Until recent, clashes between farmers and herders, prevalent in other parts of the country, have been rare in Yobe. However, this has changed as in the last three weeks, clashes between the two groups have resulted in deaths and severe injuries with the government and the police saying they would turn to technology to curb the menace, as our correspondent reports.
With a heavy concentration of farmers and herders, Yobe State has not experienced the pandemic of violence between the two groups as much as other states.
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However, a rare clash in Garin Malam village of Jakusko Local Government Area has caused the death of one and resulted in injuries to several others and the destruction of many properties, which has caused concerns in the state.
Usmanu Ali, a community leader in the area where the incident happened, said residents were thrown into fear and some have fled the village.
According to him, trouble started when some unknown herders drove their cattle into villagers’ farms. The destruction of crops ready for harvest provoked many villagers.
“The farmers rushed to report the matter to the local vigilante, who used guns in an attempt to contain the fight where one herdsman sustained a gunshot wound,” he said.
The injury to the herdsman caused his kin to retaliate on Garin Mallam, according to Malam Ali.
Just as the dust stirred in Garin Malam was dying down, another one kicked off in seven communities in four LGA’s including Buni Gari town of Gujba Local Government were 23 farmers sustained injuries as a result of a clash with herders.
One of the farmers, Kyari Konto, said that every year he harvests about 40 bags worth of guinea corn from his farm. This year, after the herders invaded, he managed to harvest only 12 bags.
“I was forced to hide whenever I noticed their movements around because they can easily kill as they were holding weapons,” he said. “Similar conflict may continue to linger because we are witnessing a mass invasion of herders this season perhaps due to the banditry in the northwest,” he said.
The Yobe State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said about three seriously injured victims would have to undergo amputation surgery as suggested by doctors.
The Executive Secretary of the agency, Dr Mohammed Goje while giving statistics noted that most farmers lost their products, about 23 who had an encounter with the herders sustained various degrees of injuries. Two of these victims from Buni Gari have had their arms amputated already while 21 other seriously injured victims are in hospitals being monitored. One of the victims from Garin Mallam will also be amputated while four others will undergo various procedures.
Goje said over 78 farmlands with different produce were affected, with eight households burnt down and about 95 small and large ruminants catered away.
While commiserating with the victims, he assured them of support from the state government saying that Governor Mai Mala Buni has directed that all victims be treated free and that he would mobilize resources to cushion the effect on the affected victims.
For many people, these developments are worrying but for civil society organisations more so.
The Executive Director, Yobe Network for Civil Society Organization, Comr Baba Shehu said violent conflicts between farmers and herders in the state, especially in the last three weeks, is taking another dimension.
He said that despite consistent advocacies to relevant ministries, department and agencies as well as security agencies on the matter, there has been no effective and functional government-driven conflict resolution mechanism in the state.
“It is high time we brought all stakeholders for dialogue and proffer lasting solutions to this situation, the government should be on the driver’s seat to secure the lives and livelihoods of its citizens. Anything short of that would be considered as negligence from the side of the government,” he said.
In the same vein, the Kullen Allah Cattle Rearers Association (KACRAN) said the perpetrators should not go unpunished.
The National President of the association, Khalil Muhammad Bello, in a statement, said, “KACRAN considers the destruction of people’ source of livelihood at this time when the country is facing the danger of food insecurity as [a]subversive act with a wicked intention to plunge citizens into an acute shortage of food stuff and such should not be tolerated.
“While we condemn the act, we equally wonder why any peace-loving herder will destroy farmers produce and kill them if they try to prevent their animals from consuming the yet to be harvested farm produce.
“We also call on the Government to direct law enforcement agencies to do everything humanly possible to protect the lives and properties of our dear farmers and the general society.”
Beyond the usual rhetoric, the government and the police say they are thinking of a novel way to end the crisis by introducing data capturing.
Governor Mai Mala Buni said that the state has taken proactive steps towards addressing conflict across the state.
Buni, who spoke through his deputy, Idi Barde Gubana, while chairing a security meeting in Damaturu noted that a committee was earlier set up and went round to all local governments and emirates to intimate traditional rulers to maintaining peace and order.
He said the government would continue to support the security agencies in their efforts to bring lasting peace.
The Commissioner of Police, Yobe State Command, Yahaya Sahabo Abubakar, explained that a data capture system will be introduced to take details of all incoming herders.
“Details of their names, photographs, fingerprints will be captured to easily trace them whenever the need arises,” he said.
Meanwhile, the police commissioner earlier said he has deployed numerous police personnel to maintain peace and prevent further escalation of the situation.
For many people in the state, they hope this will help in ending the violence and bring about a return to normalcy.