President Goodluck Jonathan has warned that terrorists are introducing a new dimension to their attacks by masquerading as pastoralists in order to inflict maximum damage to the peace, stability and security of the country.
Jonathan, who was represented by the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, raised this alarm yesterday in Kaduna at the International Conference on Security and Development Challenges of Pastoralism in West and Central Africa under the theme: “The Role of Pastoralist for Sustainable Peace and National Security," organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
He said the insurgents are hiding under the umbrella of the Fulani herdsmen to exploit the conflict between the pastoralists and farmers in Nigeria to propagate their terrorist activities.
According to him, the intensity and dimension of the conflict over the last few years had reached an alarming proportion with the attendant and unfortunate loss of lives and properties.
He said: "This conflict unfortunately has been predominant in Plateau, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Benue and some other states in Northern Nigeria are also exposed to these challenges. Some challenges has also been reported in some Southern part of the country.
"The state of conflict continue to pose serious threat to nation's security, stability and economic development. We are all aware of the threats posed to nation by the activities of insurgents.
"Terrorists capitalises on the lingering pastoralists- farmers conflict to form a hybrid type of insurgency whereby they masquerade as pastoralist to wage war against the state".
Fortunately, he noted, this objective is yet to be fully realised owing to the resilience of the pastoralist.
The president further warned that "such a development should it be materialised will be at a great cost to our country."
In order to avoid such ugly reality in the country, he called "all stakeholders, community leaders, religious leaders, youth groups must continue to promote the course of peace rather than resort to conflict and violence, which serves no useful purpose.
"It is therefore pertinent to state that issues affecting pastoralists, especially pertaining to the current clashes with farmers is holistically reversed."
In the same vein, the Governor of Niger State and Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, has branded people with extremist ethno-religious views as members of the Boko Haram group, saying that Islam as a religion emphasis moderation.
Aliyu clarified that Boko Haram was un-Islamic and must be condemned, adding that the right Jihad in this 21st century was the one that improves the standard of living rather than those that seek to destroy lives.
He stated: "Boko Haram is un-Islamic. It is not Muslim and you must fight Boko Haram even in your houses. In fact, I consider anybody who is an extremist as Boko Haram.
"Islam is about moderation and not extremism. Jihad is about how to make peace and life better, not on how to kill people."
Earlier, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, lamented that pastoralism, which had over the years been a seasonal and mutually beneficial to traditional livestock management and production system that worked well between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers had become a conduit to security threat.
According to Adesina, pastoralism was today a worrisome practice characterised by incessant clashes of unimaginable proportions usually resulting in huge losses of lives and property.
He said previous interventions to curb pastoralists-farmers clash had been largely unsuccessful, because of growing foreign dimension to the conflict.
The minister noted that there had been reports of some of these foreign migrant pastoralists carrying dangerous weapons and assault rifles.
He said: "This is not the usual pastoralists that we know in Nigeria, who for decades have lived in harmony with their communities. criminality has increased especially with the menace of cattle rustling.
"The issue is no longer an agriculture problem. It is a national security problem and we need an integrated set of solutions that includes agriculture and security.
"We must face these challenges squarely, be frank and realistic in our solutions. One thing is clear: the status quo of unbounded pastoralism can no longer continue. These solutions can no longer be just national," he added.
Adesina harped on the need for a regional solution, saying "we must think out of the box.
"Old traditions must give way to new realities and challenges. Moving animals, instead of beef, can no longer be sustained.
According to him, movement of animals without tracking systems for animals or record of the animals, for traceability, can no longer be sustained in the face of rising conflicts, criminality and insecurity.
The minister emphasised the fact that "we must accept that just like humans cannot move between places without identification, it is no longer tenable for migrant pastoralists, whether local or foreign, to move without any identification.
"And we must accept that just like cars cannot move without licenses or chassis number, the days that animals are without labels, records and tracking are limited. As a government, we must change our approach. Our communities must change. And within ECOWAS, we must change."
One fundamental change that must be made, which is structural, Adesina stated, was that we must end the practice of moving animals.
Also speaking, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), promised that the federal government in collaboration with state governments and other stakeholders were doing all they can to tackle the frequent conflict between pastoralists and farmers in the country.
Dasuki said several measures have been put in place to bring a lasting solution to the crisis that claimed many lives in different parts of the country.
He explained further that government encouraged dialogue between the pastoralists and farmers so as to promote peaceful co-existence between them.
He said: "Such crisis is mostly between Fulani, Kanuri, Tiv, Jukun and other ethnic groups. But effort have been made by the federal government in collaboration with state governments and other stakeholders to involve permanent measures to bring and end to such crisis or conflicts.
"I will like to commend the recent initiative of the Inspector General of Police for bringing all aggrieve persons to round table so as to discuss a way out.
"The crisis has nothing to do with religion against what other people think. Some believe that Fulanis are Muslims and farmers are non Muslims which is not truth because when the cows come to your farm they don't differentiate a Muslim or Christian farm they will just destroyed them but people will always attribute the incident to religion or ethnic which is not so," he noted.
In his remarks, Emir of Zazzau, Dr Shehu Idris, represented by Emir of Birnin Gwari, Malam Zubairu Jibril Mai Gwari, stressed on the need for government to meet with leaders of Fulani with the hope of finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
"We must sit down with leaders of Fulani to find a solution to this problem…", he suggested.