The long-running clashes between herders and farmers in north-west Nigeria have been aggravated by "an explosion in criminal activity and infiltration by jihadi groups," says a new report.
The report, issued by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), adds that competition between the groups over land and water resources, has been "amplified by factors like climate change, policies favouring farmers over herders, high population growth and a boom in the trade of small arms and light weapons."
The ICG notes that more than 8,000 people have died in the last 10 years, mostly in Zamfara state, while more than 200,000 people have been internally displaced and 40,000 have fled to neighbouring Niger.
"Violence has had a far-reaching humanitarian and economic impact on the region and created a domino effect of security problems", says Nnamdi Obasi, the group's senior adviser for Nigeria. And the ICG's West Africa project directory, Rinaldo Depagne, warns that jihadist activity could link Islamist insurgencies in the central Sahel with that in the Lake Chad region of north-eastern Nigeria.
The group advocates a multi-pronged approach to the conflict, including:
- Federal and state authorities reducing tensions between herders and farmers, including by expediting implementation of a national livestock plan;
- Dialogue between Hausa farmers and Fulani herders;
- Improving security and law enforcement in the region, including better policing of forests and gold-mining areas; and
- Addressing environmental and economic issues underlying the violence.
"If vigorously pursued and well supported by international partners, this mix of short and long term measures represents the best chance for staunching the spread of violence and achieving a measure of stability in a region that has already seen more than its fair share of conflict, crisis and humanitarian need", says Comfort Ero, the ICG's Africa programme director.