Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
A renowned University Don and Senior Political Science Lecturer with Ekiti State University, Dr. Azeez Olaniyan yesterday in Enugu asked the federal government to tighten security at the nation’s borders to stop herdsmen from neighbouring African countries from invading the country.
This came barely one week after an Ekiti State Magistrate Court sentenced a suspected herdsmen to two years in prison.
He also advocated for a legislation to check the activities of the herders as have been done in Ekiti state and urged the other 35 states Houses of Assembly to replicate the law in their respective states.
Olaniyan who spoke while delivering a paper at a one-day seminar organised by AfriHeritage, an African Heritage Institution, in Enugu noted that most of the suspected herdsmen perpetrating different kinds of crimes in the country were not Nigerians, insisting that the relevant security agencies must finds ways of checking influx of foreigners into the country.
The varsity don spoke as the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 9, which covers Enugu, Abia and Anambra states, Mr. Hassan Karma, said that the herdsmen menace would continue unless the owners of the cattle were identified and possibly punished.
Karma said the menace was a national problem that needed concerted efforts to be tackled saying that community leaders compound the problem by receiving gratification from the herdsmen who in turn behave as if they have been licensed to do whatever they liked.
The university don who also attributed the movement of cattle herders from the North to areas in the South due to climate change noted that if foreign herdsmen are not checked from pouring into the country, the herders menace might persist.
Olaniyan who spoke on the topic titled: “Everywhere as Grazing Land: The Pastoralist Question and Inter-Group Relations in Nigeria,’’ said that climate change had forced over 5 million among the 19.7 million cattles in the country to shift from the north to the southern part of the country.
“The drying up of Lake Chad as well as long years of drought in the upper part of the North had made it mandatory for the cattle and cattle herders to shift to the south were the land is blessed with green grass throughout the year.
“Again, the issue of taking advantage of the economic prospect of the South especially in buying and consumption of beef meat is another luring incentive for the movement.
“Which I know that Lagos State alone, consume hundreds of cattle as beef meat; thus creating market and need to move towards this places,’’ he said.
The Political Science lecturer said that strengthening of the legal system was the only meaningful way out of the menace.
“The Ekiti State model is the way to go. There must be legalisation by the various state houses of assembly against this menace. This new law would help to even protect an innocent herder wrongly accused since it would go through a normal legal procedure,’’ Olaniyan added.
Olaniyan said that creating grazing zones by Federal Government fiat will not work because states have their rights to decide what is good for them like Ekiti State has done by enacting a legislation regulating grazing in their state.
He said that one brings about the crisis created by herdsmen is because they are not the owners of the cattle but are like drivers and the vehicle owners.
Participants suggested that when the real owners of the cattle are identified, it could be easy to tackle the herders menace because the cattle owners would be responsible for the actions of the herdsmen.