Explains why ranching is impossible in the zone
Says Fulani are peaceful, respect laws and culture of their hosts
By Dennis Agbo
Chairman of Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, in the South East zone, Alhaji Giddado Sadiq in this interview bares his mind on how to ensure peace between Fulani herdsmen and the local communities in Igboland. He also explains why ranching is almost impossible in the South East. Excerpts:
What prompted the proposed establishment of Fulani vigilante in the South East?
There has been negative impression about Fulani herdsmen, the Fulani in general or the people of the northern extraction here in the south east and so we decided to do something to redeem our image. There is no race that does not have criminals in its fold but it’s not good to say that everybody from a particular race is a criminal. That is why we want to come out and work with the people that we know. You know the Fulani herdsmen here in the south east or any other place are looking for greener pastures to raise their cattle. They are not here to instigate violence or cause trouble and we want people to see us as peace loving people.
How will the Fulani vigilante work with their hosts when they live in the bush?
Most of the clashes we had between farmers and herders were as a result of destruction of crops or killing of cattle and when a task force or vigilante from our own side is put in place, it will enable us nip any crisis in the bud. Recently, a report was made to me as a leader at Uzo-Uwani on the destruction of a farmland and I assigned four Fulani boys to go and assess the situation, value the damage and make sure that the owners of the cattle pay compensation to the farmer. It is not only Fulani who will be there, the host as well as the governor’s aide will be there, they will go and investigate and find out the Fulani who is responsible for the destruction through our boys. In essence, the Fulani vigilante boys will join the community vigilante to work together
Are you saying both the Fulani and community vigilantes will form a joint task force and work in the communities at nights and in the daytime?
The Fulani vigilante will be inside the bush and whenever any allegation is made against the fulani, the vigilante will be invited to find out the culprits and will accordingly advise the community vigilante on what to do. If it is about destruction of farmland they will join hands together to make sure there is sanity in that area.
Will the Fulani vigilante be restricted to the bush?
They will operate only for the Fulani, they cannot guard the locals, they cannot arrest an Igboman, they cannot molest any woman because the host community has its own vigilante. What the Fulani vigilante will be doing is to identify the Fulani who enters the south east and if they discover that they are the type that will cause trouble, the vigilante will send them back. They will work hand in hand with their host communities.
How will you address the fear that people already have about Fulani and criminality?
In all the tribes, you have the good and the bad ones but it’s not fair to say that all Fulanis are criminals. I want to assure you that the Fulanis are here for greener pastures, they are not here to fight or to rape or rob and in all these accusations, the Fulani are suffering more than any other group of people. They are kidnapped, raped and killed. You won’t believe it if I tell you the number of Fulanis who have been killed in the south east, it’s just that we don’t make noise about it so that it will not bring more trouble.
Will the proposed Fulani vigilante carry arms?
The vigilante will first of all be approved by the authority. If the government approves that they carry weapons, fine! If the government does not approve, they will not carry arms. The weapons that the Fulani have are their matchet and their sticks.
Can you confirm if you have for once caught any Fulani who was engaged in these criminalities they are accused of?
This is a security matter. If you go to the office of the security agencies you will find out whether we do that or not. But when we suspect anybody, we first ask the person to explain why he has come and if such a person does not give a convincing response, we hand him over to the police.
Is it true that a helicopter dropped arms for herdsmen inside a forest in Enugu state?
It is not true, these are all rumours that have been causing problems everywhere. In every society, there are those who don’t like peace but the government of Enugu state is trying. Are you saying the security operatives will be watching such helicopters go up and come down? It’s not true.
How true is it that the Fedeal Government has offered to assist the Fulani with N100b
The least people that benefit from government are the Fulani men. The farmers benefit more than the cattle breeders. Every year the government gives farmers fertilizers and chemicals to farm but there is no single thing for the Fulani man. Nobody is vaccinating the cattle and there is no loan. We have so many people who are suffering, who have lost their cattle in several clashes between the farmers and herdsmen. And it’s just about 35 percent of Fulani who have cows, the rest 65 percent have no single cow. There is no empowerment for them and now people are saying the government wants to give Fulani N100 billion. I just hear these stories in the media, it is not true.
How has the Fulani embraced nomadic education as you just said that they are marginalized in Nigeria?
The nomadic schools were destroyed because of crises. Some of the schools are there but there are no teachers. The schools are no longer functional as they used to be.
Did the Fulanis attend the schools before the crises?
You know the Fulani are itinerants, they don’t stay in one place. So when there is crisis in a place they leave and the nomadic school will cease to function because there is no provision for transfer of the school to their new abode. But they started attending before the school stopped functioning.
How do you think Fulani herdsmen can redeem their image in Nigeria?
Fulani people are good people, they are peace loving, they don’t like trouble with anybody, they respect the laws and cultures of the people. The only thing is the misunderstanding between them and the locals but the governments in the south east are doing something in that regard because in all the states in the south east, we have committees regulating the affairs of herdsmen and farmers. The committees comprise the farmers, the Igwes (traditional rulers), the local government chairmen and the herdsmen. They rob minds together to ensure that any crisis is resolved amicably.
Do you agree that ranching is the best solution to the clashes between cattle rearers and farmers?
I have said it that ranching or grazing reserve is not possible in the south east because there is limited land. But a cattle rearer should be allowed to go and graze his cattle wherever there is no farm, or house and whenever the owners of the land want to cultivate or develop their land, the herdsman will move his cattle from that place. When cows destroy farmers’ crops unexpectedly, there are committees in all the south east states, the matter should be reported to the committees and the owner of the cows will be called to account for what they destroyed, he will have to pay for the damage. But if a cow is killed, the herdsmen should also report and the committee will fish out those who killed the cow and make them pay for the cow they killed. I think this is the best solution in the south east.
So ranching can work in the north where there is enough land?
How do you feed the cows there since the north is mostly a desert area?
Anybody who wants to conduct business must make provision for that. If they are ready to do ranching, they should make provision for conveying the food from wherever to where they keep the cows.