Herders will continue to graze their cattle in Southern Nigeria despite the September deadline given by Southern governors to begin the implementation of the anti-open grazing law in the region, the Fulani socio-cultural group, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, has declared.
The group, which described the anti-open grazing law of the Southern governors as “satanic,” also proclaimed that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was originally designed to be a grazing reserve before it was turned into the nation’s capital city.
The Secretary General of the group, Alhaji Alhassan Saleh, made these declarations on Friday in an interview with Saturday Tribune. Saleh said in spite of the Southern governors’ push to outlaw open grazing in the region, the Fulani herders would not leave but would continue to graze their cattle there “peacefully.”
He described the anti-open grazing law being enforced in the region and in Benue State as satanic.
Asked if he would ask the herders to comply with the law, Saleh said, “How will they (herders) comply? Are they going to pack their animals into a shop? Or are they (the Southern governors) going to force them out of their areas? How will they comply if the states cannot create ranches? Ranching is not like opening a shop.”
He said he would advise the herders in the affected states to continue to graze their cattle insofar as they are doing so in the bush and not in the centres of cities or towns.
Asked for his view on the practice of some herders allowing their cattle to stray into the main parts of cities like Abuja, Saleh explained that Abuja was a grazing reserve before it assumed the status of the nation’s capital.
“Abuja was originally a grazing reserve but it has been made a city today,” he declared. Saleh emphasised the love of the Fulani for cows and described tending to the animals as a heritage bestowed on the ethnic group by God.
He said: “Do you know that we love cow so much? When we see cow, we feel happy because it is the symbol of our culture, economic empowerment; a heritage bestowed on us by God. The name of our group, ‘Miyetti Allah’, means, ‘We thank God for the gift of natural wealth’. “Grazing has never been done in secret since the time of Moses. If you are a good reader of the Bible, manger is where cows graze.”
Saleh accused Nigeria’s leaders of playing politics with grazing of cows. He warned that with the manner leaders were handling the issue of open grazing, the country might go into extinction – unless Nigerians tread softly on the matter. He said many governors are using the issue of herdsmen to drive their politics and steal through the use of security votes. Saleh declared:
“People are just playing politics, working on the masses and stealing security votes. They are inviting so much trouble for themselves because when the pastoralists are pushed to revolt, their revolution may be the end of this country because the crisis will come in different shapes.
“It is the same government that is creating bandits. When you destroy the livelihoods of the people, you push the younger population to an alternative. Where you have an army of people without land and destroy what they have, you are enabling recruitment for jihadists and when it (the problem) comes, you won’t be able to talk about herders again.”
He described what he called the ugly development in the North West as a consequence of the destruction of the grazing practice.
“What you are having in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina is a consequence of the emasculation of the herders. Trying to destroy the economy of a people without creating an alternative means of living for them is not a progressive way forward,” he said.
He claimed that most of the cattle eating grass in open fields in the southern part of country are owned by Southerners.
Saleh said: “Most of the cows you see in Lagos belong to Yoruba merchants, Kanuri merchants. Very few Fulanis own cattle.
“At times, I laugh when Lagos, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom say they are doing anti-open grazing, because they are not serious. Some of the cows in Lagos are meant for the abattoir but having undergone stress before getting to Lagos, they are allowed a few days to move around. “Imagine somebody in a riverine area like Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom saying he is doing anti-open grazing. They are just making a mockery of themselves. We understand Ondo State but why would Ogun, where everywhere is a market, want to do anti-open grazing?”
Saleh said what the Southern governors should have done was to create cattle ranches and lease them out to the herders.
“Let them create restricted areas and call them anything – ranches, restricted or anything – and put them (the herders) there.
“And you can designate places, just a few hectares – because you don’t have land – develop them and restrict them there. Take their census and let it be documented,” he added.
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