May 25, 2023

Herder/Farmer Conflict: You’re a disappointment, pastoralists tells Buhari

…our plight worse under Buhari’s administration

…decry attacks on pastoralists’ settlements in 7 States

…accuse Gov Ortom of promoting violence in Benue

…demand creation of Livestock Ministry

By Gabriel Ewepu

PASTORALISTS under the auspices of Coalition of Pastoralists in Nigeria, COPAN, Thursday, attacked President Muhammadu Buhari, saying he is a disappointment.

Leaders of the COPAN made the allegation during a media conference held in Abuja, where they expressed pain over the killings and maiming of herders and their families in seven States, including Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Benue, Niger, Gombe, and Taraba.

The coalition which is made up of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, Fulbe Global Development and Rights Initiative, FGDRI, and Tabital Pulaaku International Nigeria Chapter, alleged that security agencies have been used by State governments to attack pastoralists, and the attacks tilting towards genocide.

President Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, Baba Usman Ngelzarma, said, “After eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, billions of Naira was spent on agronomy and nothing spent on livestock sector, and we have never had it so bad like when Buhari is in government.

“This is the worst era for the Nigerian pastoralists, we have never had it so bad like this time. The imbalance between agronomy and livestock is very clear, go to any state budget on agriculture and see, you will realize that over 100 per cent of the budget is on agronomy, and nothing budgeted for livestock, and this is a multi-billion Naira investment left in the hands of unorganized and untrained practitioners because the government neglected the value chain.

However, he said the association works with traditional leaders on sensitizing herders, and reports to security organisations, including making recommendations to the government on solutions to the crisis.

He also accused Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom of not being truthful about the Benue State Government’s law on banning open grazing in the State was basically to chase out pastoralists from the State, because both farmers and herders are losers as far as the law is concerned.

The Vice President, Tabital Pulaaku International, Nigeria Chapter, Auwal Gonga, called on the incoming administration to change strategy in solving the problem Fulanis are facing by creating a Ministry of Livestock, and added that the livestock industry is a trillion Dollar industry that cannot be handled on the surface.

“Buhari has never called us as pastoralists and we are here, we have intellectuals including professors, Ministers, and he has never contacted us, and that is why they have failed.

“We believe that with Bola Tinubu coming and being proactive will engage stakeholders, and call on him to change strategies and tactics, and create a Ministry of Livestock, this Ministry will take care of the problem but they are there at the Villa sitting down and doing nothing. Unfortunately, our brother Buhari has failed us”, he added.

The President-General, Fulbe Global Development and Rights Initiative, Dr Salim Musa Umar read an address on behalf of the Coalition, “Pastoralists are targeted on the basis of their ethnic identities. Some are even stopped at public highways by overzealous security agents and subjected to inhuman treatment. This is a prelude to preparing them for bigger challenges ahead.

“This must be stopped without further delay in order to mitigate or prevent possible genocide. Extra judicial killings of pastoralists have become a norm rather than an exception where Pastoralists are hacked to death in many communities in Taraba State simply on the basis of their identity.

“Nigeria is facing one of its most trying moments that bothers on security where kidnappings and banditry has become the order of the day. Accusing fingers are pointed at the Pastoralists.

“However, this should not be a yardstick to start killing people simply because their Kith and kin are among those perpetrating crimes. Crime and criminality are NOT an exclusive reserve of the Pastoralists. Many of our members are fished out even on transit and killed instantly.

“The coalition said negative profiling should stop because all herders are not Fulanis, which they have been branded as evil people, hence the spate of killings of Fulanis who are peaceful and law abiding.”

Meanwhile, he said men who were forced to join banditry as a result of their families allegedly killed by vigilante groups, which they decided to take to criminality, should be given amnesty by the incoming administration as a way to solve the problem of banditry.

However, part of their demands include; security agencies to nip dastardly acts and prosecute all those involved to serve as deterrence to others; States Governments to look into activities of vigilante groups that had resulted in heightened reprisals from bandits; The security agencies should do more to protect the innocent people who are continuously harassed by this criminal vigilante and the bandits; elected officials at both levels of government to be responsive to anything that will escalate insecurity in the country; pastoral communities in the States to exercise restraint in the face of this calamity that has befallen them; Government to set a mechanism of resettling the victims urgently to ameliorate their suffering.