June 13, 2024

Nomads resettlement debate

Miyett Allah, Open grazing

WHAT do we do with our nomads and pastoralists, some of whom have become major perpetrators of insecurity in Nigeria? Some among the once peaceful occupational group has become armed and violent; massacring people, displacing communities all over Nigeria and seizing the lands of indigenous people who had allowed them to graze their livestock when they were peaceful.

However, given the fact that their occupation is also a very valuable resource of our agricultural sector, there is no doubt that they need to be resettled into organised ranches and communes where they can live like normal human beings and law abiding citizens. The question is: how do we solve their problems as well as the problems they have become to their host communities?

When this issue came up under the Muhammadu Buhari regime, it was presented as what people called “Fulanisation Agenda”, an insidious programme of imperialistically foisting herdsmen populations from all parts of Africa on indigenous communities through the creation of ethnic communes called “RUGA”. At other times, it was packaged as the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP; Water Resources Act; and “grazing routes reclamation” scheme.

All these ploys failed because the governors and lawmakers, responding to the utter and vehement rejection of the “Fulanisation Agenda” by indigenous populations, caused to be enacted laws that banned open grazing, rejected “RUGA” and opposed the Water Resources Bills.

Now that Buhari is out, and the debate is back in the National Assembly, what is the best way forward; a win-win solution? The Bill to this effect titled: “National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission”, introduced by Senator Titus Tartenger Zam, seeks to relocate nomadic pastoralists back to their states of origin where government can help facilitate their resettlement in ranches.

However, Senators Barau Jibrin and Adamu Aliero invoked the constitutional provision that guarantees the right of Nigerians to settle and thrive in any part of the country. They were reminded that cows are not Nigerian citizens. They were also told that many of the nomads are foreigners, and that the Constitution does not allow non-state actors to carry and use assault weapons on defenceless landowners.

Ranching remains the global best practice for animal husbandry and resettlement of nomads. People can only ranch their animals on lands that belong to them, not on other people’s property. Relocating pastoralists to their countries and states of origin will put them in the best places for them to be settled in ranches.

But if they can acquire or lease land in any part of the country, just like any other business, they are free to set up ranches within the terms and conditions agreed with the landowners and laws of the states.

Foisting strange and violent pastoralist populations on indigenous communities can never be acceptable.