Nigeria’s bishops have challenged government authorities to resolve the country’s violent disputes, especially after recent attacks by Fulani herdsmen have resulted in over 168 deaths just this year.
A recent statement from the Catholic bishops, focused on clashes between herdsmen and farmers, a spate of kidnappings and the large number of internally displaced persons and refugees, said “The recent mass slaughter of unarmed citizens by these armed herdsmen in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba States has caused national shock, grief and outcry”. “We believe that, if there is some degree of political will, our public authorities can take adequate steps to put an end to these human tragedies”.
Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna have resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone.
Violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers has increased in recent years since climate issues have pushed herders further south. The bishops understood the herdsmen’s concern “to save their livestock and economy” but condemned the “massacres of innocent people” that have resulted.
“Our perilous situation calls for more security consciousness”, the statement read, and the bishops urged authorities to take measures to disarm and unmask the criminals responsible for the attacks.
They maintained that “a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing ‘grazing colonies’ in the country. Government should rather encourage cattle owners to establish ranches in line with international best practice”.
“Farmers and herdsmen have a lot to contribute to the socio economic prosperity of our nation. A more enduring strategy must be worked out for their peaceful co-existence and mutual respect”, the bishops wrote.
Without government intervention, the bishops are worried the conflict would breed situations of long term violence, and that farmers would have to result to self-defense, creating a state of anarchy. “This will, no doubt, lead to the complete breakdown of law and order in the country”, wrote the bishops. “It is wiser and easier to prevent a war than to stop it after it has broken out”, they later added.
Due to political unrest, Cameroonians have fled their country and taken residence in refugee camps within the states of Taraba and Banue. Many of these places are in need of basic necessities, sanitation, and medical supplies, the bishops wrote.
The government should provide additional support to the National Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, they said, but also urged people to aid integration of these struggling communities.
In conclusion, the bishops called on all of Nigeria to participate in actions of peace, forgiveness, and mutual dialogue. “We, therefore, urge all aggrieved parties to seek reconciliation through dialogue and mutual forgiveness. Above all, we passionately appeal to them to beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”.