Sunday, 25 December 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: NYSC As A Metaphor For Nigeria — Feyi Fawehinmi

A batch of members of the National Youth Service Corps scheme
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme has been in the news lately following the death of three ‘Corpers’ across the nation. In most countries, tragic events like these would lead to a bout of soul-searching followed by a rash of reforms to ensure such avoidable deaths do not happen again. But Nigeria is not most countries.

I dislike the NYSC programme and think it is a waste of time and resources. But my reasons for not liking it are slightly different – I think it is an unfair way for government to spend money.

Let’s start from the beginning. Depending on who you ask, there are between 8 and 10 million Nigerian children between the ages of 7 and 14 who are not in school at all. Government doesn’t spend any money on these kids as they are not even in the system. To be fair, primary education is the responsibility of state governments but if these kids don’t get into primary school at all, they cannot get into secondary school where the federal government starts spending money on them.

The Federal Government takes over the funding of education from the secondary school level. Taking the 2016 budget as our guide, the amount spent on all the secondary schools in Nigeria by the federal government comes to just under N40bn. The budget lists 104 secondary schools that share this money. But between primary and secondary school, an estimated 7.2 million children, aged between 15 and 19 had dropped off, based on 2010 figures. The real problem appears to be crossing from Junior Secondary School (JSS) to Senior Secondary School (SSS). In some states, only 16% of children cross this hurdle.

You can see the numbers are adding up. Millions don’t enter the pipeline at all and millions more drop off along the way. The whole thing looks like some kind of hunger games or survival of the fittest. Based on 2013 figures, only 1.7 million candidates registered to write UTME conducted by JAMB for admission into university. They were competing for just 400,000 places which meant that another 1.3 million students had to drop off. And how much does the federal government then spend on the ‘lucky’ few hundred thousand who make it into higher institutions? In the 2016 budget, a total of 90 higher institutions shared an incredible ₦325bn – 68% of the entire education budget.

So to recap. If you are lucky enough to even get into primary school at all, you have tried. Government will spend some coins on you. If you are persistent enough to get through to secondary school, you get more money spent on you by government. If you then make it to university at all, government then opens the funding tap to educate you. And then, if you are able to make it out of higher institutions, you then qualify for even more spending via the NYSC programme. By university, the damage is usually done – if you had not been properly educated through primary and secondary school, you’re unlikely to make it up in university.

In 2016, the federal government budgeted ₦67bn to be spent on something like 260,000 youth corpers taking part in the NYSC programme.

To make matters worse, the ₦19,000 the government pays ‘corpers’ monthly is not means tested. Whether you are rich or poor, you get paid the money. Whether you want it or not, you get it. Unsurprisingly, the programme is now struggling given the crisis in the government’s finances. Why do we do things this way?

It is bad enough that government is pouring the vast majority of the resources on the end of the education process after millions of children and students have fallen away. It then adds insult to injury by spending twice what it spends on secondary education on paying and camping corpers for one year. Does it not matter that we are failing millions of children who don’t even enter into school at all and those who fall by the wayside? Money is not infinite which means that money spent in one place cannot be spent in another place. Every naira spent is a trade-off of one need for another. And the way we spend money on education says a lot about the kind of country we are.

A lot of people do not want to take part in the NYSC programme. That means there are people who will gladly give up the money government is paying them just to get out of the programme. Yet, government insists on paying them. There are some who don’t mind doing it, this is fine. Surely the solution to this is to make the programme voluntary so that the government is only paying those who really want to be there (and saving money in the process)?

The NYSC programme is a metaphor for Nigeria. Even when things are obviously in need of change, it is as if they cannot be changed.

Edmund Burke once said that a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. If you are unable to change things even when it is obvious that they need to be changed, then you are condemned to slow decay.

Is Nigeria capable of self-correction? The National Assembly is now talking about NYSC as a result of the recent deaths. But what happens when things go quiet again? Will we just continue with the programme as if it’s ok and does not need reform? Even saving half of the cost of NYSC and pouring it into secondary education will do wonders.

A country that spends all its money on the few who are able to make it to the end of a brutal process while ignoring the millions who fall by the wayside is a country without the means of its conservation.

Originally published on The Guardian Nigeria

Sunday, 16 October 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: Avoiding Job Scammers’ Trap — Ijeoma Thomas-Odia

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia

With the desperation brought about by increasing unemployment in the country, more people are beginning to fall victims of job scams. And though this trend has been on for quite a while, concerns have risen, as it is taking new dimensions, with the con men and women daily inventing ‘innovative’ strategies to lure their victims. It has gone so far that people now receive invitation for jobs they didn’t apply for or are knowledgeable about. People are inundated with all sorts of ingenious job proposals and invitations that the undiscerning is easily hoodwinked.

Interestingly, experts are of the opinion that there are more jobs available than those seeking them. They, however, caution job seekers to be wary of scammers disguising as potential employers or employment links, by being more alert and inquisitive. A job seeker, they said, should have enough self-confidence and self-worth to avoid falling prey to scammers.

Yemi Oyefolu, Business Manager, Human Resource Services for Workforce group, explained that there are a lot of naïve people out there looking for jobs and when job seekers become desperate, they are susceptible to all kinds of scams. In addition, the current economic recession in the country has heightened the situation, as the Labour market is over saturated with the entrance of a large number of people that have lost their jobs. Consequently, otherwise intelligent people have become vulnerable and are easy targets of scammers, who appear to be thriving because of all these factors.

“However, it should be noted that scammers do not have any job to offer in the first place,” Oyefolu said. “They will only be asking their victims to pay some money in a bid to get non-existing jobs. Companies that genuinely give jobs don’t just place adverts asking people to come for the jobs. There is always a procedure and structure in place to ensure that people are employed. A lot of people are so blinded to notice these faults and they just keep following and getting into the wrong hands, till they realize there’s no job.”

Oyefolu explained that most licensed recruiters have a guideline they adopt from the Ministry of Labour, and there is also the recruiter’s licence every company needs to get, if they will be recruiting staff.

“The ones that have these licences will go by the regulations of the Ministry of Labour, while the job scammers do not have such licence,” he said.

So, how can one go about identifying job scammers?

“If you walk into a company and they tell you they want to recruit you as a staff, the first thing you should do is to go to their website,” Oyefolu explained. “Some companies will not openly come out with their names, because they don’t want people to know they are the ones recruiting, and which is understandable. But when such companies invite you for an interview, you should observe from their procedures that they are a reputable organization.

“As a job seeker, you are expected to ask questions for clarity. You are also not supposed to pay any fee, as it is against the law to do so. Recruitment agencies will not ask you to pay money because they are getting money from their clients. It can only be a scam, if a fee is involved from the job seeker.”

He said most recruitment agencies would not come out to say they are recruiting staff for a particular private company. So, it is only after series of tests and interviews that the job seeker can begin to discern, if it is for a financial institution or any other.

In Oyefolu’s view, the present poor educational standard in the country is mainly responsible for this unsavoury state. He said: “We have all these half-baked graduates with little or no self-esteem or confidence. So, whenever they see a shortcut they jump at it. You find people saying, ‘If you pay me ₦10,000 now, I will get you a job’, even when they know that such agents have no qualification, yet they fall for it. When a job scammer takes even ₦5,000 from 100 people with the same request, then he has made ₦500,000 and that is a lot of money. Some can go as low as ₦1,000 to get more people to sign in, and then they make a lot of money.

“Although there are genuine and decent jobs, but then the way these are handled makes it look suspicious. For instance, you have five job openings, but you send out invitation to thousands, while asking them to pay a certain amount. This means if you don’t pay that money, no matter how qualified you are, you can’t get the job.”

On the way out of the problem, he said, “The Ministry of Labour should further strengthen their regulations. There are some job scams that are syndicates and the Ministry is aware of them. Regulating this sector cannot be achieved by an individual. It is only the Ministry of Labour that can put the required structures in place.

“For a recruitment firm like ours, you spend about ₦200,000 to get the licence and then ₦2m to get an insurance, which covers a fidelity bond that protects staff salaries or entitlements due to them, as well as, ensures that a company does not engage in illegal practices. If a company goes through all that stress to get these licences and follow the law, then it also needs to be protected in a way.

“So, the Ministry of Labour should be responsible for clamping down on unwholesome recruiting processes, because this is bad business for most of us who are in it legally, though at every forum, we see government’s efforts in achieving this, but then it is not enough.”

He is particularly worried by this trend because it is having a backlash on registered recruitment companies like his.

“Such undesirable conducts hinder our work, because when you need people to apply for a position, and you send out job applications, sometimes there are no responses, especially when there are no details about such job. With this, we lose the client and money, which is affecting our business,” he said.

Originally published in The Guardian Nigeria

Friday, 26 August 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: How Team GB Rose From One Gold At Atlanta ’96 To ‘Sporting Superpower’ At Rio 2016

Twenty years ago, Nigeria finished above Great Britain at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, United States. The most surprising achievement was Nigeria's gold in football. Medals · Rank: 32, Gold 2, Silver 1, Bronze 3, Total 6. TEAM GB was ranked 36th in the medal table, with just one gold, at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. 

In Brazil, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Great Britain finished 2nd with a total of 67 medals out of which 27 was gold while Nigeria finished 78th with one bronze medal.
Gold medallist Britain’s Andy Murray poses on the podium of the men’s singles gold medal tennis event at the Olympic Tennis Centre of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Luis Acosta
A nation showing others how to plan for Olympic Games
It has been an Olympic fiesta like never before for Britain: their best medal haul in 108 years, second in the medal table, the only host nation to go on to win more medals at the next Olympics.

Never before has a Briton won a diving gold. Never before has a Briton won a gymnastics gold. There have been champions across 15 different sports, a spread no other country can get close to touching.

It enabled Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, the body responsible for distributing funds from national government to Olympic sports, to declare on the final day of competition in Rio that Britain was now a “sporting superpower”.

Only 20 years ago, GB were languishing 36th in the Atlanta Olympics medal table, their entire team securing only a single gold between them. This is the story of a remarkable transformation.

As that nadir was being reached back in 1996, the most pivotal change of all had already taken place.

The advent of the National Lottery in 1994, and the decision of John Major’s struggling government to allocate significant streams of its revenue to elite Olympic sport, set in motion a funding spree unprecedented in British sport.

From just £5m per year before Atlanta, UK Sport’s spending leapt to £54m by Sydney 2000, where Britain won 28 medals to leap to 10th on the medal table. By the time of London 2012 – third in the medal table, 65 medals – that had climbed to £264m. Between 2013 and 2017, almost £350m in public funds will have been lavished on Olympic and Paralympic sports.

It has reinvigorated some sports and altered others beyond recognition.

Gymnastics, given nothing at all before Atlanta, received £5.9m for Sydney and £14.6m in the current cycle. In Rio, Max Whitlock won two gymnastics golds; his team-mates delivered another silver and three bronzes.

As a talented teenage swimmer, Adam Peaty relied on fundraising events laid on by family and friends to pay for his travel and training costs. That changed in 2012, when he was awarded a grant of £15,000 and his coach placed on an elite coaching programme. In Rio he became the first British male to win a swimming gold in 28 years.

There are ethical and economic debates raised by this maximum sum game. Team GB’s 67 medals won here in Brazil cost an average of £4,096,500 each in lottery and exchequer funding over the past four years.

As determined by the Sport Industry Research Centre

At a time of austerity, that is profligate to some. To others, the average cost of this Olympic programme to each Briton – a reported £1.09 per year – represents extraordinary financial and emotional value. Joe Joyce’s super-heavyweight silver medal on Sunday was the 700th Olympic and Paralympic medal won by his nation since lottery funding came on tap.
“The funding is worth its weight in gold,” says Nicholl.

“It enables us to strategically plan for the next Games even before this one has started and makes sure we don’t lose any time. We can maintain the momentum of success for every athlete with medal potential through to the next Games.”

The idea of marginal gains has gone from novelty to cliche over the past three Olympic cycles, but three examples from Rio underline how essential to British success it remains.
In the build-up to these Olympics, a PhD student at the English Institute of Sport named Luke Gupta examined the sleep quality of more than 400 elite GB athletes, looking at the duration of their average sleep, issues around deprivation and then individual athletes’ perception of their sleep quality.

His findings resulted in an upgrading of the ‘sleep environment’ in the Team GB boxing training base in Sheffield – 37 single beds replaced by 33 double and four extra-long singles; sheets, duvets and pillows switched to breathable, quick drying fabrics; materials selected to create a hypo-allergenic barrier to allergens in each bedroom.

“On average, the boxers are sleeping for 24 minutes longer each night,” says former Olympic bronze medallist and now consultant coach Richie Woodhall.

“When you add it up over the course of a cycle it could be as much as 29 or 30 days’ extra sleep. That can be the difference between winning a medal or going out in the first round.”

Members of the British Olympic Team take photographs with their medals after they arrive back from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, at Heathrow airport in London on August 23, 2016. Twenty years after a stinging Olympic failure, Britain has risen from the ashes to become a sporting “superpower”. Rival nations have been left confounded by Team GB’s cool performance with 27 golds out of 67 won in Rio which gave them second place in the medals table behind the United States. Justin TALLIS / AFP
In track cycling, GB physio Phil Burt and team doctor Richard Freeman realised saddle sores were keeping some female riders out of training.

Their response? To bring together a panel of experts – friction specialist, reconstructive surgeons, a consultant in vulval health – to advise on the waxing and shaving of pubic hair. In the six months before Rio not a single rider complained of saddle sores.

Then there is the lateral thinking of Danny Kerry, performance director to the Great Britain women’s hockey team that won gold in such spectacular fashion on Friday.

“Everyone puts a lot of time into the physiological effects of hockey, but what we’ve done in this Olympic cycle is put our players in an extremely fatigued state, and then ask them to think very hard at the same time,” Kerry told BBC Sport.

“We call that Thinking Thursday – forcing them to consistently make excellent decisions under that fatigue. We’ve done that every Thursday for a year.”

Britain won that gold on a penalty shootout, standing firm as their Dutch opponents, clear favourites for gold, missed every one of their four attempts.

That hockey team featured Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, in their fifth Olympic cycle, mentoring 21-year-old Lily Owsley, who scored the first goal in the final. A squad that won bronze in London were ready to go two better in Brazil.

“We’ve retained eight players who had medals around their necks already,” says Kerry. “We added another eight who have no fear.

“It gave us a great combination of those who know what it’s all about, and those who have no concept at all of what it’s all about, and have just gone out and played in ruthless fashion.

Great Britain’s 16-year Amy Tinkler during the women’s team gymnastics final in Rio
“We get carried away with some of the hard science around sport, but there’s so much value in how you use characters and how you bring those qualities and traits to the fore. You see that on the pitch. Leverage on the human beings as much as the science.”

In the velodrome, experience and expertise is being recycled with each successive Games.
Paul Manning was part of the team pursuit quartet that won bronze in Sydney, silver in Athens and gold in Beijing. As his riding career came towards the end, he was one of the first to graduate through the Elite Coaching Apprenticeship Programme, a two-year scheme that offered an accelerated route into high-performance coaching for athletes already in British Cycling’s system.

In Rio he coached the women’s pursuit team to their second gold in two Olympics, his young charge Laura Trott also winning omnium gold for the second Games in a row.

Then there is Heiko Salzwedel, head of the men’s endurance squad, back for his third spell with British Cycling having worked under the visionary Peter Keen from 2000 to 2002 and then Sir Dave Brailsford between 2008 and 2010.

Expertise developed, expertise retained. A culture where winning is expected, not just hoped for.

“We have got the talent in this country and we know that we can recruit and keep the very best coaches, sports scientists and sports medics,” says Nicholl.

“It is now a system that provides the very best support for that talent.”

Funding has not flowed to all British sports equally, because in some there is a greater chance of success than others.

On Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Britain’s rowers dominated the regatta, winning three gold medals and two silvers.

With 43 athletes they also had the biggest team of any nation there. Forty-nine of the nations there qualified teams of fewer than 10 athletes. Thirty-two had a team of just one or two rowers.

Only nine other nations won gold. In comparison, 204 nations were represented in track and field competition at Rio’s Estadio Olimpico, and 47 nations won medals.

British efforts in the velodrome, where for the third Olympics on the bounce they ruled the boards, were fuelled by a budget over the four years from London of £30.2m, up even from the £26m they received in funding up to 2012.

In comparison, the US track cycling team – which won team pursuit silver behind Britain’s women, and saw Sarah Hammer once again push Trott hard for omnium gold, has only one full-time staff member, director Andy Sparks.

Then there is the decline of other nations who once battled with Britain for the upper reaches of the medal table, and frequently sat far higher.

In 2012, Russia finished fourth with 22 golds. They were third in 2008 and third again in 2004.

This summer, despite escaping a total ban on their athletes in the wake of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s McLaren Report, they finished with 19 golds for fourth, permitted to enter only one track and field athlete, Darya Klishina.

Australia, Britain’s traditional great rivals? Eighth in 2012, sixth in Beijing, fourth in Athens, 10th here in Brazil.

As Team GB have risen, others have fallen back.

In Rio, 129 different British athletes have won an Olympic medal.

Gold medallist Britain’s Mo Farah celebrates near the podium for the Men’s 5000m during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016. PHOTO: Eric FEFERBERG / AFP
It is a remarkable depth and breadth of talent – a Games where 58-year-old Nick Skelton won a gold and 16-year-old gymnast Amy Tinkler grabbed a bronze, a fortnight where Jason Kenny won his sixth gold at the age of 28 and Mo Farah won his ninth successive global track title.

The abilities of those men and women has been backed up by similar aptitude in coaching and support.

In swimming there is Rebecca Adlington’s former mentor, Bill Furniss, who has taken a programme that won just one silver and two bronzes in London and, with a no-compromise strategy, taken them to their best haul at an Olympics since 1908.

In cycling, there has been the key hire of New Zealand sprint specialist Justin Grace, the coach behind Francois Pervis’ domination at the World Championships, a critical influence on Kenny, Callum Skinner, Becky James and Katy Marchant.

“We have got the talent in this country, and we know we can recruit and keep the very best coaches, sports scientists and sports medics,” says Nicholl.

“It is a system that provides the very best support for that talent. We do a lot in terms of people development. We are conscious when people are recruited to key positions as coaches they are not necessarily the finished article in their broader skills.

“We provide support so that coaches across sports can network and learn from each other. That improves their knowledge expertise and the support systems they’ve got.”

It is an intimidating thought for Britain’s competitors. After two decades of consistent improvement, Rio may not even represent the peak.

Originally published in BBC Sport

Monday, 15 August 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: Rise Of Bollywood And The Decline Of Nollywood In Nigeria — Adegbenro Adebanjo

By Adegbenro Adebanjo

In the seventies and eighties before the advent of Nollywood, Indian films had a cult like following in Nigeria. Its outlandish scenes and sometimes magical and surreal themes and weird characters never bothered its many patrons who were enthralled by its simple entertainment and riveting love songs. And since there was no homemade alternative the film houses which daily showed the Indian films, the precursor of today’s Bollywood, smiled to the Bank. That was until the coming of Nollywood in the Mid-Eighties which gained a foothold within a short time and signaled the arrival of the Nigerian film industry. And with the popularity of Video Cassette Player and its availability in many homes across the country, the Nigerian film industry came into its own and Nollywood by the Nineties became, arguably, the fastest growing film industry in the world spinning billions of Naira for different layers of participants.

Nollywood simply displaced Bollywood in the hearts and homes of many Nigerians. And some incurable optimists infused with nationalistic fervor began to equate it with Hollywood.

However there is a dangerous reversal in favour of Bollywood. Nollywood is in decline and Bollywood is on the rise again in Nigeria. I got to know about the return of Bollywood to the hearts and homes of Nigerians from the home front. My daughter had for the past six months been persistently insisting that I sit with her through a one hour offering of Indian film on a paid channel. She would extol the virtue of the actors, the dexterity of the script writer and of course their inimitable style and setting. To her the best thing in home entertainment in the last one year or so is the various Bollywood offerings, now the main stay of the leading pay channels in Nigeria. Gradually and robustly the Indian films have made a return and have taken over the Nigerian film market pushing the Nollywood to the background.

And there are a plethora of reasons why Nollywood is in decline. The major one is that it has failed to adapt to the changing times and cater to the taste and predilections of its patrons. The operators of Nollywood are serving what they think the people want rather than what they actually want in terms of entertainment. Nollywood across genres is stuck with the old ways of filming and storytelling. There is no innovation, no new style just a concatenation of boring stuff with very few exceptions. The Yoruba genre is the worst in this regard. It is still trapped with tired and old actors with stereotypical nuances who can no longer connect with the audience. Its tragic film is melodramatic, its comedy farcical and its romantic offerings very banal. The themes are repetitive and often times thoughtless with a bundle of offensive contraptions and contradictions. And its attempt at sub titling would have been hilarious but for the aspersion it casts on the intellectual capacity of its drivers and the race from where it takes its bearing.

The Nigerian Nollywood industry will continue its downward trend for there is no attempt by its leading lights and regulators to halt the slide. By the day they continue to break with impunity all the known rules of drama and treating viewers as those who will settle for anything however mediocre. My daughter’s reason for not watching Nollywood is that all the films are the same. When you have watched one you have watched all, no innovation, no ingenuity just the same story line. She recounted a Nollywood film where the main actor was shot in the head with blood oozing out only for his legs to be bandaged and dripping with blood in the subsequent hospital scene. The gunshot wound in the head in the preceding scene had miraculously vanished. The director had apparently forgotten to tie the loose end. Of course may be there was even no script, a regular practice in Nollywood where stories are the product of whims and caprices of Producer/director. Such absurdity would not occur in a Bollywood film.

After a lot of persuasion I sat with her through one of the offering from India and I was almost converted. The acting was near perfect and the storyline very similitude with the event of actual life. What more all the ingredients of drama were present. Good dialogue, suspense, hero, song and more that made you sat glued to the screen. The rise of Bollywood especially at this time of economic meltdown is double jeopardy for Nigeria. Nollywood that should provide some cushion to the ailing economy through rise in its sale and perhaps export earning is itself on the canvass. I am sure more and more actors are getting less and less from their trade and some may even be out of business by now.

Let nobody plead lack of patriotism here. People go for the best and a good advertisement cannot sell a bad product twice. The Nigerian Film Corporation and the Censors Board, Actors Guild of Nigeria and other stakeholders should be aware of the clear and present danger posed to their trade by Bollywood. They should come together and rescue this once vibrant industry from its steady decline into the abyss of irrelevance.

The first step is to prescribe minimum standard for all films that will bear the Nollywood imprimatur. There is also a need for retraining of all persons involved in the film industry for if you continue to do something the same way you will continue to get the same old result. And the era of a single man as director, producer, editor and lead actor cum costumier belongs to the past.

If local consumers are rejecting Nollywood offerings, its fate outside the shores of Nigeria is better imagined. Outright repudiation of course. Nollywood must reinvent itself in order for it to bounce back and return to winning ways.

Originally published in PREMIUM TIMES

Sunday, 14 August 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARIES: Nigeria Riven By New Battles Over Scarce Fertile Land — Ulf Laesing; B’ Haram, Fulani Herdsmen Kill Over 3,000 Under Buhari — Gbenro Adeoye & Jesusegun Alagbe

Cattle herdsmen sometimes have to flee Islamic militants/insurgency/cattle rustling
By Ulf Laesing

Muslim herdsmen fleeing Boko Haram jihadists, fast-spreading desertification and more recently rampant cattle rustling in the north of Nigeria are clashing with Christian farmers in the south, adding a dangerous new dimension to the sectarian tensions and militancy plaguing the country.

Thousands of people from Muslim Fulani tribes have moved southwards this year, leading to a series of clashes over land that have killed more than 350 people (SEE NEXT STORY), most of them Christian crop farmers, according to residents and rights activists.

The fighting threatens to fracture the country further by bolstering support for a Christian secessionist movement in the southeast, which has been lingering for decades but gained fresh momentum late last year when resentment over poverty and the arrest of one of its leaders spilled over into street protests.

The conflict is also exposing a growing problem that has attracted less international attention than Boko Haram and the militants threatening oil production in the Niger Delta region.

Fertile land is becoming scarcer across Africa's most populous nation, and conflict over this dwindling resource is likely to intensify. The population of poverty-stricken Nigeria is expected to more than double to almost 400 million by 2050, according to the United Nations.

There are no signs that the secessionists will take up arms against the government like in the 1967-70 civil war that killed one million people. But the clashes and growing resentment at the arrival of Muslim herdsmen come at a time when many people in the southeast are complaining about widespread poverty.

In one of the deadliest clashes, about 50 people were killed in April when Fulanis attacked the village of Nimbo in the southeastern state of Biafra, according to residents, rights groups and lawmakers who visited Nimbo after the violence.

They said the attackers opened fire on villagers and torched a house where a priest and his family were sleeping, with the family only surviving by jumping out of a window.

"The Fulanis ... came in the town and shot at any man they saw and killed him," said Joseph Obeta, another priest in Nimbo, which is now almost deserted after hundreds of villagers fled during or after the attack.

Obeta said if there was an independent state in the southeast of Nigeria, it would be easier to prevent such violence.

"It would make a difference if the southeast were on its own."

He was echoing the sentiment of campaigners lobbying for an independent Biafra. They say they want to stop the Muslim north from dominating the Christian south of the West African country, which is split fairly evenly between Muslims and Christians.

They say the influx of herdsmen from the north is part of a plan by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani Muslim, to turn Nigeria into an Islamic nation - an allegation vehemently denied by the government and Buhari.

Fulani leaders say their communities have no choice but to migrate southwards.

The precise numbers involved are unclear, but thousands first moved to central Nigeria to seek new pastures and escape the violence and insecurity of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Growing desertification - where fertile land turns into desert for reasons including over-exploitation and drought - has forced many further south this year, to more than 1,000 km from their homeland.

Cattle herdsmen and their livestock obstructing traffic in Abuja Federal Capital Territory
The Fulani leaders say they are clamping down on members who commit crimes but added that they often were themselves victims of kidnapping, attacks or cattle rustling at the hands of residents of southern farming communities.

"When they suffer maltreatment (in southern areas they migrate to), they do not usually speak up or report to police until when it becomes unbearable, then they will react," said Alhaji Gidado, head of the Fulani cattle breeder association in the southeast.

Buhari said last week that he had ordered security forces to "deal decisively" with violence between herdsmen and farmers.

But he faces a host of other crises.

His security forces are battling the Boko Haram in the northeast - the president's priority since taking office last year after making an election promise to defeat the jihadists.

Seven years into Boko Haram's insurgency that spread from Nigeria into Chad, Niger and Cameroon, regional armies have retaken most of the territory that had been seized by the group, though it still stages suicide bombings.

The countries are in a final push to defeat the hard-line Sunni Muslim group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, but lingering divisions in their joint task force are complicating that mission.

Buhari has also promised to crush militants that have carried out pipeline bombings in the southern Niger Delta region and are threatening to trigger a wider conflict that could cripple oil production in a country facing a growing economic crisis.

On the problems created by Fulanis migrating south, residents and rights activists said Buhari's previous pledges to tackle the clashes between the herdsmen and crop farmers had not been backed up by any significant security action.

Human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, invited by the U.S. House of Representatives to give testimony in May about Boko Haram and other crises facing Nigeria, said the Fulanis had been operating in "plain sight" to stage attacks that were more brutal than the jihadist group.

Police have said they had increased patrols in farming areas that have been affected by violence but local youth have nevertheless taken up arms against Fulanis since the Nimbo attack.

"The Fulani people have been robbing, raping women," said 28-year old Anthony Okafor, searching cars at a vigilante checkpoint outside Nimbo. "That's why we are here."

Some residents said the youth, with their outdated rifles borrowed from farmers, would be no match for the Fulanis, who they said had assault weapons.

Officials worry poverty levels are rising in rural areas, where there are few job opportunities outside agriculture, as many scared farmers have abandoned their fields.

Stanley Okeke, head of the government council in Agwu, said production of cassava, a staple crop, had fallen significantly in parts of Enugu state, to which Nimbo and Agwu belong.

James Onyimba, leader of a community comprising six villages in Enugu, said many farmers were now sitting idle at home. "Farming is our main job. We don't have any factories," he added. "The problem of unemployment is getting worse."

B’ Haram, Fulani Herdsmen Kill Over 3,000 Under Buhari — Gbenro Adeoye & Jesusegun Alagbe

Troops arrest four Boko Haram Commanders in Borno
By Gbenro Adeoye and Jesusegun Alagbe

No fewer than 3,094 Nigerians have been killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015, Saturday PUNCH (May 28, 2016) investigations have revealed.

Findings by our correspondents based on related killings as reported by the media show that at least 2, 569 persons were killed by the insurgents while 525 others were killed by the nomadic cattle herdsmen in the period under review.

It was also learnt that thousands of persons, including women and children, sustained various degrees of injuries from the attacks.

Available figures indicated that the number of persons killed by the suspected insurgents dramatically dropped after President Buhari’s four months in office.

In the last days of May 2015, following President Buhari’s inaugural speech, the deadly sect reportedly killed 97 persons and injured several others.

In June, July, August, September and October 2015, the sect reportedly killed 368, 635, 431, 267, and 279 persons, respectively.

But starting from November 2015, the number of persons reportedly killed by the sect dipped with November 2015 recording 81 deaths; December, 136; January 2016, 104; February 2016, 90; March 2016, 26; April 2016, 43; and May 2016, 12.

In 2015, Nigeria ranked third in the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, trailing Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the index, on June 4, 2015, a female suicide bomber in Maiduguri killed two people near a military checkpoint. On the same day, 45 people were also killed in a Yola market, Adamawa State when a blast ripped through the place.

On July 1, 2015, suicide bombers attacked a hospital in Kukawa, Borno State when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo visited the state, killing 118 people.

Also on July 17, 2015, 50 persons were killed when suicide bombers attacked a Muslim prayer ground in Damaturu, Yobe State.

One of the worst Boko Haram attacks in the last one year include an attack on Dalori village, some four kilometres from Maiduguri, Borno State on January 30, 2015, where at least 86 people were reportedly killed after an invasion by the insurgents.

On February 9, 2016, 60 people were reportedly killed while 78 others were wounded when two female suicide bombers suspected to be Boko Haram members, sneaked into a camp for internally displaced persons in Dikwa, Borno State.

However, the situation did not apply to the casualty figures associated with Fulani herdsmen attacks.

June 2015 recorded 97 deaths arising from suspected Fulani herdsmen attacks; September recorded three; October, 18; November, 22; December, 28; February 2016, 300; April 2016, 55; and May 2016, two.

Last December, no fewer than 22 persons were reportedly killed when suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Kwata in Jos South Local government area of Plateau State.

In February 2016, suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked a village in Agatu, Benue State, reportedly killing at least 300 persons. The attack has been described as one of the worst ever witnessed in the series of attacks by Fulani herdsmen.

In April, 2016, at least 40 persons were also reportedly killed when suspected herdsmen attacked Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State.

About seven villages in Nimbo including Ugwuijoro, Ekwuru, Ebor, Umuome and Ugwuachara were among the areas attacked.

No fewer than 10 houses including a church were also said to have been burnt in the attack.

In the same month, suspected Fulani herdsmen also attacked Dori and Mesuma villages in Gashaka Local Government Area of Taraba State, killing at least 15 people, according to the police. Although, residents said more than 40 persons were killed and several houses razed by the assailants.

One of the most recent attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen occurred on Friday, May 20, 2016, when two persons were killed and six others injured following an attack on Oke Ako in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

It was alleged that the assailants had attacked their victims for refusing to allow the herdsmen use their farmland for grazing their cattle.

Originally published  (STORY  1) in Reuters/Yahoo News (Edited) and (STORY 2) in Saturday PUNCH