Fulani Pastoralists Crisis in Northern Nigeria

Fulani Pastoralists Crisis in Northern Nigeria

September 4, 2018

For the past few years, the crisis of the Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria has been the headlines of many news agencies and a topic for discussion in the public arena. Several public discussions were held on this crucial topic; some looked at the crisis as political, some perceived it to be religious and ethical, and others looked at it as a result of desertification and global warming.

Looking at the Fulani herdsmen’ crisis in Nigeria holistically with its several machineries gives as an unabridged picture of the entire crisis and its complexity. The Fulani tribe has a long history in several African societies across the continent but more dominant in northern Nigeria with the population of twenty to thirty million.

The tribe is known for cattle herding across West Africa to the degree when livestock breeding is mentioned; the Fulani tribe comes to mind. The Fula tribe is believed by many scholars to have originated from Judean-Syrian origin whereas others believe thatit has originated from the Berbers and ancient Egyptians.

They migrated from North Africa and the Middle East to several states in West Africa and Central Africa. Currently, they are spread in Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Mali, Gambia, Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Togo, Cameroon, Niger, Liberia, Ghana, and Sudan. The Fula tribe is now divided into two; one group settled in cities and towns living a normal life whereas the other group has maintained their traditions and nomadic way of life. The nomadic group is known for its livestock farming and trading across Africa. 

A lot of people have been displaced by the attacks

For the past three years, there were voluminous encounters recorded across Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other countries between the Fulani and local farmers which led to death and injuries of hundreds of local farmers across the region. The cause of these counters and conflict between the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers can be folded in one reason; desertification, global warming and lack of grazing space for the livestock.

The Fulani pastoralist migrates from place to place in search of grazing lands for their livestock. Due to the effect of global warming and weather challenges in the north; the Fulani finds it challenging to settle at one place because of their livestock which drag them out of their zones to the domains of the local farmers in search for food for their cattle. The local farmers in return prevent the Fulani herdsmen from grazing their farms which triggers the conflict between the two parties throughout the region.

Climate change and desertification of north Nigeria have forced the nomadic cattle herdsmen farther south to feed and sell their cattle which led to the encroachment of the territory of sedentary farmers on the south.

As counter-terrorism of Buhari’s government succeeded against the terrorist group Boko Haram, many have attributed this crisis to this terrorist group to be operating in an unknown clothe of terrorism but whether this claim is true or not is yet to be investigated as the current government strengthen his security operations. Even though numerous individual analysis and findings are pointing to this claim because the Fulanis were known long in history to be peacefully in their business without violence or causing atrocities.

The claim continues to hit that the Fulani were known in their cattle herding with using a stick as their sole tool in their business but immediately after the defeat of Boko Haram by the Nigerian army, the Fulani herdsmen have been using sophisticated arms and weapons on their way across the grazing space. This also could have been the reason for the killing of hundreds of local farmers.

Nigeria is a country decoupled almost evenly between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south. Many Nigerians especially lawmakers playing identity politics have seized on the fact that the herders are mostly Muslims while the farmers are mainly Christians.

From the international communities; Nigerian foreign students in the Netherlands have expressed their feelings over the ongoing crisis in Nigeria and edged the President and his delegation to put measures to end the bloody clutch in the north. Donald Trump on his side has raised his voice for the Christian victims saying;

"We have had a very serious problem with Christians who are being murdered in Nigeria, we are going to be working on that problem very very hard because we cannot allow that to happen."

The wounds and scars that Boko Haram created are still alive in the minds of millions across Nigeria and the region. The victims attacked during the crisis of Boko Haram are still suffering from the Fulani herdsmen in their localities. So could this be a new branding by the terrorist group or a counter-attack?

Picturing the crisis holistically, it can be said that it is a regional crisis across the West African belt. In Cameroon, the Fulani tribe and their herdsmen constitute about 5 percent of the general population. In Ghana, the Fulani tribe’s population is over 14,000 people and Nigeria has the highest population of Fulani in West Africa; they make up seven million Nigerian population.

For the past three years in Ghana, the pastoralists Fulani have been on the headlines of both state and private news agencies across the country. Some Fulani herdsmen were arrested rubbing people of their properties. Some were also prosecuted for raping and killing. Several demonstrations were spackled due to the debacle being caused by the Fulani pastoralists.

Also not forgetting the disastrous clash between the Cameroonian farmers and the Fulani herdsmen on the Cameroonian border leaving twenty people dead, schools and houses were set on fire and crops were destroyed in that clash. This crisis is regional and several heads of states have come together to address the issue thoroughly.

According to the SBM intelligence service, over 1,800 people were killed in the Fulani crisis dating from 2016 till now. 40,000 people were displaced by the attacks says theState Emergency Agency.

The Nigeria government has appealed to the citizenry to exercise patience and be utmost cautious on their coverage of the crisis in order not exacerbate the situation. It has also appealed to people to refrain from finger-pointing and foul comments for that could weaken the strategies of the security agencies in the country to overcome the situation.

"For the past three years in Ghana, the pastoralists Fulani have been on the headlines of both state and private news agencies across the country. Some Fulani herdsmen were arrested rubbing people of their properties. Some were also prosecuted for raping and killing. Several demonstrations were spackled due to the debacle being caused by the Fulani pastoralists."

Nevertheless, many Nigerians have accused Buhari’s government of not taking appropriate measures to address the crisis as done to Boko Haram because President Buhari belongs to the Fulani ethnic group.

The victims affected in the attacks were aided by the EYN Disaster Response Ministry in northern Nigeria. Their helping hand reached 1,639 victims in the area. The victims were provided foodstuff and shelter by the Ministry.

Having an unabridged idea of the Fulani herdsmen crisis in north Nigeria, it can be said that the crisis has numerous factors attached to it; Religious, political, ethnic, environmental (climate change). The crisis is also not peculiar to Nigeria. It is rather a regional or even a continental crisis.