The National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Baba Othman Ngelzarma, has said that only the establishment of settlements for herdsmen across the country will end the current crisis and ensure peace.
Speaking with the VINCENT KALU on the herders, farmers crises across many states in the country especially in the south, Ngeizrama emphasised that any state that bans open grazing should provide pastoralists where to graze, pointing out that the South benefits more from cow than the North.
What is your organisation going to do following the proposal by Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje to Federal Government to stop movement of cattle on road from North to South in order to halt the herders / farmers clashes?
This statement is coming from Ganduje, who is a Fulani and governor of Kano State; I have no problem with his comment, but then before this is implemented, there has to be arrangement for the herdsmen. Though he said he has to be seriously involved in RUGA in the state, but until this is done, the pastoralists need to be settled. Is it only Ganduje that can do this, what of the other governors; can the Kano State contain all the pastoralists in the South?
This is something that has to be done simultaneously with all the Northern governors. Movement of cattle will not last long because the population is increasing by the day both animals and human beings against the land that doesn’t increase an inch. The fact is that the population will be increasing, which will be forcing more demands on the land, which calls for serious planning for the two professions, cattle rearing and farming to coexist peacefully.
Settlement of the pastoralists is the only solution that will bring to an end the problem that we are facing. Settling them is not something that can be done in a month or a year; realizing it takes a lot of determination. It is something that will come as a gradual process. Cattle rearing, to an average Fulani man is both a trade and a way of life. This is what he inherited from his forefathers. His desire is also to leave it for his children to inherit. To him, the quality of the cow doesn’t matter much than the quantity. He prefers the quantity of the cow because his status in the society is determined by the quantity of cows he has. So that is what makes him a big man in the society he lives. The quality doesn’t matter much to them than the quantity of the cow and because it is way of life, so changing the way of life of a society is something that will come as a process.
Ultimately, until when we get where all pastoralists will be settled that will be when we would have lasting peace. Now that we speak till a time they get settled, what can we do in the interim to address these security challenges that are becoming a phenomenon in the country today? Something has to be done immediately to bring an end to these issues of banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping that are taking place daily. So, settlement as a final solution, which is far reaching is good. From now to when we get to that point what can we do to correct the present situation; what can we do to overcome banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping; this is the question that we must ask ourselves.
In this regard, every person has a role to play; the government has a role to play, all the pastoralists have role to play, it is not only Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association that is the only pastoralists association in the country, we have a host of other associations as well. So, the association of pastoralists has role to play, traditional rulers have a role to play, political leaders have a role to play. Security doesn’t exist in isolation, it succeeds with the help and contribution of the society it is protecting. Everybody has a role to play in bringing an end to this crisis. Up till now that I speak to you, it is only the essence of the crisis that is being addressed, and there is no any serious effort in underlining causes of the conflicts. Major part of the underlining causes is to try to get the pastoralists settled in one place.
It is when they settle in one place that they get good benefits for their products. The cow will give more milk and more meat because this movement is emaciating the cow; it is reducing the output of the milk. It is not getting enough food, it is not getting enough water, and it is not resting. By staying in one place, the pastoralists stand to benefit more from his cow and he has opportunity for education and he begins to add other skills apart from cattle rearing, which is the only thing he knows now. There are so many advantages in staying in one place for him and this will bring an end to all these conflicts we are witnessing today.
I agree with the governor of Kano State that movement of cows from the North to South should stop, but governors in the North must try to establish modern abattoirs instead of transporting live cows to South, let’s begin to transport processed meat from North to South.
The South is benefiting more from cow than the Northerner who is producing the cow. The South is exploiting all the value chains relating to the cow. Lagos alone consumes 6,000 cows a day. Just imagine the huge business that is taking place in Lagos in relation to cow business. There is nothing wasteful in the cow – the bones, the horns, the intestines, the blood; everything is money. The pastoralists are not getting anything from their products, but the Southerners who are processing and consuming the cow. Imagine how much employment that has created in Lagos. The proposal of Ganduje is good, let Northern investors come up with modern meat processing factory; instead of transporting live cows we will be transporting processed meat, so that all other value chain relating to the business will be here- more employment will be created here. This is what I understood from Ganduje’s comment.
Apart from this, the other issue is settlement, which is good. For how long have we been agitating for ranching; whatever model or name you give it, whether RUGA, colony, we don’t care about the name, all that MACBAN wants is a settlement model for the pastoralists because it will take us out of conflicts and we will begin to see and enjoy commensurate benefits from our cows. Now we are not getting anything. Even the security problem that the country is facing as a result of these crises, who is at the receiving end? It is the pastoralists.
An average Fulani is sandwiched between two great evils. He is a victim on one side and also a culprit on the other side. Whenever you hear cows being rustled, that must have been rustled from a Fulani man because he is the sole owner of cows in the country. Four days ago, 1,700 cows were rustled in Katankoro, Niger State. In one day, these cows were taken away from many Fulani families, making them destitute. If you come to kidnapping, before one personality is kidnapped on the roadside or in the city, 20, 30 or 50 herdsmen have been kidnapped and people don’t get to know about it because it is not reported. Some of them have to sell their cows to pay ransom. Even if he has to leave that place, he has to sell part of his cows to migrate to another area because if he has to run from the kidnapers, how long will he run with 200 or 300 herds of cow with his family? The longest he can go is maybe five kilometers a day, but the kidnapers using bikes may just get him in less than ten minutes. They are busy selling their cows and paying ransom for their children, wives that were kidnapped.
You were saying that in the interim that something must be done, what is that?
Settlement is the final solution. This is what we have been agitating. Whatever name you give it, whether RUGA, Grazing Reserve, Cattle Colony, settlement will bring the final solution to the problem.
Should this settlement be in every state of the federation?
Yes. Do you know how many pastoralists we have in this country? We have about 24 million of them living in the forests with their cattle. How can you get them settled in one place?
There are so many settlement models across the world. The one I’m impressed with is that of New Zealand. This involves the development of the entire grazing reserve; construct houses, plant grasses, construct dams and allow the pastoralists to stay where they want within the reserve in their local traditional setting; they don’t go out of the reserve. Schools are established for them, hospitals and markets within that reserve. If possible, investors should come with their dairy processing factories within the reserve.
If there are grasses and water, they won’t go anywhere. If there is market close to them, they will go to the market for their daily needs; if there is a veterinary clinic or hospital they can’t go out of the reserve. This is a model that is being practiced in New Zealand under the Maori land settlement model. This is the model that can suit our peculiarity in this country because we have a pastoralist population that by the nature of their business, they are not opportune to be educated, they don’t enjoy anything government, they are always roaming the bush looking for green pastures. They are doing it as a trade, as a way of life and as a culture.
Up till today, no much attempt is being made by government to try to transform or modernize their business for them. Today, over N350 billion was spent on the agronomy sector of agriculture, crop production, but no single kobo spent as intervention to improve livestock. Government policies are tilted towards agronomy, neglecting livestock subsector of the economy. You can see so many difficulties being faced by the livestock subsector in this country.
I’m always surprised when some people come to the media to say that this is a private business. Yes, it is a private business; every other business is a private business. The motorists who are plying the government roads are getting money for their commercial purposes on government roads. Even foreign investors who are coming to Nigeria to invest expect the government to give them some sort of incentives to encourage them to invest in the country; so what more for a pastoralist, who is an indigene of this country? Agriculture has enjoyed intervention of over N350 billion, leaving livestock with nothing. Commercial vehicles plying government roads are personal businesses, do you ask them to go and construct their own roads?
Now you are saying that the herdsmen should be settled in every state, is it the federal government or state governments that should bear the cost?
Both of them have roles to play. The federal government is handicapped to some extent because it has no power over land. The state governments are the owners of the land. Land is not a serious problem, as we have over 400 designated areas as grazing reserves in the North today.
Some of them are gazetted, while some are not. If we can develop these grazing reserves, if you can provide water and pasture in these reserves, what will make the pastoralists to be going to the South? He is going to the South because of the availability of pasture and water there. If he can get these things in the North, there is nothing that will take him to the South. In the 60s, 70s and 80s they were all living in the North, but overtime, with the desert encroachment and climate change and with lack of maintenance of the grazing reserves, with the silting of the dams, with the absence of palatable pastures, these necessitated their movements gradually up till when they reached the Southern part of the country, where they get enough pastures and water for their cows.
Tomorrow if all the state governments can develop all the grazing reserves they have; just provide dam, provide grasses, teach the pastoralists how to propagate grasses they will do it. Let me give an example of a grazing reserve in Wase, Plateau State, which is very large. There are 18 dams there. Three years ago when I visited that place on a sensitization programme, there was no single dam that was working; all the dams were silted, they don’t hold any water again because of the sand that has filled it.
Most of the grazing reserves have dams, but they are silted because they are not maintained. The grazing reserves that have nomadic education are dilapidated. In most of the grazing reserves you find veterinary clinics, but they are dilapidated. Because of neglect by past administrations, all these infrastructures you find in the reserves are dilapidated. The herdsmen have suffered neglect for decades in this country.
This is what he is going through. Look at the farmers, herders’ conflict; that has been a serious problem as the herder has been made to lose quite a number of cows. His problems are so many. Like I said earlier, today, the Nigerian herdsman is sandwiched between two great evils. On one side, he is a victim because he is losing cows, money daily. On the other side he is seen as culprit, a criminal.
About 15 to 20 percent of them are migrating out of Nigeria, looking for safe place where they can protect their lives and carry out their source of livelihood.
We have lost over three million cows as result of cattle rustling. This has made so many families to become poor and because their children are poor, with no education, ignorance, prevalence of drought and proliferation of arms, so they become easy prey for initiation into crimes. That is the reason whenever you catch them, if you interview them, they will tell you that N5 million was collected as ransom, but they were given N20, 000 or N50, 000 out of the money. That goes to show you that there are some big guys behind the whole thing. That goes to show you that the ignorance, the poverty level of these youths is being exploited. That is why most of them have become criminals because of idleness, lack and maybe, arms have become very easy to get.
Following the quit notice to herders by Ondo governor, some Fulani leaders threatened to send Yoruba in the North packing. However, Air Vice Marshal Wuyep (retd) from Plateau State described the statement as stupid, asking them if Yoruba in the North were destroying their farms or killing their people. What do you say to this?
I have no comment. I’m only hearing it from you now. Regarding the issue of quit notice, that matter has been laid to rest. We were there with the four governors of Southwest and two governors from North, we had an engagement, which resulted in laying the issue to rest. That is the danger of asking a group to leave; when you ask a particular ethnic group to leave certain area in Nigeria, it will be given so many interpretations. That is why whenever such thing happened, we are cautious, we don’t speak to the media.
Instead of doing that, we take the bull by the horn, go that area and try to settle the problem immediately so that it will not take another dimension. That was what we did when Olu Falae was kidnapped some years back; it became a serious problem. We met with the then Ondo governor, Mimiko and went and visited Olu Falae in his house. That was what doused the tension during that time. That was what fetched us an award when Solomon Arase was the IGP because of that single thing that we did. We did the same thing in this issue.
The Ondo governor didn’t ask the herdsmen to leave the state, he asked those living in the forest to vacate, but this was adulterated and the information was twisted. The matter has been laid to rest. For the unity of this country, I don’t want to comment on it again if somebody is making any comment about what this group said and what another group said. The governors have done a lot towards ensuring peace in this country. That is why I always appreciate the chairman of Northern Governors Forum; he ensured that Southwest governors attended the meeting and ensured that two governors from the North attended the meeting. We are witnessing political leaders across the divide coming to smoothen the rough edges of their relationship. We want this initiative to continue in the Southeast and the South-South parts of the country as efforts to ensuring peace in the country.
Now that every state is banning open grazing what will be the fate of your members?
I don’t know of any state except Benue that has banned open grazing.
Oyo has a law against open grazing and Southeast has come up to ban open grazing
If it is a law that has been established by the state and it conforms to all the laid down rules and regulations, then as a civilized person what have I to say? However, that law must not collide with the constitution of the country that gives rights to every citizen to stay and move to anywhere in the country. As long as it is not in collision with the constitution of the country, who are we to say no. Law is done to bring harmony in a particular society; if you have a law that doesn’t bring harmony then that law may not work. It has to be on the basis of fairness and justice.
If you stop open grazing, then what other alternative do you propose or provide for those who are engaged in open grazing. You have to provide alternative. Open grazing prohibition and ranching establishment law was the setting of Benue State law. But even before the establishment of ranching, they have stopped open grazing. So, you see where the confusion is.
The intention of these drafters of the law must be either ranching before prohibition or the two taking place simultaneously. What took place in Benue State is that the prohibition came first before the ranching. Up till today, it is the prohibition that is working, no any activity given to the establishment of ranching. That is why we always say that the law is deliberate for the chasing away of Fulani in Benue State.