The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has criticised comments that display the lack of understanding of the crisis between cattle herders and farmers that has led to the death of hundreds.

Ever since herdsmen were blamed for the death of 73 people in attacks launched in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State in the opening days of January 2018, hundreds of people have been killed in similar attacks with Taraba and Benue bearing most of the brunt.

In a recent interview with TheCable, Mohammed said people speak out of emotion on the subject and inaccurately attribute religious and ethnic motives to the killings.

According to him, there are bound to be tensions between herdsmen and farmers who fight over resources. He said these tensions have been escalated by problems such as limited demography, climate change, and criminality.

He said, "People speak out of emotion, not out of facts and figures. They don't even bother to understand the phenomenon of herdsmen and farmers clash. They don't even understand what's responsible.

"We're dealing with three factors: demography, climate change, international terrorism and pure criminality.

"In 1960, the population of Nigeria was 45 million. Today, it's 190 million. What that means is that the same land, water and grass available for both man and animal in 1960 which was shared by 45 million people is now being shared by 190 million people. There are bound to tensions.

"Lake Chad, which supports 35 million lives from six African countries, has lost 90% of its surface water from 25,000 square kilometers to 2,500 square kilometers. What that means then is that people have to look more southwards.

"People speak out of emotion and they've tried to introduce religion into a matter which is purely demographic, environmental and, at times, pure criminality."

FG to solve herders/farmers crisis with N179 million plan

With the federal government recently unveiling a plan that will cost N179 billion over a 10-year period to improve livestock production in the country and put an end to herders/farmers conflicts, Mohammed said it is time for herdsmen to adopt ranching as the way forward.

"In the short term, Nigeria has deployed police, air force and army to the troubled spots but in the long term, we must embrace technology. Herdsmen must adopt ranching, farmers must adopt best practices," he said.

The government's proposed ranching solution will supposedly improve genetic material of indigenous cattle for milk and meat production; improve reproductive performance of indigenous cattle; provide critical market access infrastructure; and create better linkages between smallholder livestock producers and investors for agricultural technology adoption and support for value addition. It is also hoped that it will foster sustained peace and harmony between farmers and herders.

Herdsmen killings are political - FG

During an interview on Arise TV on Wednesday, June 20, President Muhammadu Buhari's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, blamed the federal government's political opposition for escalating killings allegedly carried out by herdsmen all over the country for political gain.

He said political detractors of the current administration have hijacked the conflict and sponsored attacks to discredit Buhari's achievements in strengthening security in the country.

President Buhari's Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made a similar accusation in April 2018 when he revealed that the federal government has evidence that most of attacks are being sponsored by politicians who are trying to blackmail the government.

Just days later, the Defence Headquarters also blamed the rise in the spate of killings carried out by suspected herdsmen as the handiwork of certain unnamed sponsors.

The Director, Defence Information, Brigadier-General John Agim, said, "The military is strategising on how to go after the herdsmen and their sponsors. We will get both the herdsmen and their sponsors. We want to say this to the killers and their sponsors that the military is coming for them. We are going to get both the killers and their sponsors very soon."

More recently in May, President Buhari himself alleged that the spate of killings in Nigeria was being sponsored by certain individuals to start a war in the country for selfish reasons. He further remarked that attacks on locations like places of worship is an attempt to stoke conflict and turn Nigerians against one another on the basis of religion.