President Muhammadu Buhari has called for the activation and strict compliance with protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that relates to movement of persons and goods in the region as a way to tackle violent conflicts between herders and farmers.
He stated this on Thursday while declaring open the ECOWAS Ministerial Meeting on Conflicts between Herders and Farmers in West Africa held at the ECOWAS Parliament, Abuja.
President Buhari said failure to fully follow and enforce the terms of the 1979 Protocol of Free Movement of Persons, Goods, Capital and Services; and the 1998 Protocol relating to transhumance has contributed to conflicts that bedevil the region.
We can no longer continue to tolerate the undocumented movement of persons, animals that simply contribute to the escalation of our security challenges, President Buhari said.
He called for the tracking of movements, compliance with ECOWAS protocols and activation of their relevant sections.
He urged the member countries of the regional body not to allow the noble vision of the founding fathers, the vision of regional integration, to be derailed by the failure to comply with the safeguards and conditions that they in their wisdom embedded in these protocols.
He said that it was for this reason that Nigeria took the lead in organising the meeting, bringing together government officials with oversight on agriculture and internal security from across ECOWAS and beyond to fashion out collaborative solutions to a lingering problem that threatens not just national security in our various countries but also regional security as well.
According to the Nigerian leader, the economic implications of the conflicts between farmers and herders were far-reaching and worrisome, considering that as much as 70% of the population of ECOWAS region makes a living primarily off agriculture.
For many of our countries already struggling with food security, the violence threatens to tip us over the edge into the realms of catastrophe, he stated.
President Buhari expressed hope that the conference would provide an opportunity for member states to reflect on current developments and possible responses and solutions in a holistic manner.
New solutions to old problems
President Buhari said there was need to explore new and creative solutions for old problems, calling for the review of the practice of grazing of cattle along long distances in favour of ranching.
He said it has become clear that the most productive way of breeding cattle is not to walk them long distances but to provide well equipped ranches.
He said that the solutions must take into consideration everything from law enforcement to climate change mitigation and reforms in current methods and practices of crop and animal production.
We must move with the times and modernize our thinking and our approach to these issues facing us. We must be able to distinguish between legitimate agricultural work and the criminality that is seeking to use it as cover to destabilise the region.
Resolution of herder-farmer conflicts
The President added that the federal and the state governments have concluded work on the sustainable resolution of herder-farmer conflicts; and were at the point of implementing that plan.
Nigeria’s Minister of the Interior, Abdurahaman Danbazzau, said both farmers and herders were important for food security and economic development of the region.
The minister said that the implementation of the ECOWAS protocols on the movement of transhumance across borders was imperative because of the need to guarantee peace and security of the region.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said Nigeria was proposing a solution to the herders-farmers conflicts that would aim at ending an old culture.
We must start thinking of putting all our cattle in large reserves or large clusters of ranches where we supply them with the grass and water they need and secure them against rustlers, Ogbeh said, pointing out that ranching is expensive and should be subsidised.
Others who spoke at the opening of the conference were Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, the Representative of the United Nations Office of West Africa and the Sahel, Mr. Mohammed Ibn Chambers; and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou.
Source: Voice of Nigeria