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Thursday, 1 September 2011

SOS Letter to the Honourable Minister of Agriculture.

17th February, 2011.
Professor Sheikh Abdullahi,
Honorable Minister of Agriculture,
Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Dear Sir,


We have watched with trepidation, the unprecedented rise in inter-ethnic and communal clashes all across Nigeria precipitated by alleged invasion/destruction of farm lands by some nomadic Fulani who are in search of greener pastures to feed their cattle. We have therefore decided as patriotic citizens to call the attention of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan through the office of the minister of Agriculture on the urgent need to implement immediate, comprehensive and durable remedial measures to stop the ongoing mass killings of some innocent Nigerians during the course of these intermittent inter-ethnic unrests between the Fulani herdsmen with the alleged aid of foreign mercenary fighters and most indigenous communities in all parts of the country.

Sir, we are worried that if nothing tangible is done to prevent the frequent conflicts between the nomadic Fulani herdsmen and farmers in different communities across the country, then the most fundamental right to life of most Nigerians will continue to be violated with impunity.

The recent attack in Benue State has led to the cruel killing of dozens of villagers in their sleep by the invading attackers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. The Fulani have however blamed the communities for precipitating the crisis by allegedly rustling the cows of the Fulani.

In December of 2009, clashes between pastoralists and farmers in Nasarawa State left 32 people dead, scores of houses burned, and several farms destroyed. Recently in Cross River state, clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers led to the killing of scores of people even as several communities in Imo State were invaded by Fulani herdsmen who allegedly wantonly killed several people caught unawares at the wee hours of the night.
In Nasarawa state in 2009, violence, according to impeccable sources, erupted on December 18, 2009 when pastoralists attacked the farming village of Udeni Gida approximately two weeks after a clash with farmers on December 6th when herdsmen led their cattle into rice fields resulting in the death of a farmer. Foreign News agency quoted Hame Saidu, a pastoralist from Wase District of Plateau State as saying; “Every time there is clash between nomads and farmers, we nomads are labeled the aggressors. Nobody cares to look at the problem dispassionately and apportion blame fairly. Our herd is our life because to every nomad, life is worthless without his cattle. What do you expect from us when our source of existence is threatened? The encroachment of grazing fields and routes by farmers is a call to war”.

Before examining the claim as made above by the pastoralist, the question to be asked is whether the Federal government has indeed established and demarcated grazing routes? In 2009 foreign news agency quoted Mr. Jinaidu Maina, a Director in the federal ministry of Agriculture as saying that; “Nigeria officially has 415 grazing reserves but only one-third is in use; the remaining 270 have been built on or farmed,”

“The government is carving out a grazing route to run through the central states of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau, as well as Ebonyi in the South, according to Patrick Boga, an adviser in the ministry’s livestock department quoted in a foreign agency story published in December 2009.”

“In September 2009 the government also started to mark out grazing reserves across northern Nigeria’s Katsina and Bauchi States as well as the nearby capital, Abuja, to curb clashes.”

The three planned reserves, to serve about 15 million pastoralists, will mean demarcating 175,000 hectares of grazing land, building veterinary service centres, and constructing settlements for nomads to use en route, at a cost of US$247 million, according to Maina.

The government is also demarcating a 1,400km livestock route from Sokoto State in the northwest, to Oyo State in the Southwest; and another 2,000km route from Adamawa State in the northeast to Calabar in the Delta region, he added.

As human rights defenders we humbly call on the federal government to clarify the issue of whether government indeed have grazing reserves and what it has done to prevent encroachment of those reserves meant as grazing Land by local farmers. We want to know if the federal ministry of Agriculture and the federal ministry of land have carried out sensitization workshops and programmes to educate rural inhabitants and the nomadic Fulani on the existence or otherwise of grazing reserves.

Sir, we wish to inform you that the undue silence of officials of the federal ministry of Agriculture to intervene in the various conflicts between Nomadic Fulani and local farmers is dangerous and unconstitutional since the primary purpose of government is the provision of security to lives and property of citizens.

Chapter 33(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly states that; “Every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life.” The inability of the federal ministry of Agriculture to take immediate, verifiable and effective measures in collaboration with sister ministries and the law enforcement agents to stop further killings in clashes between Fulani and local farmers is a breach of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


Sir, we urge you to immediately make categorical and far-reaching policy statement regarding the existence or otherwise of grazing reserves all across the country.

Also, we urge you for the sake of public interest, to convoke a national conference on the thematic area of the frequent clashes between herdsmen and local farmers with a view to implementing and enforcing effective remedial measures to stop further bloodshed all across Nigeria because if farmers continue to suffer violent attack it may endanger the food security of Nigerians which will consequently imperil our democracy. We support any move by the Federal Government to create restricted grazing reserves for the use of Fulani herdsmen all across the country to check the destruction of farmlands by cattle which normally result in violent conflicts between both parties.

We urge you to actively make effort to set up vigorous and vibrant public enlightenment desks in the six geo-political zones to consistently enlighten farmers and Fulani herdsmen to constructively resolve their disputes rather than resorting to physical violence.

We pray you to always meet with the minister of police Affairs and the Inspector General of police to map out effective measures to nip in the bud any future bloody conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers just as we expect you to meet with the comptroller-General of Nigerian immigration service to work out ways to stop armed foreign mercenaries from invading farm lands and villages to kill villagers whenever Fulani herdsmen and local farmers quarrel over farm lands. Lastly but most importantly, we strongly urge the Federal Government to ensure that all those accused of attacking local farmers and committing horrendous offences of mass murder are arrested and prosecuted to stop the institutionalization of impunity. We use your good offices to urge the law enforcement agents to live above board and be up and doing in the execution of their constitutional duties of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians including rural farmers who have come under intense violent attack from some alleged foreign armed mercenaries allegedly hired by some herdsmen.       

Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) is a registered Non-Governmental, Non Religious and Non Political Oriented Association of Nigerian Creative Writers, Philosophers, Journalists and Humane Thinkers dedicated to deploying their creative talents to promote and protect the Human Rights of Nigerians and good Governance through constructive dialogues and media of Mass communication.

The target Audience of the Association includes: Assisting the indigent and other vulnerable groups in the society. Please join us to project these good ideals for the betterment of the Nigerian Society by becoming a better corporate citizen and by promoting the cause of Human rights.

Our objectives are;

v  To deploy the members’ creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizens resident within Nigeria;

v  To organize periodic seminars and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law;
v  To attend International Workshops and Seminars targeted at the promotion and protection of human rights;

v  To conduct periodic studies on ways, means and strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens;

v  To highlight human rights challenges confronting the persons in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and

v  To recognize excellence and good governance standards in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be by transparent mass participation strategies.  

Be assured of our highest esteem and consideration.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko                          
Executive Chairman/National Coordinator.                

Ms. Zainab Yusuf                             
Director Media Affairs 

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