THE National Assembly is about to pass a Bill that is set to kill whatever is left of our so-called over-centralised federal System. The Bill if passed will be the greatest rape on our democracy and the biggest insult on our collective sensitivity as a people and as a country.
“The Fulani National Grazing Reserve”, is presently before the National Assembly. The bill has successfully scaled through second reading in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. For it to become law it is to pass through the third reading.
“The bill seeks to provide for the establishment of national grazing reserves and stock routes. It is sponsored by Senator Zainab Kure.
“The Bill proposes to establish a National Grazing Reserve Commission (NGRC) for the country. The NGRC will be charged with the responsibility of using funds received from the Federal Government to forcefully acquire farmlands from Nigerians in all the 36 States of the country, develop same at government expense through the provision of bore holes, water reservoirs, etc; for the exclusive use of nomadic cattle rearers.”
The issue here is very clear. Fulani Herdsmen are cattle farmers. They could as well keep their cattle in ranches. They could devise whatever means like their counterparts in Argentina, Australia and the rest of the civilized world to do their animal husbandry. The men and boys roaming the streets, roads and bushes driving cattle are not the owners of these animals. They are just employees, labourers, attendants or whatever name they are called.
The owners of these cows like Generals Obasanjo, Nyako, Abdulsalami Abubakar and our president Buhari are big time farmers. They are businessmen. It is immoral to ask tax payers to finance the operations of these businesses. Cattle owners must provide capital through bank loans or whatever means to create their grazing lands in their localities. The cows are not owned by the Federal Government.
Just as the Federal Government is not creating farm lands for cocoa and kolanut farmers in Sokoto or Katsina, or creating farm lands for Agatu yam farmers in Enugu or Maiduguri, or creating special areas for fish farming in Zungeru, it cannot for any reason ever consider creating special lands for herdsmen for grazing. Let the herdsmen run their business without encroaching on the lands of other people. Let the cattle owners buy into the Fodder technology and other modern methods of providing feeds for their animals without roaming the streets and plundering other people’s farms. AK 47 is not the stick needed for driving cattle from point A to point B!
To ever dream of this perverted Bill is to step on the toes of other Nigerians and step on sore foot, and by so doing create a dangerous precedent.
Nobody should play ethnic game here. This is not an issue directed against any ethnic nationality in Nigeria. The simple matter is to let those who trade in cattle fund their business like all other businesses, including farming, in Nigeria.
The Bill must not see the light of the day. The sponsors want to create serious problem in the polity and their design must be nipped in the bud.
The critical issue at stake here is the fact that this obnoxious Grazing Reserves Bill is setting up booby traps for our grandchildren yet unborn. We know the sad historic antecedents of herdsmen who were allowed a window in Plateau and southern Zaria and later, through expansionist inclination sought to subjugate their one time hosts and today those regions have never known peace. It is brutalisation, burning of houses, slaughtering innocent citizens in their sleep and other gory tales that have become the order of the day.
If grazing reserves are allowed to be set up,in no time clashes upon clashes will begin to erupt and in less than ten years hence there will be conflagration on a widespread scale never before seen in this country. The trouble with this country is a lingering lack of foresight in everything we do including national planning and security matters.
A laughable, but serious dimension was added to the whole embarrassing joke when defenders of the herdsmen holocaust claim that most of the Fulani herdsmen are from Niger, Chad and other neighbouring countries. How could any country conscious of security implications open its mouth to say foreigners have invaded its territorial space. Will Niger or Ghana ever openly declare that it is Nigerians who are rampaging their country! Where are the Immigration authorities? Where is Border Patrol?
Grazing Reserves should be established by cattle owners in their localities and among people with whom they share the same world view to avoid unnecessary friction and incessant upheavals. Nigerians want to live in peace with all the diverse nationalities that constitute this space struggling to create a nation. But living in unity should not and cannot be at the expense of any one nationality.Those who want to buy cows should arrange the way they purchase in large numbers and when they bring such cows to places of consumption they should create local enclosures for them to give them feed. This was what my grand uncle who was the greatest importer of cattle from the North in his days was doing.
The Nigeria Bar Association, the Coalition of Civil Societies, and all those who care about the continued existence of this troubled country must rise up to strongly oppose and kill this obnoxious and self serving Bill. It beats my imagination that members of the National Assembly did not see the serious danger posed by this corrosive Bill.
In a reaction to the threats posed by this obnoxious Bill, the National coordinator of the Oodua Peoples congress Otunba Gani Adams says:” Without any doubt, this is a very dangerous proposal for Nigeria. We all have seen how the Fulani herdsmen kill and maim members of the community where they graze their cattle without the backing of any law. I am sure that we can only imagine what their attitudes would be if the supposed grazing reserves are forcefully taken over by government and handed over to the herdsmen.
Nigeria has enough problems on her hand right now; we should not provoke new and potentially more dangerous ones.