THE admission, at last, by the Northern States Governors’ Forum that open grazing has become “unsustainable” is long overdue but welcome. The question now is whether these governors who manage the states where the Nigerians among the livestock herdsmen hail from are now willing to go beyond rhetoric and take necessary actions? Are they ready to take responsibility and save the country?
The Northern establishment, leadership and elite must take full responsibility for the continued existence of nomadic lifestyle among the Fulani ethnic group.
This ancient and outdated way of life leads the livestock herders to wander far away from their homes and roam the farmlands and forests of indigenous people in other parts of the country.
But because these herders did not pose any danger to anyone they were tolerated, even accepted. But since they started carrying assault weapons, destroying people’s farms, settling down with impunity on people’s lands without permission, even laying claims to “ownership” of other people’s ancestral patrimonies, raping, kidnapping and killing at will, they have now been served with notices to quit the forests in several parts of the country.
Because of the refusal of law enforcement agents to treat them as the criminals that they are, many groups have now resorted to self-help to protect themselves.
Let us make it abundantly clear that no ethnic group has been given “quit notice” in any part of the country, especially the South. It is the illegal occupants of the forests, the armed criminals masquerading as herdsmen that have been told to quit. Other law-abiding citizens living peacefully among fellow Nigerians are not affected. It is blackmail and mischief to impute that there might be “reprisals” for asking armed criminals to leave the forests.
The Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, has set an excellent example worthy of emulation by all Northern governors. With their expansive landmass, each Northern state is capable of reserving space for ranching equal to each of the South East states. Livestock farming is more suitable for Sahelian than rainforest environments.
Whoever wishes to engage in the livestock trade should buy or rent space for that purpose and keep their animals in enclosures. Cattle should only be seen in ranches and marketplaces.
This will not only keep them off other people’s properties, it will also make for more profitable livestock agriculture. More importantly, it will also enable the herders to have access to education and healthcare and live like normal, law-abiding citizens.
Positive steps to reintegrate pastoral nomads must be taken. This is the 21st century, the age of fast-changing technology. Surely, if such technology is applied to livestock farming, the benefits will far outstrip what is currently available.
Efforts being made to seize people’s land for herders’ benefit will only breed bloodletting that will outlive the regime.