By Augustine Ehikioya
Unlike other South Eastern States, a Northern Community Traditional Ruler in Imo State, HRM Alhaji Auwal Saidu Baba Suleiman, the Sarkin Imo, has revealed the strategies being adopted in the State to boost harmony between farmers and herders.
The strategies, he said, has made the State to be recording the lowest cases of farmers / herders clashes.
He spoke in an exclusive interview with Security Watch Africa (SWA).
He said “Actually, if we talk about the issue of Fulanis in the South East, let me be precise, in Imo State, there is this misunderstanding between the farmers and herders. And the same misunderstanding happens every where in this Nation.
“I think, even in the Northern part of the country, the situation is even more than what we are experiencing here in the South East. So, the issue is that here in Imo State, we have ways of resolving this problem between farmers and herders because both of them are living almost in the same place.
“I think it is a very small issue that every herder is supposed to know the difference between a place where there is farmland and a place where there is no farmland.
“Situation whereby, either mistakenly or deliberately an animal enters into a farm and destroy the crops, if the information comes to the palace, we used to call the Fulanis involved because we know the Fulanis and the various places where they live and the areas where they graze.
“And we know their leaders and we are really in control of the Fulanis here also in the State. But, we allow them to do their affairs as Fulanis, as people who live very far away from us in the urban settlements.
“We allow them to do their own leadership there, but if you look at it entirely, you will see that they are also answerable to the Palace,” he said.
“So, in a situation whereby there is a report of a particular destruction in a farm, if the area is being mentioned to us, we call the Fulani man who is in charge of that area. and we sit in the community to resolve the situation.
“We will look at the damages, we confirm it, then compensation will be given to the person and the Fulani will be asked to leave the farmland and find another place where there is no crops so that he can graze his animals amicably.
He explained that boys rearing the cows are usually the source of the conflicts as the real owners of the cows are mostly peace loving people.
“So, these clashes between farmers and herders is in this Imo State, but we have ways of resolving it.
And we also engage the Fulanis to educate those boys they use to send to rear those animals because where this problem lies is not the real owner of the cow,
“The real owner of the cow will be a very peaceful person, so if he is always paying compensation, that means he is losing in the business. So, he wouldn’t want the animal to go and destroy any farmland, so he will always like to caution the boys who are in charge of the cattles in the bush.
According to him, steps are being taken in the State to enlighten the Fulani boys more in order to keep conflict away completely from the State.
“So, I think where the problem lies is those boys and last week we had a meeting and I have let them know that there should be a room to educate those boys, to let them know the demarcation between farmlands and normal forest, and also understand where animal is supposed to graze and where animal is not supposed to graze.
“If we can do that and those boys are being educated, I think we will have peace and there will not be any conflict between farmers and herders. Here, Imo State, is quite different from other States because of the efforts we have put in place and ensure there is everlasting resolution of misunderstanding that has existed between the Fulani man and the farmer. So, we have a mild issue compared to other States in Nigeria,” he said.
Asked his message to the Northerners in Imo State and the South Eastern part of the country, he said “Small thing can trigger crisis and if someone is pursuing you and he couldn’t get you, my father used to say the person will grab your cloth and tear it.
“So, I always tell my people when there is congregation, to always be peaceful as far as Northern and Muslim community in Imo State is concerned.
“And that they should tolerate whatever hate speech may come across them. I also urge them to be prayerful because at this stage, prayer is the key for everything. Anything man, cannot do, God will do it for us,” he stated.