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S’govs’ ban of open grazing as sensitivity in leadership

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THERE is an adage that “Unless a man wrestles with those who trespass at his backyard, the offence will not stop”“(a gbaghi uzo-owerre mgba o gaghi emechi).

  The Constitution of Nigeria stipulates that: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary responsibility of the Government” (Chapter 2, Section 14 (b) page 30).               

During the meeting of Southern Governors from South East, South-South, South West, held at Asaba, Delta State, the 17 governors lamented the atrocities of Fulani killer herdsmen in the farmlands, by killing innocent farmers in their farms, devouring their crops with their cows and even raping their women.

The Fulani herdsmen insist that they must engage in open grazing, in rearing their cattle, as their forefathers were doing, because they are illiterates and do not know anything about ranching. So, the Southern Governors wanted to perform their constitutional duty in protecting’ their citizens against the barbarism of killer herdsmen.

It is in his duty of protecting the lives and property of his people, that the governor of Benue State, Samuel Orthom, in 2017, sent an “Executive Bill” to Benue State House of Assembly, for a law to prohibit open grazing in Benue State. He followed it up with example, by setting up cattle ranch, as his private business in his village.

This is to prove that cows can be reared in modern way of cattle ranching profitably. It is also a known fact that President Buhari has private cattle ranching in his village, Daura, Katsina State. But, ironically, some Fulani cattle breeders say that they are illiterates, and cannot engage in ranching, and so, must continue in open grazing, and worse still, doing so in other people’s farmlands, damaging their crop, killing their hosts and even raping their women.

On New Year Day, January 1, 2018, the killer herdsmen invaded some villages in Benue State, at night, massacred over 80 innocent people, set their houses ablaze and forced them into refugee camps, and illegally occupied their villages and farmlands. When the issue was debated at Federal House of Representatives, Abuja, Alhaji Sadiq Ibrahim Adamu (APC Adamawa), had the temerity and sadism to retort that it was the ban on open grazing by Benue State Government that caused the terrorism. He boasted that if the government did not abrogate the ban, the killing would continue (New Telegraph Newspaper, January 24th 2018).

  The federal government of President Buhari did not utter a word in condemnation of the atrocities of the killer herdsmen, nor send Police/Army to defend the innocent farmers. Rather, the federal government said that they were establishing ‘RUGGA’ (Cattle Colony), in the 36 states of Nigeria, to appease the herdsmen. The vehement opposition of people, including Anambra State, stopped this federal nepotism and sadism.

As federal government is tacitly encouraging the herdsmen, they became emboldened and invaded Southern Nigeria. In that 2018, the killer herdsmen invaded Omasi, in Ayamelum Local Government Area, Anambra State. Two teenage twin brothers went to work in their father’s farm. The herdsmen were foraging their cows in the farm.

They frightened the boys away, pursued them and killed one twin who did not run fast enough to escape. At Umuenwem and Mmiata, in Anambra West LGA, the herdsmen killed six farmers in 2019. When community development officers of United Nations  (UN), visited Owerre-Ezukala, in Orumba South LGA in 2020, the wife of the traditional ruler, Lolo Rosalyne Ogbonnaya, complained that herdsmen invaded their farmlands and prevented them from working in the farms.

Recently, in 2021, in their ‘Community News,’ on Saturday, the correspondent of Radio Nigeria, Purity FM,” Alfred Ajayi, reported that Ufuma women, in Orumba North LGA., lamented about the scarcity of garri, a stapple food in Ufuma village market, which was caused by the inability of the women to access their farms because killer herdsmen had occupied their farms and prevented them from harvesting their cassava. One woman bemoaned that the herdsmen callously uprooted the cassava tuber and fed the cows with it.              

  This ugly trend is also witnessed by farmers in Enugu State, Rivers State, Delta State, Bayelsa State, Ondo State, Ogun State, etc. This was why Bishop Matthew Kukah of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, said that: “Northern Nigeria, the epicenter of illiteracy, is spewing its venom to Southern Nigeria.” (Convocation Lecture, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, Anambra State, March 20, 2020).

  So, the Southern Governors adopted measures of sensitivity and pragmatism in solving the problem by banning open grazing and authorising cattle ranching. Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano State, had earlier, advocated  cattle ranching. He said that there should be a law by the federal government, through the National Assembly, banning movement of cattle on foot, by Northerners in Southern Nigeria, as a way of preventing clashes of farmers and herdsmen. Governor Ganduje said that he had established cattle ranches in his state.

  So, the Southern Governors should not limit their pronouncement to lip-service. They should emulate their counterparts in Benue State, Orthom, and Kano State, Ganduje, and embark upon cattle ranching. They could do so in the system of Public Private Partnership (PPP), in collaboration with private sector.

In Anambra State, in 2014, Governor Obiano met the production of rice, a popular food item, in primitive method, when the production of rice was 80,000 metric tons, but the consumption was 320,000 metric tons yearly. Governor Obiano organised the private sector, and facilitated the establishment of mechanised rice farming.

The Coscharis Mechanised Rice Farming, at Anaku, in Ayamelum LGA, with its ancillary company, the Coscharis Rice Mill, at Igbariam, Anambra East LGA, was started by Chief Cosmas Maduka. Other mechanised rice farms came up at Amichi, Nnewi South LGA, Ufuma, in Orumba North LGA, Ogbakuba in Ogbaru LGA. Obiano also facilitated small scale rice farmers, and numerous co-operative societies, at Omor, Ifite-Ogwari, in Ayamelum LGA, with improved seedlings, irrigation machines, tractors and threshers, and their combined efforts were able to make Anambra State able to produce 440,000 metric tons of Rice in 2020, and thus, Anambra became self sufficient in rice, with enough for consumption and surplus for export.

  So, all Southern States, especially Anambra State, should go into large scale cattle ranching, now. with its “Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP). This shall include Cattle Market for selling live cows, abbattior, for selling meat, milk industry for manufacturing liquid and powdered milk, leather industry, for making shoes, bags, belts, etc.

All these ancillary products shall make the state self sufficient in meat supply and create numerous job opportunities for the citizens, liberate the farmlands from the bondage of killer herdsmen, and increase the internally generated revenue (IGR), This is because the ranches shall pay company tax and the workers will pay income tax, which the killer herdsmen refuse to pay, because they are notorious in violence of fighting, killing and destruction.

The people of Southern Nigeria, should cultivate the virtues of patriotism, and patronise the products from the ranches in their numerous celebrations of chieftaincy titles, annual festivals, weddings, marriages, funerals, bazaar ceremonies by Churches, etc.

When this happens, the Southern States shall break the monopoly of Northerners in supply of cattle, which intoxicated them to think that they could hold their innocent host communities to ransom, and forcefully occupy their lands by sticking to open grazing in rearing their cattle.    

The Houses of Assembly in Southern Nigeria should as a matter of urgency, enact laws banning open grazing and establishing cattle ranching, and enforce the ban with local security outfits, of Ebubeagu in South East and Amortekun in South West. Governor Obiano of Anambra State, should send “Executive Bill,” to the House of Assembly, so that the Speaker and legislators could expeditiously enact the law, now.

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