A government spokesman in Nigeria says a total of 71 people have lost their lives in a week of violence in the country’s east-central state of Benue.
Terve Akase, chief press secretary to the governor of Benue state, made the announcement on Monday, saying the fatalities took place during clashes between local farmers and cattle herders of the Fulani ethnic group from December 31 to January 6.
“The attacks happened in very remote villages,” said Akase. “Now, with security operatives on the ground, villagers have been going about the bush to pick up more corpses.”
Nigeria’s police said last week that more forces would be deployed to Benue to deal with the violence and insecurity.
Back in November 2017, clashes in the northeastern state of Adamawa claimed the lives of at least 30 people, including young children, from a cattle herding community.
Deadly clashes between cattle herders and farmers in Nigeria over land and water rights are frequent. The conflict has worsened in some areas by ethnic and religious tensions.
The clashes across central and northern Nigeria involve Fulani herdsmen, a semi-nomadic group that roams areas in West and Central Africa.
The Fulani herdsmen usually encroach on and destroy farmers’ lands, especially during the dry season, resulting in clashes with farmers trying to stop the Fulani people from using their farmlands as feeding ground for their cattle.
Efforts by the Nigerian government to end hostilities between the two sides have not been successful.
In 2016, authorities announced a plan to create grazing reserves for herders across the country to relieve tensions. However, the government was forced to put the plan on hold after farming communities rejected it.