Mr Adewale Ajadi, Country Director, Synergos, an international NGO, has called for the arrest and prosecution of all culprits in the recent killings in Benue.
Ajadi spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Thursday in Abuja, on the sidelines of a stakeholders parley on resolving the Benue conflict.
He said the killers must be held accountable to their crimes, whether they were herders or farmers to serve as deterrent to others.
According to him, Nigerians should grow beyond resorting to killings as way of tackling intra or inter communal crisis.
“We have a policy development process which is ongoing, looking at this conflict; we have been working on this for the past three years.
“We have created factories for cassava peels as an alternative solution to grass and we funded the project.
“We have been working in Benue; we need to ask ourselves what is the root cause of these problems? We needed people who have firsthand information on the issues. That is the essence of this meeting.
“I think that the first step towards addressing the Benue problem is to make sure that people are held to account for killings; murder is murder; it does not matter whether it is the herder or the farmer involved.
“Anybody who kills should be held; that will douse the tension; we should stop resolving communal conflicts by killing one another.’’
He said that there was need to deal with the issue in a way that the farmer and herder did not see their source of livelihood and future as being threatened.
The country director said that any effort to find solution should involve all the parties, adding that it would take some time to resolve the issue.
“We know that we need to change the way we handle livestock; can involve technology, but doing it the way it will be favourable to both the farmers and the herders is what we are working at,’’ he said.
On his part, Mr Ghali Umar, a Conflict Mediator, told NAN that identifying all pastoralists in the state matters, as it would help the Benue Government in implementing its policies.
He said that the Benue Government, in its Anti-Grazing Edict, wanted herders to ranch, without providing the facilities.
“ The Benue Government is saying herders should ranch or leave without making provisions for them; the grazing land was not given to them; no social amenities were provided anyway for them; how do you expect them to ranch without amenities?
“One cow drinks an average of three buckets of water per day, and the distance between the herders and the stream is lot of distance; how do they fetch water for 700 cows; that is a tank of water; again, where is he going to source grass for the cows?
“If the governor wants to end the crisis, he has to look for a way of giving the pastoralists land for grazing, and put all the social amenities needed for survival in a ranch.
“Many farmers are not even willing to sell their land to the herdsmen; what I expected the government is call both parties and give herders and farmers more time and sensitisation,’’ he said.
Umar, who is Fulani, said that he expected the Benue Government to establish a ranch as a way of showing the herders what he wanted them to do.
He said that more discussions were needed to find a lasting solution.
Mr James Ker, Programme Manager, Benue State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA), said that there was need to quickly get the pastoralists and the farmers back to discussion.
Ker said that the farmers and herders understood the problem, adding that what was required was a middle course for the problem to be solved.
“I will not preempt what the herders issues are or what the farmers issues are, but they need to talk and find a solution.
“There must be a middle ground; both sides must be heard for the problems to be solved,’’ he said.
Synergos is a global nonprofit organization, that brings people together to solve complex problems of poverty.
It builds trust and collaboration on issues such as health, nutrition, agriculture, and youth employment, creating opportunities for individuals and communities to thrive.