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Farmers’ Battle With Herdsmen Over Cattles

Posted: Oct 27, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

editorial letter

Alongside the spate of Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria today, there has recently been the pronounced violent clashes between farm owners and migratory herdsmen. Recent statistics of such bloody clashes in the North Central shows that not less than 70 people have been killed in almost six attacks in Plateau State, about 100 killed between Plateau and Taraba States over allegations of the theft of 400 cows, while 80 people, including women and children, were attacked and killed for similar reasons in Benue.   As at the last count, the allegation that two cows were killed by poisoning in Zankan, Kaduna State had led to the death of close to 50 people while hundreds of thousands of others were rendered homeless.

Other states that have had their fair share of violent clashes between the farmers and the herdsmen are Oyo, Ondo, Edo and Delta States.

The nomadic occupation of herding is essentially that of the Fulani ethnic group. But there are customary and statutory laws regulating the use of land in Nigeria. A man in another man’s land has either come for a contract, or he is an invitee, or he is a licensee or just a trespasser. And these laws do not seem to have ethnic boundaries. The tendency to lend ethnic meaning to what otherwise should have been officially addressed has left festering the sore of mutual distrust between the farmers and the herdsmen. While the hospitable and communal communities have shown forebear as they see their farm laid waste with the reckless manner in which the Fulani herdsmen graze their cattle, the latter have gone about their culpable acts unchecked.

Information provided by former minister and farmer, Chief Audu Ogbe, on the comparative advantage of ranching as against migratory herding had been in the public domain. He had been quoted as saying that while the Fulani cow yields one litre of milk a day, the ones that are ranched in Uganda and Israel yield average of 15 and 40 litres, respectively. Need we say, therefore, that the method of nomadic grazing is not only obsolete and antedelluvian but anachronistic?

Yet a school of thought seems to be more interested in the bill before the National Assembly which empowers a proposed National Grazing Reserve Commission to establish grazing routes for Fulani herders all over the states and the Federal Capital Territory, rather than going the more modern and efficient way of ranching.

This may well be another litmus test for President Muhammadu Buhari over his inauguration speech that he belongs to everybody and to nobody. The President must rise to the challenges posed by the recent vow of Oyo farmers to defend themselves against invading Fulani herdsmen. He must use the opportunity of his presidency to find a lasting solution to what otherwise would continue to be a recurrent decimal in national crises.

What Nigeria needs is a robust agriculture and extension roadmap that would not only eliminate migratory herding but would establish a settled ranching system that would create jobs for the nomadic Fulani, their teeming offspring, and hundreds of thousands of unemployed graduates, thereby enhancing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as Per Capita Income.