Recently, the Senate held a public hearing on the menace of Fulani herdsmen and came up with views that might further divide them along regional blocks, Okechukwu Jombo writes
Senate recently held a public hearing to determine the causes of the current fracas between Fulani herdsmen and farmers and proffer solutions.
During that hearing, a lot of hidden facts came to play that have opened up the view that there is more to the matter than meets the eye
Some of these facts include the information by the federal government that herdsmen inflicting violence on their host communities in recent time in the country are not Nigerians, let alone being the usual Fulani herdsmen known for cattle rearing and roving in the country.
It also announced plans to establish Cattle Ranches across the country as part of the solution to the perennial clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, who disclosed this at the hearing convened by the Senate as part of its investigation into the clashes, said that government believed that those attacking villages and killing people were still elements of the Boko Haram insurgents.
In the heat of arguments that ensued during the public hearing, the Chairman of the Senate joint committee, Abdullahi Adamu, had to shout down some stakeholders who spoke against the creation of grazing reserve routes.
The minister pointed out that the ranches would restrict cattle in one place, a development that would result in more productivity from the cattle.
Unveiling the plans of the federal government towards ending the crises in his submissions at a joint public hearing organised by the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Rural Development and National Security and Intelligence on incessant violent clashes between herdsmen and farming communities, Lokpobiri said not less than 9 states across the federation had given 5.000 hectares of land each, to the federal government for the establishment of the ranches.
He said the ranches, when created by the federal government across the country, would put to an end the incessant clashes between the modern day herdsmen and farming communities.
According to him, the herdsmen labeled in the media as Nigerian Fulanis are not, as none of the apprehended ones was able to speak any of the Nigerian languages.
“Available statistics to us in government show that contrary to media reports that these violent herdsmen are the conventional Nigerian Fulanis, they are not, as none of those apprehended was able to speak any of the Nigerian languages, giving strong credence to the possibility of the violent herdsmen to be another form of terrorists in the mode of Boko Haram” Lokpobiri’s stated.
“The Problem is not Nigerian but regional, more so, when the Nigerian Fulani man has always been known to be a peace loving person” he said.
The minister said though the country has 415 grazing reserves for the herdsmen to feed their cattle, most of the reserves being in the Northern part of the country are grass less due to problem of desertification.
He explained further that ranches, being the modern way of rearing cattle and achieving the best of productivity in animal husbandry, would make Nigeria that has just 19million cows with a population of 160 million people to measure up with Brazil which has 220 million cows with similar human population with Nigeria.
According to him, through ranches as the best way of rearing cattle, Brazil, United States of America, Saudi Arabia, are making the best of productivity in animal husbandry.
“While in Saudi Arabia where there is no cattle movement as we have in Nigeria but ranches, 4.7million liters of milk are realised on daily basis, Nigeria only manages to realise that on yearly basis” he said, adding that due to long distances of moving cattle around in Nigeria, many of the female cows suffer infertility as against their counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Brazil and USA with high fertility rate due to being reared in a particular place called ranches”.
Though stakeholders from various ethnic nationalities like Tivs, Idoma, Ohaneze, South – South etc, through their representatives supported the proposal of the federal government for the establishment of ranches, they kicked against the continuation of grazing reserve routes policy.
They argued that it was wrong for the federal government to deploy public resources to establish grazing reserves for herdsmen.
On hearing this submission, Abdullahi Adamu said:”Nobody can stop government from acquiring land anywhere. Government is government. If anybody thinks he is violent, government has the monopoly of violence.”
But the Fulani herdsmen under the auspices of Meiyetti Allah insisted that grazing reserve routes should be sustained.
The Fulani herdsmen however suggested series of measures which include the establishment of a ministry of livestock.
The recommendations of the Fulani herdsmen as contained in a paper signed by the National Secretary of the Nyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Baba Othman Ngeizarma, which attracted support from the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emir of Kano, reads:
*That the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should work with the ‘Ministries of Water Resources, Environment, National Planning, Foreign Affairs, State Governments, Farmer Organisations, Pastoralists organisations and community leaders to preserve and demarcate transhumant routes and cattle resting points with support from technical and financial partners.
*Review past interventions and reports, and work out a comprehensive livestock development action plan under the auspices of the National Council on Agriculture for a smooth transformation of livestock production including all actors in the value chain from producers (Pastoralists) to transporters, markers, consumers and dealers in livestock by-products.
*Establish a Federal Ministry for Livestock Development in Nigeria in line with practice in most African countries that have large ,livestock populations like Kenya, Tanzania; Ethiopia, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger republic, Chad, Cameroon and Central Africa Republic.
*Provide funding for grazing reserves development from the CBN intervention funds, SDG funds and support from technical financial and development partners like the World Bank, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation , UNFAO. The European Union, lnternational Fund for Agricultural Development, lFAD, and others.
*To work in close conjunction with the ‘state governments in devising means that will provide for close monitoring and detection of trans- boundary movements , trans—boundary animal diseases, compliance with : The lnternational Transhumance ‘ certificate , vaccination areas, livestock markets, health of animals, abattoirs, slaughter houses and marketing of meat .
*To work in close conjunction with the state governments, traditional rulers and community leaders, pastoralist and pastoralist organisations to undertake livestock census and carrying capacity of grazing reserves and grazing areas. ‘
*Provide intervention fund for the development of comprehensive livestock production including ranch acquisitions, grazing reserves and stock’ routes both in the short, medium and long term.
Support capacity building, training and support for: pastoralist organisation and pastoralists in rangeland development and management, pasture development, bailing/storage and utilisation.”
Outside the hearing, Senator Obinna Ogba PDP Ebonyi Central called on the federal government to take urgent steps in addressing herdsmen and farmers clash across the states.
The law maker, while speaking to journalists at the National Assembly yesterday, said it was important for the federal government to urgently address the issue by taking a positive stand.
Ogba, who said he was opposed to the rumored grazing reserve or route being speculated, warned the government not to play to the gallery as many innocent people have been killed.
Ogba, who was visibly angry when asked to proffer a lasting solution to the raging feud, said, “If I am allowed to say my own opinion, this issue is a very serious issue that needs serious attention. It is not whether they want it, what is important is how does the federal government want to give assurance for the safety of the Nigerian people. What can federal government do to stop these constant killings, to me, that is very important because if they don’t do it and play to the gallery by allowing the herdsmen to determine what happens, it is not going to augur well for the country.
“Believe you me there is nobody that will lose his loved ones that will be happy and if the person finds any opportunity to retaliate, he won’t hesitate to do that. So, I am of the opinion that the federal government should put their foot on the ground and find a lasting solution to the problem not whether it favours the herdsmen or anybody at all but what is important is what you will do to guarantee the safety of the populace.”
He continued, “I don’t like hearing that word grazing reserve. You know people are saying that it is already a bill; I have not seen it and I don’t think any senator will mention such things on the floor of the Senate. I am just hearing it from you but one thing I want to tell you is, it is not good to make statements made on hearsay, I don’t want to believe that but if government has a monopoly of land so be it, maybe tomorrow they can tell us to pack out.
My position will not be hidden. Why not exercise patience until such a thing happens, I will make my position open I am not part of those who will have feelings and refuse to express it. The story started yesterday and I am somebody that carries my constituency along and I need to take it back to my constituency and they will tell me what to say.”
According to Prof Jubril Aminu ’’To me for no reason whatsoever, the herdsmen and farmers have been in this country from time immemorial, my anscestors belong to them but why is the problem going up in approximate proportion. I will say that this is because of politics before elections and after elections. Anybody that wants to follow the problem in this country let me talk about the Fulani in particular; it is something that has to do with the election. We must face the fact and a lot of people are responsible for this. Our journalists, I don’t know whether they have been educated enough on the dangers of what they do to the nation. Today, there are some journalists who have failed us using their back page column in agreeing with the National Assembly to control this people because they don’t care, they sell their papers and they make money from their sponsors and the economy goes on fire.
While Dr Samuel Itina from South South (retired field consultant obsterician and gynaecologist) said ‘’I want to give some insights into problems that have arisen because of the activities of the herdsmen, especially as it affects the south south and in my state. Initially, we had no problems but they leave the fallow land and take animals into farmlands and destroy the crops and then you don’t have so much land in the south south, the landmass is small and the population is very tight and therefore the land owned by an individual is smaller compared to other parts of the country, especially in the North. And when you destroy a farmer’s farmland you have destroyed not only the farmer but his entire family, who are dependent, to a period of hunger and that has caused problem. When the women, especially women who are farmers, raised an objection to this what they got is rape, they raped the women, young and old. When the men raised their voices, they killed them and because of that there has been incessant problem. The other problem is, we must not ignore the different land holding system, we are not a homogeneous society, we are made up of several ethnic nationalities.
From the forgoing, one can see that different persons see the issue from the ethnic or regional background one comes from.”