Cattle Grazing in The Heart of FCT

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The authorities need to enforce the law on cattle grazing before another crisis wells up

The common refrain by most residents of the Federal Capital Territory that Abuja has become the “Federal Cattle Territory” would have been comical but for the security implication of the phenomenon that gave birth to that coinage. The nation’s capital city has in the last one year or so been swarming with herds of cattle in search of grass for grazing. But the authorities must curb the brazen acts of these herdsmen who act as though above the law.

The ugly development probably would have been of less concern if the herdsmen had kept their animals at the fringes of the city. Unfortunately, the sight of cattle roaming the highways at the city centre, including within the precincts of Aso Rock Presidential Villa, the seat of government, is now a national embarrassment. From Asokoro to Maitama and Jabi, it is now a common sight for herds of cattle to block major access roads in broad daylight.

Although the Abuja city centre and environs do not have farms that could precipitate the kind of violent clash between pastoralists and farmers that defines this season, the destruction to ornamental flowers and grasses grown with huge resources over the years is an economic waste that ought not to be condoned any further. Besides, the inconvenience caused commuters using the nation’s capital highways could, if not curtailed, precipitate a protest by a populace seething with anger over their worsening socio-economic conditions. And the ethnic dimension in the event of such a course of action could lead to a breach of the peace. That is why the authorities must act quickly on this vexatious issue.

Surely, herding cattle along the streets and highways of the FCT is as much an offence as street trading, begging and hawking, all of which have been outlawed by the federal government. It is therefore baffling that in spite of the clear charge by the FCT Minister, Mr. Muhammad Bello, to the security agencies to enforce the law prohibiting cattle grazing in Abuja, the herdsmen have continued to operate without hindrance and with an unacceptable sense of entitlement.

Appalled by this disregard for the ministerial directive for the enforcement of the law, the Chairman of Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Dino Melaye, last week proposed to the Senate that any cow found grazing at the FCT should be summarily killed or the herdsman be arrested and fined N50,000. This might be a drastic proposition but it evinced the frustration of the lawmaker who has responsibility for the oversight of the FCT administration. With the state of affairs, not a few residents are similarly inclined to apply instant justice in the face of the negligence of the security agencies.

While we appreciate the ecological circumstances that have pushed the herdsmen and their herds out of their traditional abode in search for grazing land and water, it is important to emphasise that those circumstances would never be excused for disobedience to the law of the land. To allow herdsmen to persist in utter disregard for the law prohibiting cattle grazing in the FCT and elsewhere is to suggest to other citizens that the possibility exists that they too could ignore the law and do as they wish. That certainly will not augur well for the nation.

We must remind the authorities that Abuja was intended to be Nigeria’s pride and joy: a city with limitless possibilities and our people’s convergence point for commerce, business, innovation, ingenuity, creativity and social development. That is why we call on the FCT administration and the security agencies to enforce the law by keeping the herdsmen and their cattle off the city and its streets, roads and highways without further delay. We believe it is not too much to ask of the current authorities in the country to preserve the status of Abuja as Nigeria’s Federal Capital, not Federal Cattle Territory!

quote: The inconvenience caused commuters using the nation’s capital highways could, if not curtailed, precipitate a protest by a populace seething with anger over their worsening socio-economic conditions