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Stemming the Tide of Farmer-Herder Conflict in the Middle-Belt

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By Chris Gaga

Even as most Nigerians rolled out the drums in commemoration of the country’s 59 years as an independent nation, a section of the country still hold the view that there wasn’t much to celebrate after all.

Although the country may not have lived to the fullest dreams of its heroes past, it has nevertheless remained a united, indivisible, progressive and soverign entity regardless of the numerous challenges threatening the corporate existence of its people.

No doubt, in the past 59 years of the country’s independence, wars have been fought, governments have been overthrown, political independence may have been won, economic progress and development achieved in different stratas  as well as the challenges therewith.

However, the wave of terrorism, farmer-herder conflicts, kidnapping, militia, and the other criminal activities that have infiltrated our geographical regions, challenging the country’s peace, security and unity remain a   core national agenda.

Is it the Boko Haram insurgence in the country’s north east?, the Niger-Delta militia, kidnappings?, or most particularly the farmer herder conflicts in Nigeria’s Middle Belt ?, religious and ethnic crisis?, the challenges appear daunting.

In the Middle – Belt region and particularly, Benue State, messages, or wishes that the farmer-herder conflicts and other related crimes be squashed to allow the sweet wave of peace flourish unceasingly again in the region, featured most prominently on the country’s 59th Independence Day anniversary.

A former Permanent Secretary in the Benue State Civil Service, Engr. Peter Torjum in a chat with DAILY ASSET in Makurdi, called on the government to ensure the return of all displaced persons from the conflicts to their their ancestral homes. Most victims of the farmer -herder conflicts have been in IDPs’ camps. He said as the country attained 59 years as an independent state, the government needed to be more proactive especially on issues that bother on the lives, security and safety of citizens.

“At 59, Nigeria has achieved alot in terms of education, infrastructural development, in terms of conflict resolution, but you see, the herder-farmer crisis is a very critical thing which the federal government has tried to profer solutions, but needs to do more to salvage the situation of Benue State so that these people that have been displaced, the IDPs can go home.

” In Kwande LGA, where I hail from from, five council wards have been displaced since 2012. Right now, , the Fulani herdsmen are grazing, their cattle are destroying crops and nobody is doing anything about it.
We have the open grazing prohibition law, but I don’t know whether it is implemented only in cities, because in the rural areas, the herdsmen are still grazing in the open,” he stressed .

He advised the federal government to do more, to rehabilitate those displaced farmers so there will security for farmers to go back to their ancestral homes.

Hajia Hauwa Isah, the President, Women Wing of the Jama’atul Nasiru Islam (JNI), under Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, in a chat advised that everything thing should be done by the government to preserve the economic b activities of both the farmers and herders.

Hajiah Hauwa was optimistic that if government would collaborate with stakeholders like the International NGO working for the transformation of peace in Benue and the North Central region, the conflict will be a thing of the past.

She called on the government to return power to the people especially in situations of crisis such as the farmer – herder crisis, noting that when community leaders and it’s people  are empowered to play critical roles in crisis situations, the chances of resolving the crisis would be brighter.

“We give glory to God for allowing us with this year’s Independence Day celebration. For the first time in Benue state, we have a  serious crisis on ground – the farmer-herder conflict which by the grace of God is taking a different dimension  of peace in the communities.

“We are happy that Search for Common Ground came in with a program to enlighten, educate and bring the two parties together to see how they can resolve the issue of farmer – herder conflict in Benue State and we believe that as stakeholders in this conflict, we are making progress and we believe that one day it shall come to pass, because  we need to live together, tolerate one another, live in peace and harmony, she stated.

“Benue is a lovely state, a peaceful state, a place of harmony, we just pray that things will take rightful shape and I appreciate Search for Common Ground for putting in more efforts to make sure that this crisis is resolved.

“The Government of Nigeria as much as possible should remember that they are government of the people, voted in by the people.  So when community issues concerning the people come up, let them support community leaders to take care of their problem. People in the communities know their problems better, they know where it pinches them more. So if government is going 2 come in, its for them to assist,” she said.

Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom in his Independence message called for peace and purposeful unity if the critical security challenges confronting different regions of the country must be tackled. This peace crusade especially, signals a genuine crave for harmonious co-existence amongst both the herders and farmers.

Governor Samuel Ortom insisted that, “only sustained synergy between the Federal Government and states, as well as other stakeholders can lead to victory against terrorism and other criminal acts in parts of the country.”

The governor’s emphasis that criminality will be fought with vehemence is another pointer to entrenching peace

“There will be no hiding place for enemies of peace as he will not surrender the state to criminals.

His reaffirmation that his government  was committed  to addressing youth restiveness by developing the agriculture value chain to engage young people in rewarding ventures has widely commended by stakeholders

Suffice to say that, it may not be Uhuru yet, but Nigeria’s 59 years as one indivisible nation despite  is an indication of remarkable progress. The country may not have gotten to where it is expected to be, but it is definitely not where it was at independence in 1960.

While our leaders strive to keep Nigeria one amidst the common challenge of insecurity, it is imperative for all citizens to begin to see themselves as key stakeholders in the peace project of the country

President Muhamadu Buhari’s call for the unity of the country during his Independence Broadcast on Tuesday be taken seriously by his administration. He should follow his speech with decisive actions on those issues and elements that tend to tear this nation apart, one of which is the farmer-herder conflict.

The President’s conviction that Nigeria will emerge stronger from its present challenges especially that of insecurity has rekindled the hopes of many citizens, but more action  and less is what the nation needs.

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Benue First Class Chief, Abu King Shuluwa Dies at 79

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From Attah Ede, Makurdi

The Tiv Area  Traditional Council has announced the passage of a first  class traditional ruler, Tor Sankera, Chief Abu King Shuluwa. He died Tuesday at the age of 79 at the Federal Medical Centre  where he was receiving medical attention.

Secretary to Tiv Traditional Council, Shinyi Tyozua in a statement said the departed monarch will be buried February 10 in Katsina-Ala

Shuluwa was Chairman of the Sankera Traditional Council, which comprises Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo LGAs as well as member of the Benue Council of Traditional Rulers.

Before his ascendancy to the throne, Shuluwa had a fulfilled career in the public service and politics of Benue state.

He was educated at the famous Government College Katsina-Ala and Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna after which he proceeded to the Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA where he obtained M.Sc in Social Works.

He was also at  the London School of Economics and University College Swansea, Wales, UK for further studies in the course of his civl service career with the Benue state government.

While in the service of Benue state, he was appointed to numerous positions including Chairman, Katsina-Ala LGA, Commissioner for Sports, Youths, Arts and Culture and  Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 In 1999, he was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo as  National Commissioner of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission(RMAFC), a position he held for one term of four years.

The late Shuluwa had an equally engaging  career in  politics as he  played active roles in the formation of the defunct Social Democratic Party(SDP) in the aborted third republic and was a frontline governorship aspirant of the party in Benue state.

Although he failed to clinch the governorship ticket,  he became the party’s sole administrator in 1991 and successfully led it s campaign to victory at the polls to return the candidate, the late Rev Fr Moses Adasu as Governor.

He was on the governorship bloc again in the 1999 and 2007 election circles on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, when he again vied for the governorship position without success.

He was an influential politician and political strategist, whose capacity to electrify the crowd at campaign rallies was unmatched by his peers. He played various other roles in the politics of Benue state and the nation at large.

When the Sankera First Class Chieftaincy stool was created in 2019, he became the first occupant of the revered stool, the position he occupied until his demise.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs Elizabeth Shuluwa, a retired Permanent Secretary and former Commissioner of Agriculture in Benue State, children and grand children.

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NBS and the Task of Delivering Reliable National Data

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By Okeoghene Akubuike

The role of data in the national development of a nation cannot be overemphasised, it is the bedrock on which policies that have a meaningful impact are developed and sustained

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is the agency responsible for the gathering and management of official statistics for Nigeria.

It is the authoritative source and custodian of official statistics in Nigeria.

The NBS meant to coordinate statistical operations of National Statistical System in the production of official statistics in all the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), State Statistical Agencies, and Local Government Councils.

The NBS responded to this in various ways, including its monthly and periodic release of socio-economic statistical data on all aspects of development in Nigeria.

However, on many occasions stakeholders have disagreed with NBS.

In 2021, then Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige disputed the unemployment data in the country as released by NBS, questioning the agency’s data collation methodology.

The Labour Force Statistics report published by the agency had shown that the unemployment rate jumped from 27.1% in Q2 2020 to 33.3% in Q4 2020.

“We have a virtual meeting of the National Economic Advisory Council with the World Bank to look at Nigeria’s modalities for employment statistics data collection.

“There has been a little confusion there as to the accuracy of data generated by the NBS.

“So, we want to align everything tomorrow. The World Bank says the NBS methodology doesn’t conform with the global standard, especially the ILO format of arriving at such Employment Index.’’, he said.

He spoke while receiving the leadership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) in his office.

As part of its efforts to do things better, NBS recently held a National Stakeholders’ Workshop on the Production of National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) Phase III 2024-2028 in Abuja and Uyo.

The objective of the workshop is to assess the National Statistical System (NSS) at the national and sub-national level, harness inputs and proffer recommendations for the development of NSDS.

It was held in collaboration with the World Bank under the Fiscal Governance and Institutions Project (FGIP)

The NSDS is a strategic document for the development and management of statistics.

The Statistician-General of the Federation, Mr Adeyemi Adeniran, at the workshop promised to build a stronger and more vibrant statistical system that would ensure the economic development of the country.

He said that it was crucial to forge a robust strategy to guide the growth and development of the system that would be responsible for producing the data that the country would depend on.

Adeniran who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the NBS said the 2024-2028 NSDS would serve as a guiding light to steer the country towards a modernised and transformed statistical system.

“Statistics, often hailed as the ‘silent language of governance,’ form the bedrock of an informed and thriving society. They guide policy formulation, resource allocation, and progress evaluation.

“Let us recognise that statistics go beyond mere numbers; they articulate the narrative of the situation in society, inform decisions, policies, and programmes, and pave the way for a brighter future.

“The accuracy and quality of our statistics are paramount. We must continuously strive for excellence in data collection, analysis, and dissemination to maintain the trust and confidence of our data users and policymakers.

“We will continue to work together to build a stronger and more vibrant statistical system that is capable and well-resourced to produce and facilitate the use of data in our progress toward sustainable development“, he said.

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Sen. Abubakar Bagudu, said the new NSDS would bridge existing gaps and challenges in the statistical system, as he called for a robust, and inclusive national statistical system in Nigeria.

“Over the years, the NSDS has played an instrumental role in enhancing the quality, relevance, and accessibility of statistical data in Nigeria.

“It has also provided the necessary guidance for the systematic and coordinated development of statistical activities in our great nation.”

“It is our collective endeavour to ensure that the new NSDS not only addresses the strategic issues of the past five years but also anticipates and adapts to the evolving statistical landscape.”

He said that statistics would play a vital role in assessing the implementation of the Federal Government’s policies and projects.

“Hence, strengthening the statistical system is paramount to evaluating the current position and subsequent progress of the current administration”, he said.

Biyi Fafunmi, NBS’s Director, ICT, said to effectively review the last NSDS and facilitate the development of an inclusive new one, the bureau had engaged sets of consultants.

Sen. Yahaya Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning and Economic Affairs, called on the Statistician-General to deploy methodologies in data gathering and processing.

The private sector is crucial in data gathering, processing and usage and Mr Dakuku Peterside, urged NBS to ensure that its data are reliable.

Dakuku Peterside, former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency said `statistics is the compass that guides us in the labyrinth of national planning and development`.

“The NSDS is not just necessary but crucial, as a well-developed statistical system is essential for effective governance. It empowers policymakers with accurate and up-to-date information to make informed decisions.”

Peterside called on the NBS to pay attention to climate change in the development of the new strategy, saying that climate change has an impact in almost every sector such as health, transportation, and agriculture.

Utz Pape, the Lead Economist and Lead Poverty Team at the World Bank said it was important to look at the national statistical system in an integrated way.

According to him, it is important not to stop at the federal level but move vertically to the state level to have an integrated statistical system.

“This is why it is really important to not just think at the federal level but think about the states and how this can become an inclusive and integrated national statistical system based on data”, he said.

Prof. Olusanya Olubusoye, a professor of economics, University of Ibadan, in an inaugural lecture delivered at the University of Ibadan, had canvassed that to attain genuine national development and progress, political leaders must harness the power of statistics.

In his lecture titled “From Data to Wonders: Unlocking the Extraordinary Powers of Statistics”, Olubusoye described statistics as the golden thread that weaves through the fabric of knowledge, progress, and innovation.

The role of data and statistics in national development cannot be overemphasized. The NBS has a pivotal role to play in the availability of reliable data of every aspect of the nation.

Stakeholders agree that the NBS can achieve this through an improved, robust, inclusive, well-developed national strategy which would help build a stronger and reliable statistical system. (NANFeatures)

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Oil and Gas: What Lessons for Nigeria from Russia?

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With over 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) Nigeria has the largest gas reserves in Africa. It is ranked 9th globally.

Given our high dependence on oil and gas for industrial and domestic energy the global transition from carbon fuel to sustainable energy sources poses a significant threat to Nigeria’s economy.

Most African countries, including Nigeria, are still facing energy availability problems as their energy consumption is several times below the world’s average.

Experts estimate that Africa will account for over 60 per cent of global population growth by 2050.

In view of urbanisation experts forecast that Africa will experience significant economic growth to be accompanied by two-fold increase in natural gas demand.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exporter lacks access to energy and since gas is the energy transition fuel, it is only logical that its development, availability and utilisation be enhanced.

Natural gas offers effective solutions to major areas of activities causing air pollution, including power generation, transport and household applications.

It can replace coal in power generation and oil products in transport; as for household applications, natural gas substitute Biomass (firewood) which according to experts account for up to 45 per cent of Africa’s energy mix

Apart from being used for cooking, transportation (in vehicles), heating and powering machines, industries among others, the gas is also a valuable raw material for the production of fertilisers.

A trip to Russia by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the invitation of its state-owned, Gazprom Energy Company revealed that partnering and emulating Russian Gas Projects and Gazprom’s competencies along the entire value chain of gas business is paramount for Nigeria’s gas development.

Russia has the largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, worth 47.8 trillion standard cubic meters. Iran and Qatar follow, with more than 30 and 20 trillion cubic meters.

Gazprom, its state-owned energy corporation, established in 1971 with sales of over 120 billion dollars is ranked as the largest natural gas company in the world and the largest company in Russia by revenue.

NAN discovered that the company operates many active oil, gas and condensate fields with cluster of producing gas wells, comprehensive gas treatment unit, booster compressor station, and transportation and power infrastructure.

Gazprom is the main supplier of natural gas to the country and to other countries. Under its Gas Infrastructure Expansion and Unified Gas Supply System, gas is supplied to millions of households and public utility enterprises.

The Russian government is also committed to its All-Russia Gasification Programme which started in 1960 and had promoted clean energy and energy security till date, according to Mr Buzin Vyacheslav, Diretor-General, JSC, Gazprom Distribution.

Vyacheslav said the total length of Gazprom’s Gas Distribution Networks transmitting gas to end consumers was more than 800,000 kilometres.

“To make clean energy widely available to Russians, Gazprom is actively bringing gas to cities and villages, by building gas pipelines stretching from major gas trunk lines to the land plots of consumers.

“Gas infrastructure expansion is the most ambitious socially significant project of Gazprom that helps improve the living standards of people and the main benefits of pipeline natural gas are convenience of use, eco-friendliness –reliability and cost efficiency.

“Uninterrupted delivery and safety are the main principles of Gazprom as regards gas supplies, both construction and operation of gas infrastructure facilities are performed in compliance with stringent requirements.

“Pipeline natural gas is the cheapest energy source available in Russia today. For instance, gas prices for the population are regulated by the government which makes them as affordable for households as possible“, he said .

According to Vyacheslav, gas infrastructure expansion is a powerful driving force behind the development of regional economies.

“Owing to the access to pipeline gas, availability, larger tax payments; growth of employment and increase of living standards and better environmental conditions are achieved,’’ Vyacheslav told NAN.

He also said gas infrastructure is being expanded extensively across Russia, adding that by 2030, gas networks will be present in all places of Russia where it is technically possible.

Vyacheslav said for Nigeria to achieve gasification, technical and technological designs are involved to ascertain the cost.

He said it would also involve geological survey to identify rocky areas which might not be penetrated hence other options could be applied.

The energy company had expressed readiness to partner African countries, including Nigeria on gas technology, infrastructure and development, according to Dobycha Nadym, Mr Dimitry Stratov, its Deputy-Director General, Prospective and Development.

Prof. Stanley Onwukwe, an Oil and Gas Expert, said it was unfortunate that Nigeria had the resources and projects like the National Gas Development Strategy, Trans Sahara Gas Pipeline Project among others which were yet to be fully harnessed.

Onwukwe said Russia was proactive and had supplies gas to almost all the western world.

Onwukwe, a professor in the department of  petroleum engineering, Federal University of Technology Owerri, said there were blueprints established for gas developmental projects to thrive in the country but lack of political will hampered such projects.

“Nigeria has Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) already being used in Benin, most cars in the state are running on CNG.

“Initially the conversion of vehicles was free but they later started collecting almost a million naira which put people off.

“Such should be replicated nationwide while CNG refill stations should be established in various places for refilling but no such thing.

“The problem is not to have your vehicle’s engine converted for natural gas use but to see where to refill if you are on transit.

“It is a global village; just that the government does not have will power to implement such developmental projects after contract award,’’ he said.

He said the facility including gas base infrastructure for industries were necessary for distribution of gas but required proper investment and finance.

Dr Chijioke Ekechukwu, an economist said it would take a strong political will and implementable policies for Nigeria to attain such feat as Russia including having all our vehicles converted to CNG.

According to Ekechukwu, piping gas to homes is also possible if the supply is guaranteed.

He said it would be win-win to have policies in place towards achieving this, especially the fact that we have an abundance of gas.

“Only recently, the Nigerian government inaugurated a committee to convert cars and buses from petrol and diesel to CNG engine that can be used by these vehicles.

“We have an abundance of this gas, which is flared and wasted. Gas consumption both at home and by vehicles is climate friendly and should be encouraged,’’ said.

Also speaking, Mr Yusha’u Aliyu said Russia and EU have an excellent working policy on energy production and consumption, saying that technological advances also added value to their efforts.

“Gas is cost effective and environmental friendly. We have to develop a strategy and culture of commitment and efficiency to thrive,’’ he said. (NANFeatures)

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