A former Senate President, Dr Iyorchia Ayu has traced the genesis of the herdsmen crises bedevilling Nigeria currently, calling on the government to expedite action to nip it in the bud before it consumes the nation.
In an interview with Champion newspaper, the Benue state indigene said:
Nigeria is today facing a very serious national security challenge. It is not located in only one part of the country. Initially, it was as if it was only the North East and Niger Delta areas. Today, this challenge is touching on every part of the country. There are killings in Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, heavily in Zamfara which is an Hausa populated state. There are killings in Katsina, Abia, Imo. The killings are all over the country.
Killings in Benue have been going on in the last 10 years. But when they escalated, it became necessary to draw the attention of not just Benue indigenes but to everybody. I directed my address to all Nigerians to try and draw attention to this crisis, which is threatening the unity of the country. I will try to explain it in both its regional and national contexts.
First of all, you have to understand that this problem is beyond Nigeria . It is located in the whole of the Sahel region which cuts across most of West Africa particularly Bukina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, Dafur, Northern Nigeria. Most of these places are affected by the increasing problem of the drying up of the water resources , degradation of the forest. This has affected agriculture. This is an area with a population of over 100 million people.
If you look at the climate changes that have taken place in our northern neighbours between 1970 and 1993 you would see that we have had massive drying up of lands in these areas. There have been occasional droughts. These are dramatized all over the world . This invariably is affecting the rural population and its economy.
Most of the rivers in these areas have dried up. The cutting of forests , the drying up of major bodies of water like Lake Chad is a huge problem. In 1963, Lake Chad had a surface body of water of 25,000 square kilometers which served as the bedrock of the economy of the North East, Chad, Niger, Cameroun. The Lake Chad has been drying up over the years. No serious action was taken by the Lake Chad Basin Commission. Today, Lake Chad has barely 1000 square meter of surface water. From 25,000 square meters in 1963 to less than 1000 today . The fishing economy there has gone, the grazing is gone, forestry gone. This affects over two million people.
Related to this is the fact that most of the countries in these areas have gone through tremendous political instability; Dafur , Mali, Chad are worse hit. As a result of the crises that engulfed these countries, they have trained, seasoned fighters.
Most of the migration is coming down South. It is not only decent people that are coming, a lot of cattle and bad people are coming too. Every year, you have a population of two to three million migrants moving down this area.
We are having a mixture of the good and the bad And with ECOWAS protocol , what it means invariably is that you can’t stop these people from coming here. Since they are coming in large numbers with their cattle , you have some that are criminals , terrorists .
This instability has also elements of religion because of the rise of radical Islam in the world particularly in North Africa. We all saw what happened in Mali between 2010 and 2012 when the Islamic radical movement there tried to establish a republic. France had to move in troops in 2013 in most of Southern Mali. Nigeria had to be involved. Many of these people have migrated down South . As they come, they are recruiting people even within Nigeria. So there is problem of migrants outside Nigeria mixing up with people in Northern Nigeria where the desert is ravaging most of our eco system.
With this, Nigeria is facing a long term problem of which if we don’t take time we will be overrun by the massive radical population that is coming from North Africa. Without correct policies we are going to face a serious problem.