Nigeria, land use, Fulani, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
By Fr Cornelius Ali Nnaemeke
The conflict between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers over use of a grazing land reserve is a major concern for the local community in Benue State. The Tiv people depend on agriculture, while the Fulani are herdsmen. Unfortunately the tension over land between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers has resulted in conflict that has led to loss of lives, families internally displaced and properties destroyed. This is a story of the Nigerian people but it is affecting the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and their collaborators ministering in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian Oblate mission has always had contact with the poor with their many faces, but the challenges raised by the recent ethnic clashes in Nigeria have brought us into contact with yet another group of poor people. This new development caused us to make a shift from our regular activities of helping our parishioners have a decent life, access to clean water and quality education. In recent months, we have had to face some new challenges. This deplorable situation calls us to do what we can, by word and example, to rekindle the flame of faith and hope that seem to be dying in the hearts of our brothers and sisters.
“The above-mentioned problem first occurred in Benue State where we opened a new Oblate mission late last year. It was due to a clash between some Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers. Even though these two groups have lived well together for a long period of time, they have developed a new hostile relationship that left many Tiv farmers homeless. The problem is over planting and grazing lands. The people ran away from their villages due to the violence. On arriving at the city of Makurdi, they were stranded and having nowhere to go, they had to take refuge in schools and other public buildings.
“Those who took refuge in our territory, Northern Bank, Makurdi, were almost abandoned to themselves. But with the aid of parishioners from the Oblate parish, we provided the few basic necessities we could afford. We built the only sanitary facilities that the thousands of them could use. We provided in our own little way for their food and other medical needs. And some of our parishioners took care of educational needs.
“Our other contact with these victims of ethnic clashes was in Jos. The Oblate parish in Jos is made up of different ethnic groups. These people, in spite of some conflict in living together, in recent decades had a healthy relationship until some months ago. Because of a dispute over land ownership, two ethnic groups, the Bace, known as the Rukubas, fought their neighbours, the Miangos. This conflict displaced thousands of our parishioners. Many lost their relatives, their property and their houses. In this conflict, we Oblates were the major actors, since both groups were our parishioners. We also provided them with food, bedding and some basic necessities according to our own capacity as a growing mission.
“This is our recent challenge in a country where conflict seems to arise every now and then in various places. Encouraged by the support of our brother Oblates and men and women of goodwill, ‘We will labour and spare no effort with all the resources at our command to covert these affected people to see the dignity of human life and share land as their common good.’ This is our Mission. This is our Oblate calling.”