RingTrue BY YEMI ADEBOWALE Phone 08054699539 Email: email@example.com
Nomadic cattle rearing is an aberration in modern societies. Nigeria cannot be an exception. Regrettably, it is still a way of life in my beloved country. In this modern era herdsmen still move their cattle from place to place in search of pasture. This has left a bitter taste in many mouths across our country, with some herders killing and maiming, while searching for meadows for their cows. The frictions between farmers and herders are unending. From Katsina to Zamfara, back to Ondo and to Enugu; the story is the same, with blood flowing. It gives me headache whenever I think about this. It is even more painful to note that the Buhari government promotes nomadic cattle rearing by its actions and inactions. I will never forget the “Ruga” plan that was mooted last year. Killer herders have been emboldened by this government. What a shame.
Must state governments fold their arms while killer herders maim, kill and abduct their people? Definitely not! I guess that was why Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State ordered herdsmen to vacate all the forest reserves in the state and end night grazing in his bid to check the spate of insecurity. The governor also banned the herdsmen from moving their cattle along the highways and within the cities, adding that security reports and debriefings from kidnap victims pointed in one direction traceable to some bad elements masquerading as herdsmen.
He said: “We decided that all the criminal elements hiding under various guises to aid the destruction of farmlands as well as perpetrate other violent crimes such as kidnapping, drug peddling and other nefarious activities must be stamped out of our dear state. We have cases of several attacks on our people by these mindless elements. You will recall the gruesome murder of one of the members of the Ondo State Traditional Council who was caught in the web of the devious plans of these workers of evil on his way back to his domain.”
Akeredolu, who said criminal elements had turned forest reserves in the state and across the South-west into hideouts for keeping kidnap victims, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities, gave seven days ultimatum to the herdsmen to leave all forest reserves in the state.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), which is the apex association of herdsmen in the country, is unhappy with this order. I am not surprised. MACBAN is obviously opposed to change. These guys want this country to continue with this Stone Age method of rearing cattle.
MACBAN’s Secretary-General Usman Baba-Ngelzerma even challenged Akeredolu: “If they asked them (Fulani nomadic cattle farmers) to vacate the forest reserves, have they provided an alternative for them to graze? Where will they graze if they leave the forest reserves? As it is now, we are not aware of any order to vacate. My chairman is not aware. Even I just read about it in the media. When we have confirmed, we will know what to do. Nigerians must be aware of the fact that not all herdsmen are members of Miyetti Allah.”
I was left depressed after reading the reaction of Buhari to Akeredolu’s order. Our President openly backed the archaic nomadic cattle rearing. He said Akeredolu “will be the least expected to unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.”
The position of Lagos lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, on this issue is instructive. He said governors are constitutionally empowered to take hold of their territory and safeguard the lives and properties of people: “The constitution that the presidency is referring to is being misconceived and misinterpreted. Section 43 that grants people the right to own properties anywhere in Nigeria cannot be construed as taking other people’s properties. Section 44 of our constitution is against the compulsory takeover of lands. Let the presidency read the constitution properly. What the herders are doing is a forceful takeover of people’s land which is unconstitutional.
“Your right to acquire properties is that you acquire it according to law and follow due process. When you get to a forest, it rather belongs to an individual, a community, or government. So, if you want to come to occupy a forest as a stranger, you must obtain the consent of any of the owners. You are a trespasser and any of them can activate a process to forfeit your trespass. This is what the governor has done by giving notice. What the law requires is seven days to forfeit the occupation of a place occupied illegally. It is the presidency that is not conversant with the laws of our land, not Akeredolu.”
For me, the issue is not just about extinguishing criminal elements among the herders or chasing them out of Ondo forests. It is about ending this aberration called nomadic cattle rearing. President Buhari, Baba-Ngelzerma and other MACBAN members should get this right. Politics and sentiments have prevented the Buhari government and indeed previous governments from ending this abnormality. The way to go is ranching. Governments at the federal and state levels must help these herders settle into ranches. As a first step, nomadic cattle rearing must be banned at all levels and the herders must return to their states with their cows. It is not a big deal. They must return to base.
For me, there has to be a quick end to the persistent nomadic herdsmen and farmers’ clashes in different communities across our country. The fighting assumed a frightening dimension under the Buhari administration, resulting in hundreds of deaths on both sides for almost six years. I often soak my pillows with tears each time lives are lost during these clashes. We all must work hard to preserve sacred human lives. It seems Buhari and his legions of sycophants are not on the same page with enlightened Nigerians on this. So sad.
It is shocking that most of those that want this nonsense to continue are widely travelled. I am sure they have never come across cattle on the streets of any Western European country or in the United States. Even in some African countries, nomadic cattle rearing have long become history. Kenya has also done a lot of work to limit open grazing. MACBAN and their supporters surely know that nobody should be roaming with cattle in the 21st century.
Ranching simply means farms for cattle and not death sentence for the cows. For years, herdsmen in Nigeria have resisted change. They are opposed to any attempt to modernise their mode of operation. These herdsmen are ignorantly opposed to ranching. Few years back, the Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in the North-east, Alhaji Mafindi Danburam, said: “open grazing is our culture and you cannot wake up one day and stop me from practicing my culture. Cattle colony is not our culture. We have our culture and tradition and we want to maintain it.”
This is the height of ignorance. These nomads must be forced back to their homes and accept change. Things have just got to change. For northern state governors, they must create an enabling environment for ranching to happen. These governors have travelled widely and seen modern cattle ranches in developed countries. They can create same here, with artificial lakes. Industrial boreholes, powered by solar energy, will pump uninterrupted water to sustain artificial lakes all year round.
It is outdated and absolutely unnecessary for herdsmen to be running down South in search of pastures. Governors of our northern states must learn from the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who turned thousands of miles of desert into arable land. They must learn from Gaddafi’s “Great Man-Made River,” with which the former Libyan leader funneled water from underground by installing a large number of bore wells throughout Libya. Through this process, big farms were created in hitherto deserts. Nigerian borehole engineers can also install multiple industrial boreholes in the artificial lakes I talked about.
The point I am making with the Libyan example is that the core northern states can, through a deliberate policy, also turn their dry lands into green lands all year round, which will encourage herdsmen to stay and embrace ranching. If we replicate the Libyan miracle in the Northern states, there will be hays and water for their cows all year round. Farmers will have water to plant hays all year round and huge agriculture value chain businesses will develop around the ranches. The herdsmen will purchase hays to feed the cows from the farmers, thereby establishing and sustaining a peaceful affinity with farmers. Milk, leather, meat processing and corned beef industries will also spring up around the cattle ranches.
Ranching is evidently the magic wand that will turn around the economy of Northern Nigeria. This is the truth. Education in this region will also benefit as schools can easily be provided for children of the herders around the cattle ranches instead of the current bogus nomadic education programme. This talk about local cattle not being fit for ranching is false and one of the attempts by herdsmen to frustrate the transformation of their activities. Former governor Gabriel Suswam also has a ranch in Kansio area of Makurdi with predominantly local cows. Northern governors need to visit this Suswam ranch to convince Fulani herdsmen that local cows can be ranched.
Remarks that the killer herdsmen across our country are mainly from other West African countries are preposterous and should not stop the match towards cattle ranching. Once we put our house in order, these West African herdsmen will be forced to abide by our laws.
I also remember that in 2018, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, one of the cattle-producing states, endorsed ranching as a solution to the mindless killings in our country, resulting from herdsmen and farmers’ clashes. He urged Fulani herdsmen to come to his state and make use of the vast grazing land set aside for them and their cattle. He unambiguously called on Fulani herdsmen in Benue and Taraba states to relocate to Kano State immediately and enjoy some form of ranching. Herdsmen of Kano State origin hardly move out because the state has ranching facilities. I was bewildered when I saw some of the pictures of the grazing land and ranches on television. These controlled grazing lands and ranches are already home to thousands of cattle. For me, this is the way to go.
Kano State’s grazing land in Rogo, Gaya, Kura, Tudun Wada and Ungogo and the facilities provided to accommodate the herdsmen and their cattle are inspiring. This state has the capability to keep more herders in regulated grazing lands. One other project suggested by Ganduje, which I believe would drastically reduce the awkward nomadic rearing of cattle, was to convert the Falgore Game Reserve in the state into a modern grazing land. This reserve has the capacity for millions of cattle and the herdsmen.
Ganduje said: “The location has been designed to accommodate schools, human and animal clinics, markets, recreational centres and other social amenities that would provide the herdsmen enough comfort to take care of their animals and transact their business without any hindrance. These killings must stop. We cannot afford to continue to witness these senseless killings in the name of Fulani herdsmen and farmers clash over lack of grazing land when we have a place like the Falgore Game Reserve which is underutilised.”
But the Ganduje offer was not cuddled by other Nigerian herders. Why is the federal government not collaborating with Kano State to actualise this proposal? This Kano State template must be replicated in other cattle-producing states. It should be a carrot and stick approach. Herdsmen must be compelled to accept ranching.
I need to also remind the Buhari government that it must always implement policies that will put an end to unnecessary destruction of human lives influenced by nomadic cattle rearing across Nigeria. The National Livestock Transformation Plan inaugurated in 2019 with fanfare by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa State would have helped in this direction. This is supposed to be a federal government’s initiative in collaboration with states under the auspices of the National Economic Council.
The Livestock Transformation Plan is aimed at establishing tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods. “This solves the problem of cattle grazing into and destroying farmlands. It ensures a practical response to the pressures on water and pasture by forces of climate change,” Osinbajo said back then. Unfortunately, the cattle-producing states have refused to adopt it fully. The federal government has also stopped pushing the policy. What a country!