In recent times, parts of the country such as Benue, Kaduna, Plataea, Adamawa, Edo and Nasarawa states, have being at the mercy of attacks by suspected herdsmen on farmers.
This has resulted in wanton destruction of lives and properties. The recent attacks in Benue, Kaduna and Rivers states which claimed many lives, destroyed properties and rendered thousands homeless are testaments of the fact that the crisis are far from being over.
More worrisome is the inability of the security agencies to prevent these attacks from occurring even as they had information of alleged threats by the herdsmen to carry out these attacks as in the case of Benue state following the enactment of the open grazing prohibition law.
Another worrisome dimension is the inability of security agencies to protect people who embarked on peaceful demonstrations to draw attention to the mayhem. For instance, in Benue state, some innocent youths were allegedly killed in an attempt to disperse protesters.
A report by the United Kingdom for International Development about 6,500 people were killed in a total of 50 attacks in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Kaduna states between 2010 and 2016 alone. It also resulted into political and economic loses during the period as billions of naira was lost, which affected the nation’s GDP by 2.79%.
In Benue state, damage to property in 2014 alone has been estimated at about N95 billion, loss of more than 2000 lives with over 500 persons still missing, and half a million displaced. By every standard, this is no mere damage.
Regrettably, analysts have observed that there have been low response efforts to put an end to the menace, which many have projected may degenerate if not properly handled.
Such analysts have cited Somalia, Afghanistan and South Sudan as examples where attacks started in small scales and became full blown genocide due to lack of attention by relevant authorities.
Evolution of the recent day pastoralists should give all and sundry every reason not to downplay the impact of the frequent attacks.
In times past, the herders carried only staff and machetes to control their cattle while in the wilderness. They added dane guns to their kits apparently to hunt wild animals. Nowadays, the herdsmen have added sophisticated weapons such as AK-47 which brings to question the motive of the herders. The tendency is that sooner or later, they may carry weapons of mass destruction such as explosives if not checked.
In view of the huge human and economic losses to the numerous attacks, it has become imperative for government to find a lasting remedy to the lingering conflicts.
Governments at all levels must remember the oath they swore to protect the people and must be seen to be doing so. The country must move away from the rhetoric of extending condolences to the victims and mere promises to arrest the perpetrators of such heinous acts after the deed has been done.
The world over, the best approach to security is prevention, government should therefore nip these attacks in the bud.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to security agencies to arrest the perpetrators of the New Year attack is instructive. Equally instructive is the arrival of security personnel in affected areas.
However, they must do everything possible to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators this time around just as Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has demanded. The few arrested so far in Benue state, must be made to bear the consequences of their acts while efforts must be intensified to arrest the rest in parts of the country.
The federal government fact finding delegation to the affected states is expected to do a thorough and honest job as well.
Again, one of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, was the establishment of ranches to stop the roaming of herders and cattle in search of pasture. This should be explored as a matter of necessity in view of growing population and climate change.
In addition, government should revisit the National Afforestation initiative of 2010 and the Great Green Wall project of 2013, where a total of N50 billion was earmarked from the National Ecological Fund to tackle desertification.
The world has become too civilized to allow the roaming of animals under which the alleged herdsmen hide to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens.
Image source: naijaloaded.com.ng, Emmanuel Arewa/AFP/Getty Images