By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Federal Government (FG) has been tasked to do more than it is doing presently to address the burning issue of insecurity in the country. The advice came from the Nigerian Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC). The group wants FG to give the cattle rearing industry enough funds to buy land for the establishment of ranches. FG can ban open grazing after the bailout fund has been released.
The suggestion was contained in a press statement circulated among the media on Wednesday, 3rd February, 2021 by the director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The statement reads:
“The crisis between herders and farmers has generated severe tension over the years and it has resulted in open clashes with loss of lives and properties in recent times. In our own view, the Federal Government still has some options open to it after the state governments in the South rejected the ideas of ranches and rugas.
“In our own view, the state governments who rejected the idea of donating land for ranches and ruga settelements did so because nobody was prepared to pay for such land and FG showed no intention to do so. It will be a horse of another colour if herders and cow owners buy land across the country for grazing. It should be a private project and a business venture just like all other businesses.
“Meanwhile herders and cow owners may not be willing or they may lack the capacity to buy land for cattle grazing. As for the will, Northern traditional leaders have a role to play in persuading herders and cow owners to change their mindset and become willing to operate ranches. Concerning financial capacity, this is where FG should come in. FG must be prepared to stoop in order to conquer. A huge bailout must be granted herders and cow owners to enable them buy land and set up ranches.
“Such a bailout is not new and the herders/farmers connundrum necessitates it. Afterall banks, airlines, private vehicle producing companies, petroleum importers and even farmers have received subsidies, bailouts and waivers in the past. It is now the turn of herders and cow owners and the time to do it is now.
“Farmers who toil day and night to produce food and cash crops cannot be blamed for complaining about herders who bring cows overnight to destroy their crops. Worse still. The crimes being committed by some of the herders cannot be tolerated by any community in the country and that is why all communities in the country are at war with herders, including those in Kaduna, Gombe, Niger, etc.
“But this is because Nigeria still relies on analogue grazing in a digital world. It is high time we realized that open grazing and driving cattle on the roads is anachronistic and counter-productive. Farmers need a peaceful environment and a guaranty of security for both their crops and their persons in order to be productive.
“After studying the problem over time, MURIC has come to the conclusion that the conflict between herders and farmers is neither religious nor ethnic. This is because the same herdsmen causing mayhem in Katsina, Sokoto, Niger and Zamfara States are the ones creating panic in Enugu, Oyo, Ogun and Ebonyi. Farms are in disarray all over the country due to the lawlessness of herdsmen.
“For example, herders who destroy farms in Zamfara are Northerners. It is also generally assumed that they are Muslims. Zamfara hunters and vigilante men who protect the farms and chase the herders are also Northerners and Muslims as well. Bandits in Sokoto are also Northerners while the local guards organized to keep the bandits at bay are also Northerners. Therefore there is no ethnic or religious factor in this ongoing herders and farmers crisis. It is neither Fulanisation nor Islamisation. It is an economic cum security problem, pure and simple.
“This has enabled MURIC to come to the conclusion that no religious or ethnic sentiment should be built around the herdsmen/farmers clash whether in Oyo, Ekiti or Ondo State. The reason Lagos has been spared to a large extent is the fact that it is not an agricultural state. The Lagos situation may also have been responsible for our earlier assumption that ethnicity and religious sentiments were at play in the herders/farmers quagmire. This perspective has changed after feedbacks came from our branches in both the North and Southern states.
“Therefore, our message to Miyetti Allah is this: ‘The governments and people of the South West, South South and South East are not just trying to start any quarrel with you or with your cows. No farmer can be happy with those who lead cows to destroy his crops.
“Miyetti Allah must take responsibility. Show good leadership by re-organizing your members into cooperatives and ask FG for bailouts to buy huge portions of land where they can set up ranches and graze freely. Herders and cow owners can come together to purchase acres of land wherever they desire. You cannot expect farmers (whether in Katsina, Sokoto, Igangan or Ondo) to hold the horns while your herders milk the cows. It breaches the law of natural justice.’
“The problem on ground can be resolved if FG shows willingness to give bailout funds to herders and cow owners. State governments should also spend part of their security vote on the project. Any issue that constitutes security threat qualifies for a share of the security vote. Unfortunately our governors heap the whole blame on the presidency, as if they have no business solving security problems in their states.
“State governors can summon representatives of Miyetti Allah in their states and discuss the possibility of bailout funds or loans from the state to purchase huge chunks of land. Such land can be used for ranching. The readiness of each state to respond to this call will be a reflection of the level of the governor’s patriotism and his desire for peace within his territory. Even local governments can participate in the project. Philanthropists and business tycoons are not left out of the option as it offers a good prospect of huge profits.
“Once this is done, farmers in food basket areas of the North will settle peacefully in their farms and the hostility between indigenes and Northern communities in the South will become a thing of the past. There will be bumper harvests and the prices of foodstuff will come down. Security networks like Amotekun which have been set up in the South to complement the police will be able to concentrate on real crimes like kidnapping and armed robbery.
“Finally, we urge FG to embrace this idea of a bailout for herders and cow owners to buy land for ranches. This will drastically reduce the incidence of clashes between herders and farmers. It will also reduce crime by exposing the real criminals among the herders because it will be easy for security agents to distinguish between genuine herders, rapists and kidnappers. Herders will tender their herds inside the established ranches while those who roam about will be picked up. It will also be easy for FG to ban open grazing once ranches have been set up. It is hoped that state governors will use part of their security vote to key into the idea.”