Herder–farmer conflicts in Nigeria

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Herder–farmer conflicts in Nigeria usually involve disputes over land and/or cattle between herders (in particular the Fulani and Hausa) and farmers (for example the Tiv or Tarok). The most impacted states are those of the Nigerian Middle Belt like Benue, Taraba and Plateau.[1]


Since the Fourth Nigerian Republic’s founding in 1999, farmer-herder violence has killed thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands more. It followed a trend in the increase of farmer-herder conflicts throughout much of the western Sahel, due to an expansion of agriculturist population and cultivated land at the expense of pasturelands; deteriorating environmental conditions, desertification and soil degradation; breakdown in traditional conflict resolution mechanisms of land and water disputes; and proliferation of small arms and crime in rural areas.[2] Insecurity and violence have led many populations to create self-defence forces and ethnic and tribal militias, which have engaged in further violence. The majority of farmer-herder clashes have occurred between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian peasants, exacerbating ethnoreligious hostilities.[3]


According to the Global Terrorism Index, Fulani militants were the fourth deadliest terrorist group in 2014, using machine guns and attacks on villages to assault and intimidate farmers. After killing around 80 people in total from 2010 to 2013, they killed 1,229 in 2014. Most deaths occurred in the Nigerian Middle Belt, in particular in the states of Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba, which recorded 847 deaths. The state of Zamfara, in the northern belt, recorded 229 deaths. In addition to terrorist attacks, Fulani militants were also involved in non-state armed conflicts with groups from Eggon, Jukun and Tiv farming communities. These conflicts resulted in over 800 deaths by 2015.[4] The year 2016 saw further incidents in Agatu, Benue and Nimbo, Enugu State.[5][6]

In April 2018 Fulani gunmen killed 19 people during an attack on the church, afterwards they burnt dozens of nearby homes.[7] In June 2018, over 200 people have died and 50 houses were burnt in clashes between farmers and Fulani cattle herders in Plateau State.[8][9][10] In October 2018, Fulani herdsmen killed at least 19 people in Bassa.[11] By 2018, over 2000 people were killed in those conflicts.[12][13] On 16 December 2018, Militants believed to be Fulani Herdsmen attacked a village in Jema'a, killing 15 people and injuring at least 24 others, the attack occurred at a wedding ceremony.[14][15]

See also


Communal conflicts in Nigeria

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Communal conflicts in Nigeria
Nigeria-karte-politisch english.png
Map of the 36 States of Nigeria
(21 years)
Status Ongoing
Christians Muslims
Tiv and Tarok farmers Fulani and Hausa herders
Casualties and losses
16,000+ people killed since 1998[1][2]

Communal conflicts in Nigeria[3] can be divided into two broad categories:[4][dubious ]

The most impacted states are those of the Nigerian Middle Belt like Benue, Taraba and Plateau.[5]
Violence has reached two peaks in 2004 and 2011 with around 2,000 fatalities those years.[6] It resulted in more than 700 fatalities in 2015.[2]

Herder-farmer conflicts

Since the Fourth Nigerian Republic’s founding in 1999, farmer-herder violence has killed thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands more. Insecurity and violence have led many populations to create self-defence forces and ethnic militias, which have engaged in further violence. The majority of farmer-herder clashes have occurred between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian peasants, exacerbating ethnoreligious hostilities.[7]

Other examples

Additional instances of ethnic violence in Nigeria exist;[8][9] these are often urban riots or such, for example the Yoruba-Hausa disturbances in Lagos,[10][11] the Igbo massacre of 1966 or the clashes between the Itsekiri and the Ijaw in Delta state. Others are land disputes between neighbours, such as clashes between Ile-Ife and Modakeke in the late 1990s[12] and in Ebonyi State in 2011.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Social Violence Data Table". Connect SAIS Africa.
  2. ^ a b "ACLED Realtime data 2015". Archived from the original on 2015-10-31.
  3. ^ "Backgrounder: Communal conflicts in Nigeria". UCDP. 21 June 2012.
  4. ^ "Nigeria Social Violence Project Summary" (PDF). Connect SAIS Africa.
  6. ^ "Social violence in Nigeria". Connect SAIS Africa.
  7. ^ "Farmer-Herder Clashes Amplify Challenge for Beleaguered Nigerian Security". IPI Global Observatory. 16 July 2015.
  8. ^ "An Evaluation of the Causes and Efforts Adopted in Managing the Ethnic Conflicts, Identity and Settlement Pattern among the Different Ethnic Groups in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria", Agbegbedia Oghenevwoke Anthony. International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR) ISSN (Online): 2319-7064 Volume 3 Issue 4, April 2014.
  9. ^ ORUMIE S. T. (May 2008). "2 NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISION (NDDC) AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE OIL PRODUCING COMMUNITIES: A CASE STUDY OF RIVERS STATE" (PDF). University of Nigeria, Nsukka. University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  11. ^ "Lagos calm after city centre riots". BBC Online. BBC. 2000-10-18. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  12. ^ Ife Modakeke Clash: Guess What Ooni’s Planning Michael Abimboye, naij.com
  13. ^ Nigeria: 'at least 50 killed' in communal clashes. The Telegraph, 11:28AM GMT 01 Jan 2012.

Suggested reading

External links

Fulani herdsmen

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Fulani wedding

Fulani herdsmen or Fulani pastoralists are nomadic or semi nomadic Fulani herders whose primary occupation is raising livestock.[1] The pure Fulani pastoralist engages in random movement of cattle while the semi-nomadic makes transhumance migration and return to their camps or homes.[2] The Fulani herdsmen are largely located in the Sahel and semi arid parts of West Africa but due to changes in climate patterns many herdsmen have moved further south into the savannah and tropical forest belt of West Africa. The herdsmen are found in countries such as Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon. In Senegal they inhabit northeastern Ferlo and the southeastern part of the country. In many of these countries the Fula often constitute a minority group.

In Nigeria, the livestock supplied by the herdsmen provide a bulk of the beef consumption in the country.


Herding system

A pastoral Fulani family is the traditional herding unit. Tasks are divided by gender and age among the members of the family.[3] The main work of men is to manage the herd, find grazing sites, build tents and camps and make security tools such as knives, bow and arrows and guns. Women in the unit take on traditional roles such as sourcing food produce in the market, milking cows, weaving and mat making.[4] Some women are also involved in farming such as growing vegetables and raising poultry.

Cattle is the dominant composition of the Fulani herd in countries such as Nigeria and camel is the least liked animal.[3] The livestock is largely female with close to 60% of cattle being female, the male species are usually reduced by selling them.


Fulani herdsmen's engage in both random and planned transhumance movements. Random movements are usually taken by the pure nomadic Fulani herdsmen while planned movements are taken by the semi nomadic pastoralist. A primary reason for the migratory nature of the herdsmen is to reach areas with abundant grass and water for the cattle.[2] The herdsmen also move to avoid tax collectors, harmful insects and hostile weather and social environment. A major benefit of the movement for the herdsmen is to maximize the availability food resources for the cattle and reduce excessive grazing.[5] Before moving new areas, the herdsmen send a reconnaissance team to study the area for availability of resources such as grass and water.

Source of income

The sale of goat, sheep and dairy products such as milk constitute the primary source of income and livelihood of the herdsmen. Their wealth and riches are often measured by the size of the Cattle herd being the most treasured animal they herd.[6] Traditionally, the herdsmen often loaned a cow (habbanaya) to another until she calves and after weaning the calf, the cow is returned to its owner. These herdsmen herds several species of cattle species of cattle, but the zebu cattle is the most common in the West African hinterland because of its drought resistant traits. The dwarf Ndama cattle is commonly herd in the wetter areas of Fouta Djallon and Casamance as result of their resistant to trypanosomiasis and other conditions directly associated with high humidity.[7]


Fulani herdsmen build domed houses called "Suudu hudo" or "Bukkaru" made from grasses. During the dry season, it is often supported with compact millet stalk pillars, and by reed mats held together and tied against wood poles, in the wet or rainy season.[8][9] The advantage of the "Bukkaru" house is that it is mobile, easy to set up and dismantle as a typical house of nomadic societies. When it is time to relocate, the houses are dismantled and loaded onto a camel, horses, donkeys and sometimes cattle for transport.[9][10] In recent times several herdsmen now live in mud or concrete block houses.[11]

Conflict with farmers

Historically Fulani pastoralists have grazed in lands around the arid and sahel regions of West Africa partly because of the environmental conditions that limit the amount of land for agricultural purposes leading to less intense competition for land between farmers and herders. However, after recurrent droughts in the arid and sahel regions, Fulani pastoralists have gradually moved southwards to the guinea savanna and the tropical forest areas resulting in competition for grazing routes with farmers.[12]


Fulani pastoralists started migrating into Northern Nigeria from the Senegambia region around the thirteenth or fourteenth century.[12] After the Uthman dan Fodio jihad, the Fulani became integrated into the Hausa culture of Northern Nigeria. Thereafter, during the dry season when tsetse fly population is reduced, Fulani pastoralists began to drive their cattle into the middle belt zone dominated by non Hausa groups returning to the north at the onset of the rainy season. But while managing the herd and driving cattle, cattle grazing on farmlands sometimes occur leading to destruction of crops and becoming a source of conflict.

Nigeria's implementation of the land use act of 1978 allowed the state or federal government the right to assign and lease land and also gave indigenes the right to apply and be given a certificate of occupancy to claim ownership of their ancestral lands.[13] This placed the pastoral Fulani in a difficult position because most did not apply for lands of occupancy of their grazing routes and recurring transhumance movement will lead to encroachment of the properties of others. The Nigeria government designed some areas as grazing routes but this has not reduced clashes. From 1996 to 2006 about 121 people lost their lives in Bauchi and Gombe states as a result of conflicts between pastoralists and farmers.[14]


Fulani migrant groups and pastoralist are usually considered strangers and foreigners because of their Senegambia origin,[13] as a result their rights to use the areas termed ancestral lands by indigenous ethnic groups have met with some reservatins. Conflicts in some regions in Northern Ghana arise due to cattle destroying the crops of farmers

See also


  1. ^ Iro (1994), pp. 22
  2. ^ a b Iro (1994), pp. 106
  3. ^ a b Iro (1994), pp. 103
  4. ^ Iro (1994), pp. 104
  5. ^ Iro (1994), pp. 107
  6. ^ Chris Caldicott (1996-11-02). "Take me to the river - Travel". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  7. ^ 15 November 2012 (2012-11-15). "Dewgal (Crossing of the Cattle): a celebration of greener pastures". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  8. ^ Al-Amin Abu-Manga, Fulfulde in the Sudan: process of adaptation to Arabic (1986), p. 7, books.google.com/books?id=8IYOAAAAYAAJ: "The Fulani in the Sudan are known by the loose generic term 'Fellata'"
  9. ^ a b "The World Factbook". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2013-12-28.
  10. ^ "Association of Concerned Africa Scholars " Citizenship and Identity in Post-Secession Northern Sudan". Concernedafricascholars.org. Retrieved 2013-12-28.
  11. ^ Schlee, Gunther; Watson, Elizabeth, eds. (2013-10-15). "Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-east Africa: Volume II: Sudan, Uganda, and the Ethiopia-Sudan Borderlands". ISBN 9781845459635.
  12. ^ a b Tonah (2002)
  13. ^ a b Okello (2014)
  14. ^ Abbass (2014)


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