Chairman of the Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, in the South East zone, Alhaji Gidado Sadiq, in this interview speaks on how the proposed Fulani Vigilante will work in communities of the South-East, noting also that ranching is almost impossible in the zone because of limited land space.
By Dennis Agbo
What are the details of the proposed establishment of Fulani vigilante in South East?
The proposal is that wherever you chose to live, you have to make sacrifices and do what will bring peace in the area. If you read the newspapers you will see so much criticisms against Fulani herdsmen, the Fulani in general or the northern extraction here in the South-East and so we have to do whatever is within our reach to redeem this name. There is no race that does not have criminals among them. It is not good to say that everybody from the race is a criminal. That is why we want to come out to work with the people that we know.
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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 for violence or to make trouble. So, that is why we want to redeem the name and for people to see us as peace loving people.
This vigilante we are talking about, we did not say that they are going to work on their own. They will be under the supervision of their host or under the supervision of the Fulani.
How will the Fulani vigilante work with their hosts when they live in the bush?
Most of the clashes we are having between farmers and herders are about the destruction of crops or killing of cattle. If we have a task force or vigilante from the Fulani side, whenever a report is made to me, as a leader, it will be addressed like in a recent report made to me at Uzo-Uwani, which I assigned four boys to go and assess that destruction, value the destruction and make sure that the owners of the cattle pay compensation to the farmer.
This thing cannot be done with only Fulani, at least the host will be there, the governor’s aide will be there with the Fulani, they will go and assess, after assessing they will know the Fulani that is responsible for that destruction. This is how they can work. Whenever there is a report of anything, these people will go. If the person responsible is from our side, they will know.
Does it mean that the Fulani vigilante boys will join the community vigilante to work together?
That is what I mean.
Do you mean they will together become guards at night and in daytime in the communities?
The Fulani vigilante is inside the bush and any fault that is attributed to the Fulani, it is that time that those people will be invited and they will guide the vigilante of the locals on what to do. If it is their own people, they know how to get them; if it is destruction of farm they will join hands to make sure there is sanity in that area.
Will the Fulani vigilante be restricted to the bushes?
Their work is 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. These people are working with the Fulani. First of all, what they will be doing is to identify the Fulani that enter the South-East, if they spot the bad ones, they will be told to go back, if they are good, we stay with them. 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. It is not fair to say that all Fulani are criminals. I want to assure you that the Fulani are here for greener pastures, they are not here to fight, rape or rob and in all these accusations, the Fulanis are suffering more than any other person. They are kidnapped, raped and killed. You won’t believe it if I tell you the number of Fulani that have been killed in the South-East; it is 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 be approved by the authorities first. If the government approves that they carry weapons, fine! If not, they will not carry arms. The weapon that Fulani have is their cutlass and sticks.
As a leader of Miyetti-Allah, have you ever caught any Fulani engaged in criminality?
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 the reason for his coming. The Miyetti-Allah has that instruction in the South-East, if such a person does not give convincing answer we hand him over to the police.
How has the Fulani vigilante been working in Enugu State?
In Enugu State now, if I receive a report as zonal chairman that cattle entered any farm, before the next day the matter will be resolved because of the boys we are working with. I told you earlier that we sent four boys to one community in Uzo-Uwani; our boys work 24 hours to ensure that there is peace between us and our hosts.
What is your reaction to claims that a helicopter dropped arms for herdsmen inside a forest in Enugu State?
All these rumours are what have been causing problems every where. Does a Fulani man use jet? In every society, there are those that don’t like peace and make sure they sabotage peace. The government of Enugu State is trying. Those who make those rumours don’t like what the governor is doing. All these are rumours and lies. Are you saying the security operatives will be watching such planes go up and come down? It is not true.
There are fears that that the herdsmen want to use the N100 billion offered by the Federal Government to execute the vigilante project?
The least people that benefit from government are the Fulani. The farmers benefit more than the cattle breeders. Every year they give farmers fertilizers, they give them chemicals to farm but there is no single thing for the Fulani man. Nobody is vaccinating cattle, no loan. We have so many people that are suffering, who have lost their cattle in this farmers and herdsmen crisis but do you know that a Fulani man cannot be compensated and it’s just about 35 percent of Fulani that have cows, the rest 65 percent have no single cow. There is no empowerment for them and now people are saying they want to give Fulani N100 billion and I just hear these things in the media. If any money was given to us, I think that I should know as a zonal chairman so that I can collect the one for South-East. I want people to discountenance all these fabricated rumours against herdsmen.
How has the Fulani embraced nomadic education given what you said that they are marginalized in Nigeria?
The nomadic schools were destroyed because of crises. Some of the schools are there but no teachers. The schools are no longer as functional as they used to be.
Did the Fulani go to the schools before the dilapidation?
They started schools before but since they are no longer functional they are not going again. The schools were not functioning before some of the Fulani left those places. You know 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 his new abode.
Why is it that you people refuse to subject your cattle for checks at veterinary posts on the state borders with the North?
You should understand that there are different types of cows transported from the North to the East. We have cattle traders who use lorries to load their cattle from the North to the East. Those ones are checked, they pay before they enter any state but the ones from the nomads don’t come from the North. They were born and reared here (South-East).
How do you think the Fulani herdsmen can redeem their image in Nigeria?
What I am advising Nigerians now is whoever they want to criticize, not just the Fulani, you call the leaders first.
Sometimes people are afraid to invite the Miyetti-Allah to tell them what will affect them and their image. Now you called me to interview me, we are ready to answer any person or group that calls on us for interaction or advice.
It is wrong to stay at a distance and make conclusions about somebody or a people.
What I know is that 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, and 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 and ensure that any case that arises is resolved amicably.
Do you agree that ranching is the best solution to all these problems?
I have said it that ranching, grazing reserves cannot be possible in the South-East because there is limitation of land in the South-East. What I see in the South-East is to allow a cattle rearer to go and graze his cattle. Wherever there is no farm, no housing, he is free to graze his cow. When the owners of the land want to cultivate or want to develop their land, the herdsman will shift his cattle from that place.
When cows destroy farms 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 pay for them. If a cow was killed, the herdsman should also report and the committee will fish out those who killed the cow and they pay for the cow they killed. I think this is the best solution in the S-East.
Ranching can work in the North where there is enough land?
How do you feed the cows there since the North is more affected by desert encroachment and climate change?
Anybody who wants to do business must make provision for that. If they are ready to do ranching, they make provision for conveying the food from wherever to wherever.