Federal government last week broke its silence over the mayhem across the country by those now known (rightly or wrongly) as Fulani Herdsmen. These heartless marauders have been moving from one community to another killing, maiming people and razing down buildings. Government’s response came in two ways. First, was issuance of presidential directive to the Chief of Defense Staff, CDS, and Inspector-General of Police, IGP, to stop the killings by the herdsmen across the country.
Second action was submission of a new Grazing Reserve Bill to the National Assembly. The bill seeks to compel each state government to create a reserve area within the state for the exclusive use of cattle owners. This bill is now a subject of debate in the National Assembly as well as public discourse with many lending their voices against the bill, which we recall was rejected by the seventh National Assembly.
I see that bill not scaling legislative process. One, it will breed discord and disunity. Second, even if it is passed and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, it will still need concurrence from state Houses of Assembly and their governors. This is because agriculture is on the concurrent list of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
With the level of carnage caused by the Fulani herdsmen in many states, it will take the biblical horse passing through the eyes of the needle for the bill to be nationally accepted. An unconfirmed report recently put the number of those killed at about 70,000.
Already, many people have advised the federal government to drop the proposed bill. The critics include state governors, civil society groups and farmers.
One of the opposing groups reasoned thus: “The proposed bill will increase avoidable crisis in the land through the violent resistance across the regions of the country. The Fulani herdsmen have become dangerous species across the states of the federation.
“President Buhari should drop the idea of forcing the grazing reserves bill on the states contrary to section 17,18 and 20 of the 1999 Construction in order to save the country from imminent violent problem.”
Ogun State governor, AbiolaAjimobi, a very close friend and confidant of President Buhari, even raised his voice against the bill, saying the action was ill-advised. He warned that it was against the spirit of the Land Use Act and the overriding public interest.
“This is the time to call a spade a spade. Those clamouring for creation of grazing zones across the country should have a rethink. It is against the Land Use Act; it is against the law of natural justice to seize people’s land to cater for someone’s cattle.
“Grazing zones could be created for those who are traditional cattle rearers in their areas. I’m not against that; but you cannot come here and tell me you want to occupy our land for grazing zones. The land exists in our respective states and as such the rightful owners should decide what to do with them.
“Anybody outside this zone willing to rear cattle here will need to approach the state to buy the land and we offer what is available with rules. There is no free land for grazing zones. We need to take this firm position. It won’t happen,”Ajomobi said.
I very much agree with Ajimobi. Anybody wishing to use my father’s land for cattle grazing should pay me on my own terms. Same way, if I go to Kano, Sokoto, Ogun, Rivers or Enugu and want to use their land for any purpose, I must be ready to pay for it. Simple.
In the best of my knowledge, creation of grazing areas will cause more crisis because I’m sure people’s lands will be confiscated for grazing, such people may not be happy with those who are grazing on the forcefully confiscated land. I smell danger if the matter is not well handled. It will be so difficult to create grazing areas because no farmer will like to give out his land which is hereditary for his grand children for grazing.
But come to think of it, are grazers not supposed to be confined to a particular place? A cattle owner is required to have his own grazing reserves, ranch or land upon which he grazes. I am aware President Buhari, AVM Murtala Nyako, Dr. Atiku Abubakar and others have them in their communities. Why won’t others do the same?
Since a farmer owns a land upon which he farms, a grazer should own a land upon which he should graze too. As one lawmaker once remarked, “You are the yam farmer, maybe you have 50 hectares of land, I am a grazer and maybe I have 50 heads of cattle; what stops me from buying your piece of land? Why should it be the government that will acquire land and give to the grazers?”
Therefore, whether you are a grazer or a yam farmer, you are all farmers: we need the rice, the millet, yam, the same way we need the beef. If we are not providing land for the cassava farmer, yam farmer and the cocoa farmer, why must we provide land for the grazer? It should be the business and trade of the grazer to use his money to acquire land upon which he will graze. After all, he sales the cattle and make money.
However, should federal government insist on providing grazing ground for the herdsmen, then Sambisa forest is the best place for the purpose.
Described to be as large as the entire Enugu State, Sambisa Forest, some years ago, meant nothing to many Nigerians. Not anymore. Instead of the game reserve the colonial masters meant it for, it has come to signify terror and home to the terrorist group, Boko Haram, whose members run back into its dark recesses anytime they have finished their slaughter of harmless citizens.
Among its captives are over 200 Chibok school girls aged 16 to 18, abducted over two years ago.Today, the military have focused their efforts against the group in this area hoping to rescue all those kidnapped and free the forest from terrorists’ grip.
Located about 14 kilometres from Kawuri Village, along the Maiduguri–Bama Road, stretching approximately 60,000 square kilometres across the North-East states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa, and up to some parts of Kano, it is not the typical forest one sees along some southern states which could be as high as 100m, creating a primary, secondary and tertiary scenario. It is a single dimensional forest which is visible driving through the main road that connects Maiduguri, Konduga and Barma.
It also graduates from trees as low as half a metre to the extremely thick areas where human skins cannot penetrate without being hurt by thorns. That is the nature of the forest. Despite its bad name, Sambisa forest is a good, fertile ground for catlle rearing as it presently harbours a sizable population of wildlife and has a conducive environment for animals, according to reports.

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