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Nigeria’s boiling Point

Climate change is a subject matter that should be of concern to all nations in the world. Curiously, no country, big or small, is immune to the effects of climate change. Remarkably, despite the huge applause for the monumental Paris Agreement on climate change, the nation who ought to lead to achieve the objectives set out in it will be looked at. The effect of global warming will be huge in the future. However, this is already evident in many developing countries.

In West Africa and the sub-Sahara nations, climate change has caused a major shrinkage to lakes and rivers. This has, in consequence, triggered migration issues and has caused numerous conflicts. The alarming and unprecedented armed attacks in sub-Sahara Africa has reached a boiling point. If it is not curtailed and is allowed to brew further, this will throw the entire region into a conflict far more catastrophic than the Syrian war. It will have a cataclysmic domino-effect on the immediate neighboring countries as well as Europe. A lot of reasons have been alluded to this conflict but if there will be consensus on these reasons then there is a moot point. It is centered on one’s political affiliation and tribal alliance. However, one of the primary causes of the trouble is climate change. This by itself has mutated into other issues multiplying the causes and effects. Other related factors, but no less important, are human contribution; deforestation, hydroelectric constructions and desert encroachment to mention a few.

There is no doubt that water scarcity as consequence of the drying Lake Chad is a significant cause of the problems. This has impoverished the region, triggering hunger and insecurity. This view has been echoed by Mohamadou Karidjo, Honourable minister of defense of the Republic of Niger at the Conference of Party (COP21). The most affected ethnic people, are the Tuareg among others. Also, escalating the problem is the Tuareg rebellion in Mali in the quest for a separate home land. According to the United Nation High commission for refugees about 200,000 people are displaced and over 400 people cross into Burkina Faso and other bordering countries daily. In addition, the nomads from Libya and the environs that have streamed southwards in search for greener pastures for grazing.
The main livelihood of the Nomads in northern Nigeria, Niger and Mali is cattle rearing. The water shortage from the Lake region, drought and food shortage have heightened migration drifts down south where there is lush green land. Hence the Fulani herdsmen from North are moving in large numbers than ever and grazing to the detriment of other farmers. Though not without effects to the environment also: gully erosion, disease and replanting the southern part of the region with seed from animal’s waists. It is notable that strange grasses and plants have now been dominating these areas in the last two decades. These, in addition to the recent killings of farmers and their families in eastern Nigeria, Edo state in mid-west and other areas. Also reports of similar incidents in Ghana and Cameroun. It is no wonder that the situation has exasperated many.
Strangely, the barbaric attack by the so called Fulani herdsmen has not been condemned nor investigated by the government. Instead, it has either been trivialized or tribalized. While politicians and security agencies sit on the fence and pretend nothing is happening due to sentiment. No matter how one may view the activities of the herdsmen, it is naive to blame these atrocities wholly on the Fulani herdsmen without analyzing the cause of the frictions. All must look at the bigger picture to ascertain the real cause of the concern, to unmask the ultimate cause and those culpable.
Since Gadhafi was deposed, it has been established that the region is swamped with weapons looted after the fall of Libya; The Tuareg war for separate home land, Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and the desert encroachment resulting from drying Lake Chad due to the effect of climate change. All of which depicts the insecurity and volatile situation in the region. Therefore, to state unequivocally that one group of people is responsible for these attacks without looking at other factors is wrong. Worse still, a superficial treatment.
Fulani’s are known for their cattle rearing skills, they have done so for ages in Nigeria with little or no problem in the south in the past. They could easily be described as men walking their herds, holding sticks on their shoulders and at times carrying Bows, Arrows and Daggers. But simply for the protection of their herds from wild Animals.

Fulani Herds men were never known to bear arms (guns). Why are AK47s being used now? The Nigeria security agents should be proactive in investigating these attacks. It might be that these incidents are not carried out by the herds men but terrorist disguised as herdsmen. It is important to distinguish between genuine herdsmen and the mischievous for the sake of peace, security and unity of Nigeria and the greater good of the other to achieve this in the region, especially in Nigeria, security agencies and politicians alike must be detribalized. In so doing, they can see beyond personal and tribal interest to foster national security.
Most importantly, both the southern and the northern legislators and governors have to speak frankly and firmly irrespective of their political affiliations. Where many worry about their political influence and party’s loyalty they forget about the electorates whom they represent. Be conscious that you are honourable to stand for a course and dishonorable when you fail your own people and yourself. Political positions are not meant for personal aggrandizement but opportunity to serve. It is just a temporal office that has been occupied by others before you and you will invariably be out of the office someday. There must be united effort in legislating mitigating a permanent solution rather the ill-willed Grazing bill before the house which failed to address the concerns and causes of the problem. The bill before the house now is cosmetic. It fails to address the problem in economic, legal or political sense. All of the above is very tribal to say the least.
For more than two decades, the southerners have driven their cows and herds to extinction because people started to farm nearer to home. Since developments took over many farm lands, many villages were advised to take away their cows and cattle’s to avoid them grazing on farm lands and destroying crops. Within five years cows native to southern Nigeria are near complete extinction. Thanks to the Ugo Community in Edo state that took the initiative to preserve insignificant numbers. The reason for such conservative effort is led by tradition. These cows play major role in tradition either for some rites or payment sanction. In other areas, they were sold or killed. The only rational for doing that was to enable farmers and land owners to farm without fear of damage to crops by the beasts. The approach then was; people were asked to remove their cattle or keep them securely in their own lands. Thus, not to graze in other people’s land. This way crops flourished and were not destroyed.
Occasionally, during the dry season’s herdsmen from the northern states came and some of their animals strayed into farm lands. There were no problems because they apologized and were peaceful. They carried on sometimes with the help of the host communities giving them shelter and water. Hence the events of recent times makes people, both the genuine herdsmen and southern natives to wonder the kind herds men we now hear about walking with open display of sophisticated arms. This begs the question, since when did Nigerians start to bear arms and what is the Nigerian security's answer to this anomaly?
The rational for southern leaders to encourage their people to remove their herds (cows) or contain them is simply commercial. Since these are private businesses it should not affect others adversely. Nigeria is a vast country and its constitution allow for freedom of movement. No one can argue or deny businessmen of any kind from going around to do their legitimate businesses anywhere in Nigeria. In the same coin, cattle’s rearing is a business which should be done in a manner that should not affect others. If you come to think of it, where southern farmers cooperated with elders and agreed to remove cows from their lands, it will be hard to absorb that herds men of any identity simply kill people for protecting their own crops and means of livelihood.
The most ridiculous thing in this affair is the lack of political initiative to neither investigate the course of this trouble nor attempt to condemn it. Instead, government turn it into tribal discuss. Be that as it may, the truth of the matter is that we have seen herdsmen from time immemorial doing their business with little or no problems with other ethnics group.
What is happening now is another regional conflict of unprecedented dimension brewing. The attack by herdsmen in the southern and eastern Nigeria are not isolated incidents. There are reports of herdsmen raping, killing and overrunning villages in Ghana ,Cameroun ,Ivory Coast and others west African countries .Instead of the government sentiments about these attacks it should look beyond tribalism and face reality before it is too late. This is not a tribal war between ethics tribes of south, east or north, it is a wider problem. Otherwise, when this trouble explodes to uncontrollable proportion it will certainly overwhelm. And its devastating effect will be more than the Syrian crisis.
According to eminent scholar, historian and lawyer, Mr. Owain Blackwell of Bolton Law School, ‘‘the problem of the herdsmen is an environmental one resulting from climate change’. ‘Since there is draught in sub-Sahara and the Chad basin source of water in the region is drying up, it is only natural that the people who depended on it migrates elsewhere in search of greener pasture’’. There is little doubt to me that this is what is happening now. Hence the Fulani herdsmen are moving down south with their herds in large numbers.
The free movement of goods and person provided by the Economic community of west African States (ECOWAS) charter, means that people can move within the community and enjoy short stay within 90 days. It also brings enormous economic benefits and serious security challenges. More so, now that there are civil wars raging in Libya, Mali and other insurgences in the region. Boarders ought to be controlled to restrain the float of extremists and other elements. Unfortunately, people do not have or carry identity with them. The security agencies do not control. When they do, they only extort citizen for personal gains.
The provision of movement person and good in ECOWS Charter is similar to that of Benelux or even European Union. It’s overriding economic interest is good for economic growth and development of our economics in the sub region. However, the charter did not remove security or border controls. It is absolute nonsense that despite serious cross border attacks, legitimate traders face serious custom controls while others with repulsive motive move about unhindered.
Once these groups meet other settlers there are bound to be friction caused by numerous factors: Language barrier, the locals will feel threatened and will eventually protest if not fight to defend their land and properties. Hence it is imperative that government take proactive measures to mitigate this problem.
Worst still, the fall of Gadaffi has given impetus to criminal gang to operate in Chad, Niger desert making life difficult for already suffering nomads in the region. And this also has filed area with weapons looted from Libya. Some of these guns and Nomads are also moving into these areas in Nigeria and beyond in West Africa. Therefore, it is naïve for Nigerian government to sit and believe that these terror attacks on Nigerian villagers are by just Fulani Herdsmen. Nigerian Fulani herdsmen are not known for such atrocities as these. One is compelled to say that the intelligent security operatives are unintelligent to dispatch these outrageous killing with a wave hand.
Even more troubling is some of the houses dis-honorables, who are discussing grazing bill in an unpatriotic manner. Some suggesting importation of grass instead allocating fund to create ranches in northern Nigeria and fund massive irrigation projects and afforestation. Furthermore, fund the strengthening, education and de-tribalization of the public officers.
It is rather unfortunate that Nigeria’s boarders are porous. From Sudan to Chad, there are no distinctive feature to know who is from where. This is more of challenge to the Nigeria security and boarder agencies to protect Nigerians. This problem if uncontrolled now could grow out of hand in the near future. Take cognizance of the fact the sub-Sahara is witnessing desert encroachment, global warming effect, deforestation and insecurity in the region, these will trigger exodus of people. In my opinion, predict a massive refugee crisis. Which means that more Northern herdsmen will move southward to graze which will lead to more friction.
My suggestions are that the government should invest in modern farming, education and security. It should send experts to teach people to feed their stocks in their ranches secured and not wondering about towns and cities with herds. After all, Europeans have farmers whose business is to grow animals or what you like to call it. They do so within their own lands or ranches. Also, people should be educated to learn to respect others and their properties and dialogue instead of draw arms at any opportunity. Also, for obvious health risks it is improper to walk cattle in villages and towns in this modern society.
There should be registration and identification of people. This will help economic planning. It will also help to improve security. Cattle traders should be registered like other business and licensed to do so. And should have entry and exit points where they must register. Hopefully, this will help to identify the legitimate traders and those perpetuating problems.
Finally, the regional security is in the interest of all. Therefore, peaceful co-existence has no alternative. All security agents should put the national interest first. Prevent violence, investigate cases, prosecute and punish offenders for deterrence. There is only one world and climate change affects all irrespective of status or location. It should be address by all especially politician who has the power to turn things around. Political elites, are honorable because you have a country to rule and decide on. Put it first, honor it and serve with all your strength. You can only rule people because they are home. You will not rule people fleeing for refuge in other countries. Be wise and pray for wisdom to serve well for it is there where the honor ultimately lies.
By: Lucky Aghedo, (Esq).
(Researching on Climate and security).