Guri Local Government Area in Jigawa State has a vast arable land and is a riverine area; hence it attracts the attention of farmers and herders alike.
For farmers in Guri, there is no time for idleness as maize, millet, corn, rice, wheat, onions, cotton, pepper, tomato and many more crops are cultivated in the area.
For herders also, the area provides fantastic grazing opportunities as there are both food and water in abundance for them and their flocks.
The nature of the land therefore breeds conflict between herders and farmers on annual basis. According to residents, the situation has taken a dangerous dimension as more lives are lost and farmlands and other properties destroyed.
Daily Trust on Sunday observed that there was a palpable tension in the area as residents suspected that herdsmen were planning a major attack. Locals alleged that a lot of strange faces were seen around and some Fulani men were threatening that there would not be any farming activity in the area this year.
Our correspondent, who visited the local government area, also saw a cluster of young persons with bows and arrows. It was learnt that they were practising how to use the weapons in case of any attack.
It was reported that from the beginning of this year till date, at least 11 farmers had lost their lives and many people injured, while the number of casualties for herders could not be ascertained as they hardly disclose their losses.
However, the chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in the area, Malam Amadu Musa, said he was aware that three lives were lost on their part and many others injured.
“I don’t actually know how many people were killed, but I know of two young men who were tied together and thrown into the water. They were later discovered. I also know of a young man who was killed and buried in his farm,” Musa said.
The recent fatalities were recorded in Adiyani village. According to residents, four persons were killed, but the official statement of the police said there were three casualties.
Our correspondent was also shown gory pictures of some of the victims of the latest clashes.
Genesis of the clashes
Locals who spoke with our correspondent said they had lived peacefully with Fulani settlers for close to 100 years, but with the influx of new faces, competition for land became intense and clashes began between them.
A resident of Guri town, Alhaji Muhammadu Guri, said the conflict was a result of night grazing by herders, during which crops were destroyed. “That was how the fight started; and there were reprisal attacks,’’ he said.
He alleged that the situation worsened because the concerned authorities did not do what was expected of them, such as arresting and prosecuting perpetrators of the various attacks.
The village head of Adiyani, Bulama Abdullahi Aliyu, alleged that, “The Fulani now move in groups, such that our farmers could not dare them. They destroy our farmlands, and if any of us tries to resist, they can easily eliminate him,” he said.
Speaking on the latest conflict in his village that claimed four lives, Aliyu said, “They suddenly attacked with bows and arrows and attempted to rob them of their phones and whatever they had. So our people ran for safety and left their motorcycles behind. The following day, we mobilised some elderly persons to go and reconcile with their elders and retrieve the motorcycles. At the end, four people were killed and the motorcycles (13) all burnt.’’
He said that after the incident, there was security presence in the area, but that was not enough, as barely 24 hours after that, the herders destroyed about 50 farmlands.
On his part, the chairman of MACBAN in the area said the situation was worrisome, and both parties should have a share of the blame.
He said, “It is mostly the young men that graze on people’s farms; and on the part of the farmers, their youths also take the law into their hands. That is why the problem is not ending.
I think the best option is for all parties to come to the negotiation table, to be organised by the authorities concerned. Our leaders should be warned to control our young people. Nobody should be allowed to cross the line drawn by the authorities. If that is done, I believe we would have a lasting solution to the problem.”
The chairman of Guri Local Government, Alhaji Jaji Adiyani, told our correspondent that the crisis in the area has been on for more than 10 years.
“The conflict has been on for more than 10 years. And any honest man will tell you that it has been herders eating up plants and farmers trying to resist them; hence there’s always crisis,” he said.
He said he had called for security reinforcement a number of times, but there had always been lack of manpower on the part of security agencies.
Adiyani said one of the best ways to curtail the problem was to arrest and prosecute perpetrators. He added that the warring parties had been on the reconciliation table a number of times without a lasting positive result.
“Fulani leaders know the perpetrators. I believe that if the government issues a stern warning to hold them responsible should their members commit any offence, the problem will reduce drastically,” he said.
Alhaji Jaji also alleged that the Fulani always gathered at the residence of one Wakili Hassan Na Tanko in the Yobe side of their border to launch attacks on communities.
He said he had reported the matter to the sole administrator of Karasuwa Local of Yobe State for possible action, but nothing was done about it. He said there was the need for governments of Yobe and Jigawa states to take a joint action against sponsors of the conflict, as well as find a solution to the problem.
“Authorities concerned must fear Allah and rise up to this occasion. The truth of the matter is that they, including the police, political and traditional leadership at all levels, are not doing what they are supposed to do. They have decided to turn their faces away from what is happening in this area. People are being killed and no one has been arrested and prosecuted,” a source, who does not want his name mentioned, alleged.
He further alleged that during previous administrations in the state, there was a decision on grazing areas, cattle routes and the control of the influx of herdsmen from other places.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited some of the victims of the latest conflict in a hospital, a 70-year-old Muhammadu Zuba-Barkwano narrated how Fulani men attacked him on his farm. He said they shot two arrows into his belly and inflicted a deep cut on his elbow with a cutlass.
His brother, Malam Isa Ibrahim Zuba-Barkwano, also alleged that most of those who cause mayhem in the area were ‘Fulani strangers’ coming from Zamfara, Yobe and part of Bauchi State.
“All the authorities must rise to the occasion, especially the Emir of Hadejia, who is our father. They must find a solution to this problem. And I am sure that if they are willing, they can achieve it,” he said.
When contacted, the police public relations officer in Jigawa State, SP Abdul Jinjiri, said his men had been deployed to the area to ensure peace. He, however, said no arrest had been made as at Wednesday when our correspondent contacted him.
Also, when contacted, the spokesperson of the Hadejia Emirate Council, Muhammad Garba Talaki, said the council had set up a reconciliatory committee, headed by the Galadiman Hadejia, with members that included all the district heads of the affected areas and representatives from farmers and herders, as well as that of the state farmer/herders conflict resolution committee, among others.
“The committee has executed a lot of things, including a reconciliatory meeting that involved the state deputy governor, commissioner of police, director of the DSS with all other stakeholders. The meeting took place at Guri,” he said.
According to him, the emir had also requested for a mobile police base in the area, but it was located in Hadejia.
Residents said if nothing was done to stop the conflict, it could snowball into a full-fledged war.