ARG Canvasses Legislation Proscribing Open Grazing in South-west

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Gboyega Akinsanmi

The Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) on Tuesday made radical recommendations against the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen in all South-west states, asking all their Houses of Assembly to concurrently enact laws proscribing open grazing in each state of the region.

While it welcomed various troop deployments to trouble spots across the country to end the farmers-herdsmen conflicts, the ARG canvassed for more stringent steps “to completely forestall the needless terror.”

These positions which were contained in a statement the ARG’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Famoriyo, issued yesterday, suggested practical steps that the federal and state governments might adopt to contain the farmers-herdsmen violence.

Some suspected Fulani herdsmen had a fortnight ago chased out staff members of the Akure South Local Government Area from the secretariat.
The incident happened due to disagreement between the suspected herdsmen and some staff members of the local government.

Just before the Akure South incident, the Osun State Government had issued a statement, lamenting the unacceptable activities of the Fulani herdsmen that forced farmers in the state to abandon their farms, which it said, posed threats to food security and security of lives in the state, especially those living in the rural areas.

Also, at different times in January, suspected Fulani herdsmen had set ablaze a farm belonging to former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, and another farm belonging to former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Samuel Afolayan.

While Falae’s 40-hectare farm is located at Ilado in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State, Afolayan’s 500-farm comprising 20 hectares of orange plantation, 20 hectares of cassava farm and five hectares of palm plantation, among others, is located at Ibbo-Ile, in the Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State
In Ekiti, Kwara, Ogun and Oyo States, the activities of Fulani herdsmen had at different times cost lives; wreaked havoc on farmers’ settlements and inflicted injuries on farmers in each of these states.

On these accounts, the ARG justified its call for an outright proscription of open grazing, noting that the time “has come to end open grazing in Nigeria, and respective legislative houses, particularly in the South-west should act accordingly.”

Even though it endorsed the decision of the federal government to deploy troops to various flashpoints, the group said the deployment “is just the beginning of more steps needed to completely forestall needless terror, the enormity of which was captured by the Global Terrorism Index (2017).”
In reference to the terrorism index that reviewed terror attacks between 2010 and 2016, the ARG said the report revealed that deaths from Fulani extremists “resulted in more than 3,000 deaths across four African countries, with 92 per cent of fatalities taking place in Nigeria.

“Both the Boko Haram and herdsmen militia are two terrors casting shadows of death over Nigeria and governments at all levels must respond adequately, through approaches that simultaneously deal effectively with the terrorists and address the underlying triggers of conflict.”

Aside outright proscription of open grazing, the ARG asked both federal and states governments most affected “to issues an executive order declaring an amnesty window for all arms-bearing herders, farmers and other terrorists wherever they may be found in our country.”
After the deadline, the group noted that any herdsman caught anywhere with arms “should be arrested and prosecuted under the Terrorism Act. Without an initiative like this, no positive or sustainable peace can be fostered.”

The ARG proposed the need to take advantage of the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) technology to address farmers-herdsmen conflict and cattle rustling, asking all Houses of Assembly in the South-west “to make digital animal identification statutory. There is no part of the country today that is strange to the use of GSM technology.”

Specifically, the group argued that if all herds of cattle “are digitally identifiable, clashes between farmers and herders and rustling might be largely controlled, if not eliminated. Such identification technology will also encourage Nigerian livestock farmers for meat export business.”
It, equally, observed that the federal government had exclusive legislative responsibility for immigration and border control matters, thereby urging the apex government to consider “effective border control measures, with the claim that the criminal herdsmen are from other lands determined to subvert Nigeria’s sovereignty and dominate indigenous Nigerians.”

It, also, explained the significance of restructuring Nigeria’s governance architecture, re-emphasising the need for the federal government “to urgently restructure Nigeria by unbundling the Exclusive Legislative List.

“Who would have thought we would have ‘Dapchi’ to contend with less than five years after Chibok incident? The folly of kicking against true federalism matters like state police is the needless loss of young Nigerian lives. We cannot like the ostrich continue to bury our heads in the sand.”