By Samuel Oyadongha
YENAGOA- WHEN the Bayelsa State Government, early last year, allotted its massive Bayelsa Palm Estate, Elebele, spanning about 1,200 hectares for the grazing of cattle, many residents thought the move would help confine the herds to the designated grazing area, but it seems a tall order at the moment.
The Centre for Niger-Delta Studies, CNDS, in conjunction with the State Conflict Management Alliance, armor-plated the conviction when they erected No Grazing signposts at farm zones in Yenagoa and other council areas across the state.
NDV investigation, however, revealed that though the sensitisation campaign and erection of No Grazing signposts at labelled farm expanses, warning herdsmen against indiscriminate grazing of their cows in the open field, eliminated friction between the herdsmen and local farmers, the gains of the last one year may be lost if the present-day forays of herdsmen were not controlled.
While some of the herdsmen could be seen grazing their cows at the designated Bayelsa Palm Estate range, others are not only desecrating the No grazing warning signs, they are nauseatingly dragging space with motorists and pedestrians.
Residents grumble aloud
Lamenting the activities of the herdsmen, a resident, Alaowei Dakeye said: “The idea of ordering herdsmen to relocate to the state government-approved Bayelsa Palm Estate area for grazing their cows is to promote peaceful coexistence, but the herdsmen of late have been constituting nuisance with their herds within the state capital. If they could move with impunity here in Yenagoa, the seat of government, you can imagine the fate of the farmers in our communities.”
Another resident, who simply gave his name as Ebiowei, asserted: “It is sad that in spite of the government decision to limit the activities of herdsmen to the Bayelsa Palm Estate grounds, many of them are roaming the streets with their herds. It is high time government wielded the big stick and confined their activities to the designated grazing area.”
Similarly, Mr Morris frowned at their activities, saying: “It is my candid view that it is time to stop this nomadic pattern of rearing cattle. Owners of cattle should confine them on leased lands for the purpose. They should only bring few numbers to meet the consumption needs of our people and not use our environment as a free for all grazing field. Cattle business is private, not government business, and so, the rights of land owners should be respected,” he intoned.
Herdsmen should respect the sensitivity of others
According to Ezekiel Azi, “The No grazing area signposts have designated farm areas to avert a situation where the herdsmen will move in their cattle and destroy what the local farmers have laboured to plant; sensitisations were carried out with regards to this, so the herdsmen should respect the feeling of others.
“The designation of the Bayelsa Palm area for grazing activities could be described as a strategic security move to enable the government monitor the herdsmen, but the government should do more to enforce compliance,” Azi added.
Not our members – Cattle dealer
However, a cattle dealer at the Bayelsa Palm Estate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, indicated that the roaming herders were not their members and lauded the state government for making available the area for ranching, grazing and slaughtering of cattle, adding that the arrangement has helped sustain peace between herdsmen and farmers in the state.