Before he was attacked last month, 23-year-old Salisu Ibrahim had witnessed several altercations with herders whose cattle usually encroach farms in Chigari, a community in Fufore Local Government Area of Adamawa, North East Nigeria.
But his confrontation with a herder on Nov. 12 led to a life-altering ordeal for him. The herder who attacked Salisu had asked him for some chaff, but he disagreed, leading to physical combat between the two.
“I went to the farm as usual when the herder arrived asking for some chaff. I was with my friend so we told him ‘no’ because there wasn’t much to be shared. The herder then started insulting us.”
In the blink of an eye, the disagreement turned into a physical assault, as the herder, armed with a machete, injured Salisu on his left hand.
Narrating his ordeal, the young farmer said: “As I approached where the herder was standing to pack the remaining chaff, he used a finger to poke my nose and then removed his machete. Though I tried defending myself, he cut me on the wrist, and I started bleeding heavily.
“After the incident, he was apprehended by the police but granted bail after his relatives paid for my hospital bills. Till now, I feel pain as the injury hurts daily,” Salisu explained.
Farmer-herder conflict in Chigari
Chigari is an agrarian community in the Fufore area of Adamawa. The main source of livelihood for the villagers is farming. In recent years, conflicts between the farmers and herders have led to killings and displacement of residents.
While farmers claimed they bear the brunt of the inability of the government to perform its role of guaranteeing security or mediating in the conflicts, many herders have also been victims of attacks from farmers.
Speaking during an interactive session hosted by Ramo Multimedia Center, Yola, in September, John Ngamsa, a member of the Adamawa State Committee on Farmer-Herder Conflicts, said clashes between both parties have claimed over 300 lives in five years.
To address the repeated attacks, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), alongside two other non-governmental organisations, designed a comprehensive and integrated approach to mitigate conflict over natural resources between farmer and herder communities in Adamawa.
Some of the solutions proffered include empowerment of communities to prevent or respond to violence, collaboration and trust through community dialogue, and positive perceptions through reliable information.
Like Salisu, 31-year-old Umaru Ibrahim Barimdam, a resident of Chigari, also told HumAngle that he had one of his hands cut off after a confrontation with a herder who attempted to graze on his farm without permission.
It was not his first encounter with those he tagged ‘stubborn herders’.
“In September last year, a herder approached me and asked if he could graze on some parts of my farm. I said no, he should wait until we are done harvesting the rice so he can go ahead and graze. Before I could realise what was happening, I saw him pushing his cows to my farm. Not pleased with the development, I asked my younger brother to help me chase his cattle away, and he (the herder) started fighting my brother.
“I reported the incident to the community leader, knowing fully well that these herders don’t easily let go. I wanted the issue to be resolved amicably since he had threatened me, but the community leader said there’s no need, it’s bygone,” Barimdam recalled.
But in October, Barimdam’s routine pursuit of firewood became a nightmare. The same herder, harbouring a grudge, ambushed him and cut off his right hand.
“I went to get some firewood. That same herder recognised me and came to meet me, without saying a word, he started hitting me with a big stick. By the time I fell, he had cut off my hand, and I was bleeding. It took the efforts of passersby to rescue me, as they took me to the hospital.”
Though the case was reported at the State Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of Police in Adamawa, the herder was simply left to walk freely.
“I used my money to treat myself with no serious action taken by the police and the herder told me that ‘they own the state'”.
HumAngle contacted Adamawa police spokesperson, Suleiman Nguroje, for comments on the farmer-herder crisis in the state and how reported cases are being treated, but he did not respond to our reporter’s enquiries.
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