Population growth behind Nigerian communal violence


Nigeria’s president blamed clashes between Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers on the clamour for land in the face of a population rapidly approaching 200 million people.

At least 83 people have been killed in the communal violence so far this year.

Muhammadu Buhari, who called for calm, ordered a heightened police presence in the central state of Benue, where most killing took place in the last few weeks, including relocation of the police chief.

Muslim herdsmen, mainly Fulani, and Christian farmers often clash over the use of land in parts of central Nigeria, known as the Middle Belt.
“President Buhari holds the view, as do many experts, these conflicts are more often than not, a result of major demographic changes in Nigeria,” said an emailed statement issued by the presidency.
“While the land size has not changed and will not change, urban sprawl and development have simply reduced land area both for peasant farming and cattle grazing,” said the statement, urging people to remain calm and co-operate with security agencies.

It said Nigeria’s population was around 63 million when the west African country gained independence in 1960, compared with a population now “estimated at close to 200 million”.

The United Nations estimates Africa’s most populous country is set to become the country with the world’s third largest population, behind India and China, by 2050.

The presidency said a conference would be set up to identify short and long term solutions to the problem of clashes between the semi-nomadic farmers and mostly settled farmers.

The Middle Belt is a diverse region in which differing religious, ancestral and cultural differences have kindled conflict over the last few decades.

Despite the most recent violence, Nigerians, split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims from around 250 different ethnic groups, generally live peacefully together.