By Jude Idu, Abuja
Implementation of the ban on cattle rearing within the city centres in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, has remained a hoax. It is one of the environmental laws governing the FCT that has been rendered ineffective relegated to the background.
The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and other relevant agencies have effectively enforced other environmental laws, especially street hawking with all seriousness, but have shown a lackadaisical attitude in implementing the ban on cattle rearing.
In 2016, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), went tough on the movement of cattle within the metropolis. This followed months of complaints from the residents of constant disturbance from the herders.
Miffed by the protests,the then Minister of the FCT, Muhammad Bello, inaugurated a task force led by Abdullahi Monjel, to keep the cattle off the streets of Abuja for the safety of the cattle and the residents.
Bello told the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN): “You have to understand that when AEPB says cattle should not roam the city, it is not because they want to prevent breeders from rearing their cattle in the FCT. Basically, it is just for the safety of your cattle and above all the safety of residents.”
However, the Fulani herders continued with their business as usual and have even become more daring in their operations. This challenges the sincerity of purpose and political will of various administrations since 1991.
Reactions from the FCT residents show that six years down the line, some of the environmental laws introduced by the FCT authority have been scuttled due to the fear of the “power that be.”
A resident of Lugbe, Jimy Onuche, warned that the FCT minister may be playing with fire: “The minister, as a Fulani man, may have soft spot for his tribal men whose main occupation is cattle breeding.
“Again, the minister knows the owners of the herds, among them are highly placed individuals from the North. So, how do you expect him to challenge them?
“It is not about making the law; it is all about implementing the relevant laws and punishing offenders. As far as I am concerned, the cattle breeders have taken the city centres as grazing ranches unchallenged.
“In fact, I even heard that the AEPB team once arrested cattle belonging to a highly ranked police officer. But two days later, the authority ordered for the release. Now you can judge for yourself.”
Another resident, Laide Badmus, said: “When these animals came to my home, I screamed for help, but the herders threatened to attack me. They appeared again the next day at the same time. My neighbours prevailed on me not to get close to them.
“I stood watching the cattle eating up my planted vegetables. I think there should be a clear implementation of laws protecting the city.
“One other day, I witnessed a close scuffle between a taxi driver and herdsmen over a sudden accident involving a cow and the taxi. The herdsmen wanted to kill the driver because their cow was hit while crossing the Airport Road.
“The herdsmen told people there and then that the lives of their cows are far better than the life of the driver. It took the intervention of the police to rescue the driver.”
A respondent who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Sometimes it beats my imagination on the criteria some people are chosen or appointed as government functionaries.”
Director, Abuja Metropolitan Management Company (AMMC), Umar Shuibu, once explained why he proposed arresting prostitutes in and around the FCT, while cattle breeders move freely in the city centre. His response was that “it is easier to arrest human beings than cows.”
Fulani herdsmen are noticed around major city centres, most times obstructing traffic due to their disobedience to traffic rules. These men are conspicuously seen at Wuse 2, Maitama by Ministers’ Hills, AYA Junction, Eagles Square by Goodluck Jonathan Road. Other areas of operation include Apo Roundabout, Area 1 Roundabout and Julius Berger Junction.
A Gbagiyi indigene, Ibrahim Yohana, regretted deaths of some environmental enforcement officials: “I can tell you this as a Gbagiyi indigene. We have witnessed fights between the herdsmen and the AEPB officials. Some of the officials died weeks after being attacked with poisonous knives.
“We also witnessed situations where these cows were arrested but released days later due to ‘order from above’. So, why can’t they come to graze in the city centre? We have resorted to self-help because the herdsmen in the FCT now seem to be above the law.”
Director of AEPB, Osilama Braimah, told Daily Sun: “The environmental war in the FCT may remain unresolved until pending motion before the National Assembly is passed into law.
“The motion, which has passed the second reading, will ensure stiffer penalties for defaulters. This has become necessary due to the level people flaunt the old environmental law, an act made as far back as 1997 with just a fine of N5000.00 only. The money may have been big those days, but seems just a little as fine for such an offence now.
“There are provisions against cattle grazing in the Abuja master plan. But, I also say there is no resurgence of cattle in the city as people say.
“What we have here is that they try to come up to graze because it is rainy season and the grasses are green in the city centre. At some point, the movement of cattle subsided because that was the time we tried to remove them. But occasionally flashes of them coming out and we always have our enforcement team to arrest the cattle.
“In carrying out the arrest, some of them claim they are passing through to their villages using Abuja as a grazing or transit route. Some others claimed that they live across the roads and when trying to cross over, they cause road obstruction.”
He disclosed that he from time to time, engages the Miyetti Allah to ensure laws are respected: “The 1997 Act covers not just the cattle movement but all illegal livestock business in the FCT. We are ready to arrest and prosecute within the subsisting law.
“Even now, if you go to Area One, you will see cattle that we arrested. We also prosecute others engaged in other forms of illegal livestock business. It is an act, in which an offender will be prosecuted at any point of violation.
“A person called the other day and reported that another neighbour was illegally engaged in poultry business and the whole place smelled. We arrested those livestock because it was not legal within the neighbourhood.
“Government work is not all that easy. You may arrest a Suya vendor here and remove him, tomorrow a woman with a POS will appear at the same place.
“It is a continuous thing. One thing we must do is to ensure public enlightenment using the medium like yours to drive home the message that these things are against the law.”