Kaduna State is famously diverse and is more heterogenous than our sister states in the North-West. It is also instructive to note that it shares borders with Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Zamfara States and the Federal Capital Territory. Geographically, it is a gateway to the Northwest.
The Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan made the statements at the Stakeholders Meeting on Farmer-Herder Relations and Banditry in Kaduna State, which was organized by the Center for Democracy and Development in Kaduna.
The Commissioner related to the audience some of steps taken by the state government to tackle the lingering security challenges in the state.
Saying, the state is addressing some well-documented security challenges such as youth restiveness, drug abuse, rape, armed robbery and ethno-religious intolerance. More recently, exposure to insurgents and extremists fleeing from the North-East has added a new edge to the problem of banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping, and an alliance between bandits and terrorists. This is the same spectrum of challenges currently bedevilling most states in the North-West. Farmer-herder clashes, homicide, kidnapping and collapse of the rural economy.
Since 2015, the position of this administration on the farmer-herder collision has been clear and unambiguous.
The government’s appeal has been to all residents to seek recourse to the law. If a farmer in the course of farming comes under attack,or his/her plants/crops are destroyed, the admonition is recourse to the law. The same appeal goes to the herders, if in the course of grazing they are attacked or their cattle rustled, or they become victims of any security challenge. Unfortunately, most of individuals and communities involved in these clashes often choose self-help rather than the law. This complicates the conflict, and worsens the bloodshed.
The media narrative is also often not helpful. When armed bandits kill innocent herders and farmers while attempting to kidnap for ransom, some media will report that it is an attack by herdsmen, thereby inflaming the violence between pastoralists and their hosts.
Also, ethno-religious tensions have spilled into security issues, creating volatile situations in many communities. In the conflict zones, farmers and herders often belong to different ethnic and religious groups. Therefore, clashes between them are misrepresented as ethnic tussles, when they are in fact economic struggles over resources. These clashes must be adequately demystified. Farmer-Herder clashes stem from the struggle by two groups for the same finite resource: land. Their interests, by virtue of their economic pursuits, are automatically at cross-purposes, setting the stage for a potentially difficult relationship, but which can be properly managed.
These highlighted issues of banditry and farmer-herder clashes have had a strong impact on rural communities, as they directly involve farmers and herders, who live, operate and earn their livelihood in mainly rural settings. In the ensuing crises, many locals have been killed as a result of clashes emanating from these problems. Combined with armed banditry in areas which grow a large percentage of the food supply, the threat of food insecurity is now very real in many communities.
In terms of solutions, one of the institutional responses by the Kaduna State Government toward maintaining peaceful coexistence in the State, is the establishment of a Peace Commission.
The Kaduna State Peace Commission was established in 2017 with the objective of ensuring the monitoring, mitigation and prevention of conflicts, with the view to promoting peaceful and harmonious co-existence in the State. It envisions a peaceful and inclusive Kaduna State based on mutual respect for diversity among all its inhabitants. The Commission facilitates consultations and dialogues between diametrically opposed groups to dispel the myth of “us versus them”. New ways of appropriating differences are being nurtured, to encourage co-existence and a healthy cross-pollination of positive values. Local Government Peace Committees radiate these peace-building efforts to the grassroot.
Importantly, the primary duty of any governing authority is the security of lives and property of all who reside within its territory, and the Kaduna State Government places a premium on this. The creation of the Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs in July 2019 has provided more dedicated focus on intelligence gathering and enabled more seamless coordination of security operations and collaborative efforts. This is yielding positive results in terms of addressing security challenges and outright neutralization of criminal elements.
In light of the National Livestock Transformation Programme inaugurated last year, the Kaduna State Government has taken a practical step towards addressing the farmer-herder problem. A milk farm project was recently established at Damau, in Kubau Local Government Area of Kaduna State. It is a Public-Private Partnership between the Kaduna State Government and the Danish dairy giant, Arla Foods, and local cattle breeders. The partnership will see the introduction of grazing settlements, modern dairy systems, improved hygiene and guaranteed market for fresh milk. This arrangement kills two birds with one stone: improving the rural economy and dousing the tensions which ensue from nomadic dairy farming. The impact on rural security is also direct.
Generally, the government recognizes the need for urgent and deep-seated socio-cultural and economic reforms, side-by-side with kinetic responses. These are based on a few vital realities. First, that hardships, disease and poverty do not discriminate; they afflict every ethnic group. Also, deviants and dissidents exist everywhere. Evil has no ethnicity and no religion. Similarly, improved healthcare, economic prosperity, education and equal opportunity will bring all together; Christian, Muslim, Traditionalist, Atyap, Fulani, Adara or Hausa.
The inescapable fact is that economic inequality, limited opportunities and stark poverty have generated a storm of insecurity with the rural areas as the epicentre, spreading quickly towards the urban centres. A stakeholders’ meeting such as this one is a valuable incubator for solutions, particularly towards addressing rural conflicts and the security challenges of banditry which are now closely inter-woven with terrorism.
There is a lot stereotyping and generalization alongside the viewing of banditry through a religious and ethnic lens which further complicates the problem.
The media and commentators need to research deeply and not just skim through present security challenges with emotions, sentiment, prejudices and biases. Sentiments complicate what facts-based reporting and analysis can help address. The politicization of security challenges as a political expedient and power-grabbing tool can only magnify and complicate the issue.