BEVERLY HILLS, February 14, (THEWILL) – The Northern Governors Forum on Monday supported the call for cattle ranching as a solution to the brutal herders/ farmers conflict that has ravaged many parts of the country recently.
In a communiqué after their virtual meeting, the forum stated that “the current system of herding, mainly through open grazing, is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanisation and population of the country.”
It resolved to sensitise herders on the need to adopt either ranching or other acceptable modern livestock production. It also condemned all forms of criminality and asked governments to isolate criminal elements, whether as herdsmen, farmers or hunters for prosecution.
This is a welcome, though belated development. It is belated because it is coming at a great social and economic cost to the country. It shows a failure of leadership in crisis management because the conflict had been allowed to fester for too long with untold consequences to the unity of the country.
The delayed response had allowed the deadly conflict to breed the grounds for allied criminality like banditry and kidnapping resulting in a domino effect on seasonal farming in our largely agriculture-based country with the threat of looming hunger and food insecurity in the land.
It has also caused social disharmony among communities where criminal cow headers held sway. It also led to the profiling of the Fulani, following the assumption that any AK-47 wielding kidnapper, bandit or and land grabber is a Fulani.
Indeed, when the Federal Government mooted the idea of Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) in 2019, public uproar reverberated throughout the country because of the perception that land, a precious commodity among ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, was about to be given gratis to the Fulanis.
It created the public perception that the Federal Government not only favours the Fulani but is even ready to bend over backwards to support them against other ethnic nationalities in the country, no thanks to the controversy over lopsided federal appointments in favour of the President’s kinsmen.
Since then, after public clamour forced the government to kill that land grabbing policy, things have degenerated fast. Maiming and killings, kidnapping and raping had continued unabated in many parts of the country, while the leadership looked away and the country drifted apart. Nigeria global terrorism index rose as a result and many countries like the United States and the UK issued travel warnings against the country.
The recent tiff between the Federal Government and the Ondo State Government, following the seven-day ultimatum issued by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, to herdsmen to quit the state’s forest reserves, and the reliance on self-help by a Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho, against perceived criminal cow herders and alleged sponsors of kidnappers, would have been unnecessary had the Federal Government taken decisive actions on the conflicts long ago.
To think that the Northern, Eastern and Western Regional Governments once ran cattle ranches at Mokwa, Obudu, Imeko and Saki, respectively, during the first republic shows that the idea is neither foreign to Nigeria nor is it an impossibility. What is needed now is the political will and commitment to re-launch it and so douse the tension in the country.
The Kwara and Kano examples are also models to draw from.
THEWILL therefore calls on the state governments, particularly those in the northern part of the country where there is massive land and hospitable place for the scheme to thrive, to follow their declaration through with commitment.
The Federal Government, which had been finding a way, though too slowly, over the menace should support their request for financial assistance. It has to if its National Livestock Programmes, which it had tried to pursue after the RUGA debacle would ever see the light of the day. States like Edo which has indicated interest in cattle ranching business should be encouraged. Also, the recent moves by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State to revive the old Western Regional cattle farms and similar steps by his Ogun State counterpart, Dapo Abiodun, in partnership with foreign companies should be supported.
Enough of needless bloodletting in the country. It is time to heal the land and take decisive actions to pull the country from the precipice it is headed because of the farmer/ herders unabated conflict and its allied criminalities.