From Fred Itua, Abuja, David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
A group, No Alternative to Buhari and Osinbajo 2019 (NATBO 201), has condemned moves by governors from the 17 southern states to ban open grazing, describing it as an unfair criminality label on legitimate businessmen.
The group, in a statement in Abuja by its National Coordinator, Vincent Uba, said herdsmen targeted in the policy were hitherto not known to carry arms and that recent reports linking them to criminality were still unverified.
“Granted that there could be some bad eggs or criminals within herders who perpetrate these crimes, it is pertinent to note that criminal tendencies equally obtain in other professions or occupations. “It would, therefore, be unfair to label the entire herdsmen as criminals. This is in no way an attempt to condone criminality,” he said.
Uba said the position of the group should not be misconstrued as toleration of crimes and criminals. He said the group did not subscribe to any undesirable elements invading and destroying crops in farmlands, much less acts of rape against women and killing of farmers, and that criminals should be punished.
He, however, condemned allegations of herdsmen being agents of a Fulanisation agenda of Nigeria, querying why the nation had not been fulanised in all the years of their operation.
He said the ploy to make herding appear like an exclusive preserve of Fulani Muslims was deceptive, saying every Nigerian had the right to rear cattle. He urged southern governors and leaders to show understanding and be patient with herders.
“To the southern governors and others who have banned open grazing, we urge you to thread softly. Banning a system that is as old as Nigeria itself is bound to produce rebound effects. This will definitely breed more crises and insecurity than is desired to be avoided.
“Legislating against open grazing without first providing alternative means of herding is likely to fuel more crises and heat up the polity. The much talked about ranching is no doubt the way to go, with due consideration taken that the vast number of these people who engage
in nomadic herding are illiterates. Educating them on the need for a new approach to their way of doing business is key,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bishop of Diocese of Ihiala, Anglican, Communion, Israel Okoye, has said the raging controversy over open grazing of cattle has become an unfortunate distraction from some fundamental issues on the economy, education, justice, equity, and leadership.
He said the issue must be consistently and objectively interrogated with a view to institutionalising sustainable development in all sectors of the Nigerian body polity.
Speaking at the second session of the fourth synod of the diocese at St Stephen’s Church, Ihiala, Ihaila Local Government of Area of Anambra, he described the country as being agonisingly enmeshed in insecurity.
Okoye said the cattle rear- ing and grazing were the key features of animal husbandry He said their politicisation and seeming treatment as national obligation had attracted objections and resentment.
Okoye said available records indicate the organisations differ in membership attitude to constituted authority, perceptions of their rights in relation to other people’s rights.