The herdsmen attack farmers’ lands so their cattle can rear on it. Rapid desertification of grazing land and lower rainfall seem to be the primary reason why Fulani herdsmen journey towards the Southern region of Nigeria seeking fertile land for their cattle to graze on. This has directly led to several confrontations between the Fulani herdsmen and land owners which have been reported to end in mass killings of land owners.
While these occurrences seem more prominent at the moment, it is worthy to mention that northern herdsmen have fought with local farmers and land owners over decades. The tension between the two groups is not recent. The reason this issue is gaining extra media attention right now is that it has accounted for more loss in human lives than Boko Haram has. As of Dec 16, 2016, Fulani herdsmen alone have accounted for 44% of Nigerian fatalities while Boko Haram accounted for 38%. In numbers, Fulani northern herdsmen were responsible for the murder of 1425 people with an average of 30 fatalities per incident.
The herdsmen recently attacked the Northern state of Kaduna, leaving more than 200 people dead. The Kaduna government attempted to interfere and pay the herdsmen off with no success, which puts into question the reason behind these attacks.
Growing urbanisation and new infrastructure have made life harder for nomadic groups which feeds the thought that these attacks are potentially only an attempt to gain more attention from the Nigerian government and indirectly protest against the quality of life they are forced to live. It’s also been reported that sometimes communities attack Fulani herdsmen assuming them to be a threat.
– Salma Aouf, Correspondent (Africa)