Herder–farmer conflicts in Nigeria

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 Adara, Tiv and Tarok). The most impacted states are those of the Nigerian Middle Belt like Benue, Taraba and Plateau.[1] 3,641 people have died in the clashes from 2015 to late 2018.[2]


Since the Fourth Nigerian Republic’s founding in 1999, farmer-herder violence has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.[3][4] 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;[5] population growth;[3] breakdown in traditional conflict resolution mechanisms of land and water disputes; and proliferation of small arms and crime in rural areas.[6] 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 farmers, exacerbating ethnoreligious hostilities.[7]


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.[8] The year 2016 saw further incidents in Agatu, Benue and Nimbo, Enugu State.[9][10]

In April 2018 Fulani gunmen killed 19 people during an attack on the church, afterwards they burnt dozens of nearby homes.[11] In June 2018, over 200 people were killed and 50 houses were burnt in clashes between farmers and Fulani cattle herders in Plateau State.[12][13][14] In October 2018, Fulani herdsmen killed at least 19 people in Bassa.[15] By 2018, over 2000 people were killed in those conflicts.[16][17] 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.[18][19]

There has been occurrences of retaliatory violence.[20] Critics and media have accused Fulanis of trying to Islamize the Middle Belt of Nigeria. Miyetti Allah stated that the June 2018 massacre was a response to killing of over 70 herders and theft of over 500 cows since April 2018.[21] Journalist Tunji Ajibade in a column in The Punch has accused the media of promoting ethnic hatred, by often attributing killings to Fulani herdsmen even when the police themselves haven't confirmed so or any suspect has been arrested. In contrast, ethnicities of attackers targeting Muslim or Fulani communities are often unidentified by the media despite being arrested.[22]

2019 Kaduna State massacre

On 11 February 2019, an attack on an Adara settlement named Ungwar Bardi by suspected Fulani gunmen killed 11. Reprisal attack by Adara targeted settlements of the Fulani killing at least 141 people with 65 missing. The attacks took place in Kajuru LGA of Kaduna State.[23] According to a governor the motive was to destroy specific communities.[24][25]

The Coalition Against Kajuru killings stated on March 18 that since then 130 people have been killed in a series of revenge attacks over the massacre announced by El-Rufai.[26]

See also


  1. ^ "KILLINGS IN BENUE, PLATEAU AND TARABA STATES". Archived from the original on 2015-07-27.
  2. ^ "Nigeria: Government failures fuel escalating conflict between farmers and herders as death toll nears 4,000".
  3. ^ a b "The Deadliest Conflict You've Never Heard of". The Foreign Policy. 23 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Farmer-Herder Conflicts on the Rise in Africa". ReliefWeb. 6 August 2018.
  5. ^ "How Climate Change Is Spurring Land Conflict in Nigeria". Time. 28 June 2018.
  6. ^ "My Land, Not Your Land. Farmer-Herder Wars in the Sahel". Foreign Affairs. 21 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Farmer-Herder Clashes Amplify Challenge for Beleaguered Nigerian Security". IPI Global Observatory. 16 July 2015.
  8. ^ "Global Terrorism Index 2015" (PDF). Institute for Economics and Peace. pp. 43–44.
  9. ^ Muslim Fulani Herdsmen Massacres Reach Southern Nigeria, Morning Star News. April 27, 2016
  10. ^ Fulani Herdsmen Massacre 40 Farmers in Enugu. Tori.ng; posted by Thandiubani on Tue 26th Apr, 2016
  11. ^ "Fresh bloodbath in Benue, 2 Catholic priests, 17 others killed by herdsmen".
  12. ^ "Plateau attacks: more than 200 killed in herdsmen-farmers clash — Quartz Africa".
  13. ^ "Communal clashes leave 86 dead in Nigeria". 25 June 2018 – via www.bbc.com.
  14. ^ Nigeria, Information (25 June 2018). "86 people killed and 50 houses burnt in fresh Fulani herdsmen attack in Plateau".
  15. ^ "Herdsmen kill 19 in Plateau midnight attack – Punch Newspapers".
  16. ^ siteadmin (9 April 2018). "Over 2000 Nigerians Killed In Farmers-Herdsmen Clashes Across Nigeria- Group". Sahara Reporters.
  17. ^ siteadmin (11 January 2018). "Benue State Buries 73 Killed By Fulani Herdsmen". Sahara Reporters.
  18. ^ "15 killed, 24 injured as gunmen attack Kaduna village". www.dailytrust.com.ng. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  19. ^ "Gunmen Kill 15, Injure 20 in Southern Kaduna". www.thisdaylive.com. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  20. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/africa/nigeria-herders-farmers.html
  21. ^ https://www.voanews.com/a/nigeria-s-fulani-say-they-are-being-vilified-for-violence/4463259.html
  22. ^ Smart voters, NBC’s sanctions, and ethnic bashing
  23. ^ "'How 66 people were killed in Kaduna in two days'". Premium Times. Retrieved 2019-02-11.
  24. ^ "Miyetti Allah releases names of 131 victims of Kajuru, Kaduna violence - Premium Times Nigeria".
  25. ^ "'El- Rufai alleges plan to 'wipe out' some Kaduna communities". Premium Times. Retrieved 2019-02-11.
  26. ^ Kajuru killings: Over 130 lives wasted – Group laments

Communal conflicts in Nigeria

Communal conflicts in Nigeria
Nigeria-karte-politisch english.png
Map of the 36 States of Nigeria
(21 years)
Status Ongoing
Christians Muslims  Nigeria
Adara, Tiv and Tarok farmers Fulani and Hausa herders Nigeria Nigerian Armed Forces
Nigeria Police Force
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 alone.[2]


Climate change played a major role in the migration of Fulani herdsmen.

Africa countries have been affected the most by climate change globally. This notion has contributed to the migration of Fulani Herdsmen from the North towards southwest Nigeria. As observed from a "Push and pull" model, desertification, landslides, droughts, pollution, sand storms, and diseases that have all transpired from climatic changes have led Fulani Herdsmen to leave their communities. This is mostly due to droughts which timespans have persisted longer than anticipated, such as the evaporation of Lake Chad. Moreover, diseases have developed from climatic conditions and is killing the animals of these herdsmen. Thus, many Fulani's, also known as "the Bororos", are inclined to migrate south where there is improved vegetation, weather conditions, market opportunities, and hopefulness.[7]

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.[8] This violence stems from the relationship between the Bororo Fulani and the Yoruba farmers. Prior to this, the Fulani people had migrated into the southwestern Nigeria region centuries ago. In fact, in the 18th century, three different groups of Fulani had migrated to the city of Iseyin. These groups consisted of the Bangu, Sokoto, and Bororo Fulani. Out of these three groups, the Bororo Fulani in particular were the group to separate themselves from the Yoruba farmers. Meanwhile, the Bangu and Sokoto had developed a working relationship with the Yoruba people of Nigeria.[9] Through this bond, they profited off of each other from the by products of their cattle and agriculture. The Fulani people would trade any commodities they extracted from their cattle to the Yoruba's for their crops. However, the migration of the Bororo Fulani shifted this relationship as they were perceived to be more aggressive than the settled Fulani. This difference was further exacerbated as they did not speak the native Yoruba language unlike the settled Fulani people who did. As the Bororo Fulani pastoralists integrated into this region the cattle they owned started damaging Yoruba farmers' crops and plants. This led to friction to become quite common among these two groups. One case that can be observed was when additional wreckage was pressed into farmers in the city of Iseyin after a group of Bororo Fulani were exiled from the city of Oyo and migrated there in 1998.[10]

Another conflict the Bororo Fulani have been involved with was in 1804 when the Fulani had a Holy War between those who identified as Muslim and resonated with the Hausas and those that were still associated with the Pagan tribes.[11] The war took place in the northern region of Nigeria. This war led to a dichotomy of two groups of the Fulani. One group amalgamated with the Hausa people and are essentially integrated as Hausas while holding positions of wealth and power. The other group kept their pastoral ways intact and did not intermesh with any other tribes. This is what eventually became the Bororo Fulani which means the Bush or Cow Fulani.

Currently, the conflict between Fulani herders and other Nigerian farmers have intensified.[12] From 2011 to 2016, roughly 2,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been displaced. This is partly due to the rise of jihadist groups, such as Boko Haram. Their presence has jeopardized many herders and farmers that graze in Northern Nigeria. The government has made little efforts to intervene and create schemes to alleviate this conflict. Hence, herders and farmers take it upon themselves to solve the conflicts existing within the community which invigorates conflict.

Abet Fulani Herders

The Abet, also known as the Kachichere, are another subgroup of the Fulani.[13] They live in the Abet region of Nigeria after they migrated their in the 18th century. They live in a region for approximately 3 to 5 years before moving another few kilometers within the Abet. Once they establish a homestead, their herds graze within a 3 mile radius. The reason they prefer to graze in the Abet is due to the favorable conditions it holds for their cattle. This stems from the dry season coinciding with the peak of cow fertility and the production of milk. Furthermore, it is easier to herd animals in these open land spaces rather than in condense areas replete of bushes. For land rights in this region, Fulani families may be given rights to parts of the land through customary structures. Thus, land is distributed from Chiefs or those in charge of the villages that these fields reside in.

Other examples

Additional instances of ethnic violence in Nigeria exist;[14][15] these are often urban riots or such, for example the Yoruba-Hausa disturbances in Lagos,[16][17] 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[18] and in Ebonyi State in 2011.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "Social Violence Data Table". Connect SAIS Africa. Archived from the original on 2015-06-29. Retrieved 2015-09-09.
  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. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Nigeria Social Violence Project Summary" (PDF). Connect SAIS Africa. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-06-29.
  5. ^ "KILLINGS IN BENUE, PLATEAU AND TARABA STATES". Archived from the original on 2015-07-27. Retrieved 2015-09-09.
  6. ^ "Social violence in Nigeria". Connect SAIS Africa. Archived from the original on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2015-09-09.
  7. ^ Folami, Olakunle Michael; Folami, Adejoke Olubimpe (January 2013). "Climate Change and Inter-Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria". Peace Review. 25 (1): 104–110. doi:10.1080/10402659.2013.759783. ISSN 1040-2659.
  8. ^ "Farmer-Herder Clashes Amplify Challenge for Beleaguered Nigerian Security". IPI Global Observatory. 16 July 2015.
  9. ^ Adebayo, A. G. (1991). "Of Man and Cattle: A Reconsideration of the Traditions of Origin of Pastoral Fulani of Nigeria". History in Africa. 18: 1–21. doi:10.2307/3172050. ISSN 0361-5413. JSTOR 3172050.
  10. ^ Olaniyi, Rasheed Oyewole (2014-02-27). "Bororo Fulani Pastoralists and Yoruba Farmers' Conflicts in the Upper Ogun River, Oyo State Nigeria, 1986–2004". Journal of Asian and African Studies. 50 (2): 239–252. doi:10.1177/0021909614522948. ISSN 0021-9096.
  11. ^ Ibrahim, Mustafa B. (April 1966). "The Fulani - A Nomadic Tribe in Northern Nigeria". African Affairs. 65 (259): 170–176. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a095498. ISSN 1468-2621.
  12. ^ "Double-edged Sword: Vigilantes in African Counter-insurgencies". Crisis Group. 2017-09-07. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  13. ^ Waters-Bayer, Ann; Bayer, Wolfgang (1994). "Corning to Terms. Interactions between Immigrant Fulani Cattle-Keepers and Indigenous Farmers in Nigeria's Subhumid Zone". Cahiers d'études africaines. 34 (133): 213–229. doi:10.3406/cea.1994.2048. ISSN 0008-0055.
  14. ^ "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" Archived 2017-09-19 at the Wayback Machine, Agbegbedia Oghenevwoke Anthony. International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR) ISSN (Online): 2319-7064 Volume 3 Issue 4, April 2014.
  15. ^ 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. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  16. ^ NIGERIA: Special Report on Ethnic Violence Archived 2016-10-17 at the Wayback Machine UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER.
  17. ^ "Lagos calm after city centre riots". BBC Online. BBC. 2000-10-18. Archived from the original on 2018-05-19. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  18. ^ Ife Modakeke Clash: Guess What Ooni’s Planning Archived 2016-08-16 at the Wayback Machine Michael Abimboye, naij.com Archived 2017-10-26 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Nigeria: 'at least 50 killed' in communal clashes. Archived 2018-03-12 at the Wayback Machine The Telegraph, 11:28AM GMT 01 Jan 2012.

Suggested reading

  • Maier, Karl (December 18, 2002). This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis (illustrated, reprint ed.). Basic Books. ISBN 0813340454.

External links

Fulani herdsmen

Fulani wedding

Fulani herdsmen or Fulani pastoralists are nomadic or semi-nomadic Fulani people whose primary occupation is raising livestock.[1] The Fulani herdsmen are largely located in the Sahel and semi-arid parts of West Africa, but due to relatively recent 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.


Herding system

A pastoral Fulani family is the traditional herding unit. Tasks are divided by gender and age among the members of the family.[2] 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.[3] 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.[2] 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.[4] 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 of food resources for the cattle and reduce excessive grazing.[5] Before moving to 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 for the herdsmen. Their wealth and riches are often measured by the size of the cattle herd.[6] Traditionally, the herdsmen often loan cows (habbanaya) to one another, and once the cow has birthed and weaned a calf it is returned to its original owner. These herdsmen herd several 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 herded in the wetter areas of Fouta Djallon and Casamance as result of their resistance 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 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 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] Farmers have also moved north with the increase in population.[13]


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 the 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 occurs, 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.[14] 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 led to encroachment on 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.[15]

Thousands of people have been killed since 2016 in clashes between farmers and semi-nomadic herders.[16]


Fulani migrant groups and pastoralist are usually considered strangers and foreigners because of their Senegambia origin;[14] as a result their rights to use the areas termed ancestral lands by indigenous ethnic groups have met with some reservations.


In March 2019, 160 Fulani herders were massacred in the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara in Mopti region. The perpetrators were alleged to be hunters belonging to the Dogon ethnic group.[17][18]

See also


  1. ^ Iro (1994), pp. 22
  2. ^ a b Iro (1994), pp. 103
  3. ^ Iro (1994), pp. 104
  4. ^ Iro (1994), pp. 106
  5. ^ Iro (1994), pp. 107
  6. ^ Chris Caldicott (1996-11-02). "Take me to the river - Travel". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  7. ^ 15 November 2012 (15 November 2012). "Dewgal (Crossing of the Cattle): a celebration of greener pastures". Lonely Planet. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  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. Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2013-12-28.
  10. ^ "Association of Concerned Africa Scholars " Citizenship and Identity in Post-Secession Northern Sudan". Concernedafricascholars.org. Archived from the original on 2013-05-13. 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. Archived from the original on 2017-04-21. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
  12. ^ a b Tonah (2002)
  13. ^ Akinwotu, Emmanuel (June 25, 2018). "Nigeria's Farmers and Herders Fight a Deadly Battle for Scarce Resources". Archived from the original on March 24, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  14. ^ a b Okello (2014)
  15. ^ Abbass (2014)
  16. ^ "Amnesty: Farmer-herder clashes kill 3,600 in Nigeria. //aljazeera. 17 Dec 2018". Archived from the original on 6 February 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Mali attack: More than 130 Fulani villagers killed". bbc.com. BBC. Archived from the original on 23 March 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Death Toll From Mali Attacks Climbs to 160, Government Says". www.bloomberg.com. Archived from the original on 2019-03-28. Retrieved 2019-03-28.


Further reading

  • Anna Badkhen (2015). Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah. Riverhead Books. ISBN 978-1594632488.
Copyright 2015 (c) MEA Risk.  All rights reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest

Skip to toolbar