RUGA SETTLEMENT INITIATIVE: A PANACEA FOR CONFLICT BETWEEN HERDSMEN AND FARMERS IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background of the Study
Since the Fourth Nigerian Republic’s founding in 1999, farmer-herder violence has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more (Ahmed, 2015). It followed a trend in the increase of farmer-herder conflicts throughout much of the western Sahel, due to an expansion of agriculturist population and cultivated land at the expense of pasture-lands; deteriorating environmental conditions, desertification and soil degradation; population growth; breakdown in traditional conflict resolution mechanisms of land and water disputes; and proliferation of small arms and crime in rural areas. Insecurity and violence have led many populations to create self-defence forces and ethnic and tribal militias, which have engaged in further violence. The majority of farmer-herder clashes have occurred between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers, exacerbating ethno-religious hostilities. It is wise as we proceed in this study to recall that the primitive cattle industry is controlled and managed by the nomadic Fulanis. It has been their way of life from the beginning. They have been in this profession for hundreds of years. The Fulanis are said to have migrated to Nigeria about the 6th and 7th century AD (Stride and Ifeka, 1973). Iloeje (1972) is of the view that the Fulani people are nomadic herdsmen who are believed to have come to Nigeria from the north as invaders at different periods from the 13th century to the 19th. Some Fulani’s are still nomadic and others live a sedentary life. However, the issue of migration from the North probably suggests that they came into the country either from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger or even the Senegambia region. All these suggest that they are immigrants. It is postulated that the original home of the Fulani may have been the Senegal river valley and the Eastern Guinea area, and they expanded eastwards from about the 12th century (Kajubi, Lewis; Taiwo, 1974). Indeed, there are two classes of Fulani known after their settlement in Nigeria. These are the “cow” Fulani who still retain their tall, slim features and light complexion. Others are the “town” Fulani have since learnt to live with the Hausa and even intermarry with their neighbours. The cow Fulani live in temporary tents made of cow hides or grass-easy to set up and equally easy to dismantle. This is practical in view of the fact that they are nomadic pastoralists who are always on the move. This is also a confirmation that the cattle industry in Nigeria began between the 12th and the 19th centuries, and has been heavily controlled, managed by the nomadic Fulani. In the northern parts of Nigeria they exchange their cattle and milk and cheese for instance, for agricultural products from their hosts. The Fulani in this way supply 90 per cent of Nigeria’s beef and cattle hide (Kajubi, Lewis, Taiwo, 1974).
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