That Anti-Open Grazing Bill Was Premature
Lawrence P. Ganchok
Some of us lack the flair of writers but I will try to put on some bullet points of my opinion about what is happening in Nigeria regarding the current trending issues in the land of Herdsmen and Farmers.
There are different groups or types of Fulani as I understand which I can’t state them here for lack of proper knowledge of it. However, I will simply mention two categories for easy understanding of my points. We have the Nomadic and Town Fulani. The Nomadic Fulanis are the ones that move from place to place even across countries in search of green pasture for their flock. The Town Fulani are the ones that are settled in one place. We have them in places like Adamawa, Sokoto, Gombe, Katsina, Jigawa-in Nigeria; Garuoua and Ngoundere in Cameroun, etc. How they became settled or town Fulani was as a result of giving up their pastoral life. ‘Many of the Fulanis continued to pursue a pastoral life; some, however, particularly in Hausaland, gave up their nomadic pursuits, settled into existing urban communities, and were converted to Islām.’( https://www.britannica.com/place/Fulani-Empire).
A cattle rearing is an agricultural practice by all tribes but predominantly by the Fulani people. In major Northern towns and villages many Fulani and non Fulani have cows in the outskirt of the town taken care of by a shepherd who is paid by the owner. The herds of cows you see are not necessarily owned by one Fulani man or local owner. Sometimes it could be a gathering of cows of relatives, friends and business associates who group them together for easy maintenance.
Since it is an agricultural practice, it has every right to be accorded government attention like any other agricultural farm product/input. Here our sense of reasoning as a nation fail us because we begin to think of cattle ownership as not worthy of government attention. It is more precarious to provide that needed incentive to cattle owners now when the President himself is a Fulani man. We will surely hear the deafening usual cries all over the country.
Needless to say the huge revenue is generated through cattle tax (Jangali as I used to know). The massive business going on in cattle trading and its financial turnover is huge, the protein need of the citizen by consuming the meat and milk it produces and the sheer joy of its ownership for those who do it as a hobby cannot be ignored.
If cattle ownership bring all these to humanity, what then do we need to do to re-integrate cattle rearing to the society as of old without this great acrimony we witness today?
Now, on the Anti-Open Grazing Bill that was hastily passed by Benue State House of Assembly, Taraba State House of Assembly and few others in Nigeria. I believe the State Houses of Assemblies only responded according to the prevailing situations in the land. These Bills were passed without proper articulation of the pros and cons of the after effect of the Bill. In the end the Bills CANNOT work. I believe the Bills targeted the Fulani (Nomadic) but does a Nomadic Fulani care since he is always on the move? Those who enacted the laws forgot that the Town Fulani and the Locals who have cows will also be subjected to the same laws of anti-open grazing.
Let us reason a little further. If the law is to restrict cattle movement into these states, I have no problems with that because it will at least curtail the movement of the Nomads from other regions into their territories. That means by law they can be stopped from entering the state where such laws exist.
However, since it is Anti-Open Grazing Law, it means grazing of cows in the open is prohibited for all cow owners in that state. What happens to the cows of Town Fulani and other tribes who keep their cows at the outskirt of the towns or elsewhere? It means those cows CANNOT graze in the open where they are not supposed to.
The only option left for these cattle owners is to sell off all the cows, move out of the state or allow the cows to die confined to one place (colony, lols).
Some have argued that the Fulani should sell the cows, buy the land and build ranches. This argument is from people who have no knowledge of the cows’ ownership. As they see the flock, they assume it belongs to one person only. Even if they belong one person, what does he need to stop his cows from open grazing?
WHAT STATE IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS OUGHT TO DO
1. It is far better to enact law that controls entrance of new
2. Herdsmen to a state which results in conflicts than the Anti-Open Grazing Bill when basic consideration for the above challenges and other incentives have not been put in place.
3. The idea of cattle colony is also good but mundane things like political blackmail and long held suspicion (as a result of Othman Danfodio’s conquest of parts of Nigeria) are what make everybody tremble at the mention of Cattle Colony (another colonization they say). However, I am of the view that if states accept the idea of cattle colony, it become easier to monitor from which colony are the herders likely to initiate problems. It makes it easier to curtail such occurrences.
4. Schools, hospitals (human and veterinary) and other social amenities can be built in the colonies thereby affording the children of the herders to have access to education and healthcare. These help to meet educational and healthcare needs of the nation.
5. Ranching remains the best option as is practiced worldwide. More individuals who can afford it can develop ranches and wait; can’t it be a form of business for the well to do to charge others who cannot afford to co-own the ranches?
6. Government can release incentives to farmers to engage in massive production of arable crops that can be used as hays for cattle feeding during dry season.
7. Government and corporate bodies can stimulate research and/or production of animal feeds across the country through financial investment with a view to meeting the needs of the livestock farmers and meeting national challenges in R&D, employment and service provision.
8. There ought to be vigorous awareness and sensitization of the livestock owners on the advantages of ranching.
9. After the basic initial commitments, the Herders can be educated to access credit facilities to maintain or improve their livestock.
Nigerians should avoid the high level of suspicion pervading our land. You cannot display hatred and expect to reap love. If Nomads live in the bush and move from place to place in search of green pasture we should not expect their attitudes and behaviours to be akin to some of us who live in towns. With all our education and level of exposures aren’t violent crimes committed in cities? What do you expect from somebody whose live is spent in the bush with his cows and without our much touted education?
There are Fulani in major towns and cities with cows; they have fixed houses, assets and solid investments. Because they have cows, they somehow have to register under their umbrella body Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). It is wrong to tag all of them violent herdsmen.
The problem of Farmers and Herders is as old as Nigeria. All skirmishes in the past has never witnessed this level of destruction of lives and properties. Most have always been settled amicably. We still do this in my village and have never had any problems leading to killings. We agree jointly on modalities on how Herders will graze farm areas during dry season with setting up of a joint vigilante group comprising our people and the Fulani. This has worked excellently. Our youths have rescued Fulani men cows from Cameroonian rustlers (Fulani) because we know our own Fulani people and handed them over to the owners .
In my view, MACBAN has not helped matters as an association. If you are a legitimate registered body of cattle owners in Nigeria, how come you do not distance yourself from those who are coming from outside and giving you a bad image?
MACBAN leadership should take responsibility for all killings in all disputed farming areas because they have not been able to isolate MACBAN from other criminal gangs hiding under the name of MACBAN. If Nomads are members of MACBAN and move about even across countries, how does the leadership of MACBAN keep track of their members’ movement?
If a crisis erupts in any particular location, is it so difficult for MACBAN to know under whose jurisdiction such crises occur?
Government (not under President Buhari anyway) and NGOs can step in to re-organize MACBAN to ensure tracking of their members and their cattle movements.
Let the truth be told the Farmers-Herders clashes have NOTHING to do with religion. It is purely a fight for control of space for farming and for animal grazing. If Nomadic Fulani became settled or town Fulani as a result of giving up their pastoral lives and converted to Islam and settled into communities leaving those who have continued as Nomads, there is no justification to tag all of them the same.
Everyone across the North and elsewhere in Nigeria can affirm that these Nomads are rarely seen in Mosques across the land except where they are close to major towns and mix up with the town Fulanis. Let there be clear understanding of the two with conscious efforts to do something about the Nomads.
The Town Fulani are one of the well read in Nigeria, known as Traditional Rulers across the North and hold high positions in the land including being Presidents of Nigeria (President Muhammadu Buhari and Late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yaradua). The politics and governance in Nigeria is not complete without the Town Fulanis and so cannot be wished away.
The Nomadic Fulani issue should be an issue of Nigeria that cannot be left in the hands of any Fulani leader in Nigeria because of our highly sentimental way of thinking. Nigerians should find a way of confining the indigenous Nomadic Fulani with a view to curtailing their movement with cows, bringing social amenities to them and thereby utilizing their cattle farming for national growth. This was what Jubril Aminu (a Fulani man) a former Minister of Education realized long ago and came up with the concept of Nomadic Education.
If it was sustained, we would have long gone past this Farmers-Herders problem in Nigeria. The Anti-Open Grazing Bills signed into law by most states were enacted without deep thinking and are sincerely not workable in my view. We respond to national issues according to our emotions rather than in overriding public interest that outlive us. The states involved should go back to the drawing board and come up with what is workable for the good of Nigeria.