asked for immediate help. The herdsman ran away.

“I had no other option,” Lenji said.

‘Vigilantes are our eyes’

Nigeria’s police and security forces are underequipped, underpaid and often deployed to unfamiliar areas of this diverse country of almost 200 million people.

Vigilante groups have proliferated out of necessity. They have formed a national umbrella organization that says it has nearly 350,000 members. They fill a giant law enforcement vacuum, but they also represent a homegrown approach to peacekeeping.

They build trust by settling not only potentially explosive disputes between farmers and herders, but also smaller ones. The process often resembles a court proceeding. On a recent day, vigilantes spent hours smoothing out a disagreement over money among women trying to raise chickens collectively.

The volunteers are everyday people, mechanics and bricklayers, men and women, and Muslims and Christians, and they represent all the plateau’s ethnic groups, including the two largest, the Berom and Fulani. Most farmers here are Christian and Berom, while most herders are Muslim and Fulani.

That inclusiveness commands the respect of local officials.

“No one will accuse them of being partisan or conniving with one tribe against the other,” said Yakubu Dati, a spokesman for the state government. “That is what we want, that is what this administration is all about, and we are doing everything to encourage other vigilante groups to emulate that so that peace can return permanently.”

But that doesn’t translate into any tangible state assistance. The volunteers pay for their own uniforms, and they carry hunting rifles and rubber pellets from home. In Barkin Ladi, they coordinate their patrols from donated office space in a small house and have just one vehicle.

They maintain a heavy presence along backcountry roads and man dozens of checkpoints in spots where violence has flared in the past. Since many are guarding their own villages, they simply walk to their posts. They are everywhere the police are not.

“If you call the police, they may tell you, ‘We don’t have fuel, give us some, and we will help you,’ ” said Edward G.M. Bot, the traditional leader of Barkin Ladi’s Berom community. “It is not like that with the vigilantes. The level of determination is totally different. They show up immediately. They stay overnight. They know who we are.”

Maj. Gen. Augustine Agundu, who commands Operation Safe Haven, the Nigerian military’s response to unrest on the plateau, said the volunteers were essential to his mission. The military, police and even aid groups have organized training for them, and Operation Safe Haven coordinates some of its patrolling activity with them.

The Nigerian government has struggled to come up with a comprehensive policy to address the crisis. In some states, grazing has been banned entirely, while in others, herders have been asked to move their cattle to ranges set aside for them. On the plateau, the main policy seems to be Operation Safe Haven’s military intervention and tacit support for the community-led effort.

“The vigilantes are our eyes,” Agundu said.

‘Poisoned relationships’

The violence between farmers and herders is Nigeria’s deadliest, but it is just one of three major conflicts exposing the fraying social fabric in this country.

For a decade, Boko Haram has terrorized the northeast, killing tens of thousands, burning entire villages and kidnapping an untold number of children. And in the Niger Delta in the country’s south, guerrilla groups continue to target foreign oil companies and the government, slowing Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy.

All these crises have led local communities to arm themselves against perceived enemies, while in the background, gargantuan challenges such as rapid population growth, climate change and religious rivalries deepen.

On the central plateau, Berom farmers are in the majority. Many believe that they are indigenous and that nomadic Fulani herders are either interlopers or invaders. The same dynamic is playing out across semiarid parts of Africa, but most violently here, where the plateau’s edges seem to provide a closed arena for battle.

“I won’t be sad if all the Fulani leave this place,” said Rose Mashinging, 36, a farmer who lives in a village that was attacked in June. “It is Berom land anyhow.”

The polarization has penetrated Nigeria’s politics. The country is set to hold a presidential election in February, and many in the mostly Christian south accuse President Muhammadu Buhari, an ethnic Fulani, of siding with herders.

His predecessor was voted out partly because he was perceived as weak against Boko Haram. Buhari’s reelection will partly rely on convincing skeptics that he is serious about peace in the Middle Belt, an ethnically diverse band across the country that is home to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, though his government has done little to intervene in the conflict so far.

On the plateau, Fulani leaders say that members of the state security forces, who are mostly Christian, actively discriminate against the herders, and the leaders also allege that security personnel have engaged in revenge attacks. (Agundu, the commander of Operation Safe Haven, denies those charges.) Local ardos, or Fulani traditional headmen, complained that police don’t take cases they file seriously. And reports of Berom farmers stealing cattle are common, and the subsequent clashes often result in the deaths of herdsmen.

“It is a mess of poisoned relationships — layers of grievance that accumulated for generations are exploding,” said Adam Higazi, an anthropological researcher at the University of Amsterdam who has been based on the plateau for more than a decade. “Most people on the plateau don’t think of anything else now except the animosity.”

‘They can’t save us’

The vigilantes’ biggest hurdle is that they don’t have the strongest tool available to state law enforcement: lethal weapons. Without them, they can be easily overrun by the kind of marauding gang that terrorized Barkin Ladi in June. With such weapons, however, they might become more like soldiers or bandits themselves and be implicated in the killings.

Idris Gidado, the ardo of the villages worst affected in June, said that he would ordinarily commend the civilian peacekeepers for their bravery but that a recent incident had disillusioned him.

A Fulani man from Gidado’s own village had robbed a family of farmers. The volunteers caught him and handed him over to the police. The police released him quickly, and the ardo suspects that money was exchanged. The man robbed another family, and the sequence of events was repeated. In late October, the man raped a woman in his village, the ardo says.

“We want the vigilantes to succeed,” Gidado said. “But there is no system of justice here to allow that.”

The local police commissioner, Austin Agbonlahor, said he did not doubt the ardo’s story, but he said no formal complaint had been lodged.

Most of the tens of thousands of people who have been displaced by the fighting are too fearful to return home. Maren Zachariah’s entire village, Garwaza, was abandoned in June. Garwaza was ransacked by the attackers, and its central church — with its fresco of Jesus and painted map of Africa — was left gutted and burned. It has been colonized by thousands of bees.

“We want to return, but the government doesn’t provide security. They only come as far as the nearest town. And our vigilantes can warn us, but they can’t save us,” Zachariah said. “The big trouble started on a sunny day like today. It can happen again any time.”

Amid the distrust, Barkin Ladi’s multiethnic vigilantes are setting an example for peaceful coexistence.

Mangwei Mashinging, the brother of the farmer who wishes the Fulani would leave the plateau, said he thinks peace is possible. That is why he joined the volunteer group.

“We thank God for the Fulani,” he said. He says Fulani neighbors saved many farmers during June’s massacre. “It is not as if the world is so simple — that Fulanis are bad and Beroms are good. Both groups have both kinds of people. We have to be on the side of peace.”

In October, when the vigilantes brought together Amos Lenji, his farmer neighbors and the family of the herdsman whose livestock trampled their cornfields to discuss compensation, everyone was a bit surprised to find out that the opposing parties shared close family friends.

The tension lifted. The farmers proposed that instead of paying for the damaged crops, the herdsman’s kin pay their mediators for fuel to keep doing their work. The two sides shook hands and headed home.

This project was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Video - China offers Nigeria's internally displaced persons relief items

The Chinese Government has donated relief items worth sixteen thousand dollars to internally displaced persons in Jos, Plateau State, North Central Nigeria. The Chinese Embassy, in collaboration with the Civil-Military Relief Initiative and the Nigeria Army, is providing the items worth sixteen thousand dollars to an IDP camp in Plateau. Violent conflicts between nomadic herders and farmers in North Central Nigeria has displaced about forty thousand people between June and October. Most of the displaced persons are living in deplorable conditions drawing the attention of the Chinese embassy in Nigeria.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Six hacked to death in Nigerian market by suspected herdsmen

Six traders were hacked to death and at least 17 others wounded in an attack at a local market in Nigeria's northeastern state of Taraba, according to local police and residents on Wednesday.

Local authorities have ordered the closure of the Iware market in Ardo-Kola area of the state following the incident on Tuesday.

Taraba police spokesman David Misal said an investigation has been launched to arrest the perpetrators and confirm the motive of the gruesome attack.

So far, no arrest has been made in connection with the killing.

Misal said the information available to the police indicated that the attackers struck in retaliation for an alleged rustling of their cattle.

"The attackers claimed that the cows they (the traders) brought to the market were their cows, stolen during a recent conflict in another area of the state," he said.

Local residents told Xinhua there was pandemonium at the local market as the attackers went on the rampage. Most traders abandoned their wares as they ran to safety.

"We gathered that the killers trailed their victims from Lau, one of the areas where there was a recent farmer-herders conflict," said Jipsari Mohammed, a survivor.

Clashes between herders and farmers in Nigeria have left hundreds dead in the past few months.

The majority of farmer-herder clashes have occurred between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian peasants, exacerbating ethno-religious hostilities.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Video - Nigerian police deploy special force to bring order in central plateau

The Nigerian government says it has deployed a Special Intervention Force to restore peace in the central plateau region that saw violence over the weekend.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Farmers and Herders clash leaves 86 dead in Nigeria

At least 86 people have died in central Nigeria after violent clashes broke out between farmers and cattle herders, police in Plateau state said.

Some reports say fighting began on Thursday when ethnic Berom farmers attacked Fulani herders, killing five of them.

A retaliatory attack on Saturday led to more deaths.

The area has a decades-long history of violence between ethnic groups competing for land.

Earlier, dozens of people were killed in a similar round of violence between Fulani herders and local hunters in Mali.

A curfew has now been imposed in three parts of Plateau state.

State police commissioner Undie Adie said a search of villages following the bloodshed revealed that 86 people had been killed, and six injured.

He said 50 houses had been burned, as well as 15 motorbikes and two vehicles.

The Plateau state government said the curfew would be in place between 18:00 and 06:00 local time (17:00 to 05:00 GMT) in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas "to avert a breakdown of law and order".

Tit-for-tat clashes erupt into warfare

Analysis by the BBC's Stephanie Hegarty, in Lagos

It's an age-old conflict that has recently taken on a new level of brutality.

In Nigeria's central region settled farming communities and nomadic cattle herders often clash - usually over access to land and grazing rights.

But these tit-for-tat clashes have erupted into inter-communal warfare, killing thousands in the last year.

This region, where the Muslim north meets the Christian south is prone to religious tension - herders are ethnic Fulani and mostly Muslim, while the farmers are mostly Christian.

But it's not clear why this spike in violence is happening right now. Nigeria's president has repeatedly blamed the escalation on an increase in gun-running from Libya.

Others blame security forces' failures in a country busy fighting two insurgences - Boko Haram in the north and militants in the oil-producing south.

The state's governor Simon Lalong said work was under way "to secure the affected communities and fish out perpetrators of these crimes".

"While we pray for God's guidance through this difficult time, we will do everything humanly possible to secure our state immediately," he said.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari - himself a Fulani - is under increasing pressure to address the tensions ahead of elections in 2019.

In January he ordered the head of police to relocate to the country's middle belt to manage clashes there.

Special forces were also deployed to the central states of Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba to "secure vulnerable communities and prevent further attacks".
Who are the Fulani herdsmen?

They are believed to be the largest semi-nomadic group in the world, and are found across West and Central Africa - from Senegal to the Central African Republic.

In Nigeria, some continue to live as semi-nomadic herders, while other have moved to cities.

The nomadic groups spend most of their lives in the bush.

They herd their animals across vast areas, frequently clashing with farming communities.