Kicks against open grazing
By Omeiza Ajayi
Activist and former senator who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th National Assembly, Comrade Shehu Sani has called on governors of northern states to take urgent steps to resolve the Fulani-Herders crisis.
He said while the recent meeting between Southwest governors and the cattle dealer’s group, Miyetti Allah was a good step aimed at calming frayed nerves, it is however not enough to solve the security puzzle.
Sani who spoke on a breakfast television show on AriseTV said the movement of herders across states must be halted while grazing reserves must be provided by governors of states where the herders hail from.
He said; “The dialogue going on between the governors of the Southwest and Miyetti Allah is a good step but it is not going to permanently resolve the problem. As long as people are allowed to move and roam about with cattle from one state to the other, there is bound to be conflict. It will calm the problem down but it is not going to solve it.
“It is for the northern states, particularly where these cattle rearers and the Fulani ethnic group come from to set up grazing reserves and attach them to agro-allied industries involved in hides and skins and cheese to make business out of it. Cattle business in the 21st Century is a multi-billion dollar business. In the 21st Century, it is not possible for people to move about with cattle on people’s ancestral lands and property and you don’t expect crisis to come in.
“This has gotten to the point of affecting harmonious coexistence between people from the North and those from the Southwest.
“I believe that the permanent solution will be to find a permanent place in most parts of the North, because the North covers about 75% of Nigeria’s land mass. There is enough land for these cattle and these herdsmen to graze in peace with people who are not hostile. So, it should be harnessed and it should be used because whatever is being applied, as far as issues are concerned, on the table, it is still not going to solve the problem as long as cattle will move from state to state”.
He also kicked against the politicization of the issue, saying almost every part of the country is now leaving at the mercy of bandits.
Sani said; “The herdsmen crisis in Ondo and Ogun states as well as other parts of the Southwest is a continuation of the crisis we have been having in the North between herdsmen and farmers. It has happened in the states of Benue, Plateau; and most parts of the Northwest which has been under siege by bandits who are more or less herdsmen.
“The difference between the herdsmen moving down South and the ones we have in the Northwest is that these ones have no cattle. They move in 200s to 300s on motorcycles with AK47 kidnapping people and extorting ransom from their victims.
“The herdsmen crisis has been allowed to linger because successive governments including this one have failed to address the problem by envisioning that this could be a problem in future and we need to do something about it.
“In 1960, Nigeria’s population was about 45 million and our landmass was about 900,000 plus. In 2020, Nigeria’s population was 206 million and the same landmass. You can even subtract the Bakassi Peninsula. Same landmass with increasing population.
“What policy makers and people in position of power ought to have done from the beginning was to have envisaged a Nigeria where you couldn’t do in 2020 what you were doing in the 1960’s to 1980’s.
“The killings and kidnappings have been going on and what the people of Ondo and Ogun states have been suffering is the same thing we are suffering in the North. I wonder how possible it is for anybody to defend or justify the murderous, hideous and heinous activities of these herdsmen. They occupy lands, kidnap people, rape and collect ransom.
“What made the Ondo issue controversial was the phrase, “quit notice” and it has been used and abused by different ethno-religious and sectional groups like the IPOB and Arewa groups quit notices; the quit notice to Fr. Matthew Hassan Kukah etc. So, of anybody hears the phrase ‘quit notice’, he would not have gone through the details that there is a caveat that only the violent criminals and those who have been engaged in crimes are those who were told to leave the forests.
“But in this sense, it has reached a point where the whole issue has been politicised because nobody went through the details and then it became a major issue”, he added.