Oyetunji Abioye and Tunde Ajaja
The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a factional umbrella body for herdsmen in the country, has said it is opposed to the ban imposed on open grazing of cattle by South-West governors. It said the enforcement of the ban was tantamount to an eviction notice.
This is however against the position of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, which at a meeting with some governors in Akure, the Ondo State capital, on January 25, said it agreed with the position of the governors.
The meeting in Akure was attended by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Governors Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa State, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State. MACBAN was led to the meeting by its chairman, Alhaji Muhammadu Kiruwa, among other attendees.
Apart from South-West governors, governors in the South-East had previously banned open grazing and movement of cows on foot into the South-East.
But in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, the Secretary General of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, said on Friday, “They can’t put an end to open grazing by fiat because grazing is not motorcycle business; there must be an alternative. Secondly, if they say they are going to end open grazing, what is the timeline for it?
“They want to displace herders from where they earn their livelihood. It is not different from an eviction notice – it is just putting the eviction notice into effect. This is very unfortunate because they cannot come out to say they are embracing peaceful herders and then say they are ending open grazing. What do they mean by that? Is there closed grazing?
“From history, right from the time of Moses, grazing is open. By now, they should realise that they will not get the result they are looking for. We are in total support of the National Livestock Transformation Plan. I was part of the committee that reviewed the final document. The programme has a lot of components, and if implemented, it will address a lot of challenges.
“Look at Benue State and how the approach has created a militia. You can’t end open grazing by fiat as if someone is looking for a crisis, and these crises have a way of reverberating.”
Alhassan argued that asking herdsmen to stop open grazing and begin ranching was tantamount to asking farmers to begin mechanisation, without which they wouldn’t be able to do their farming activities.
He added, “If they say herders must begin ranching today, where is the ranch? For someone to develop a ranch, they need at least three to five years for it to mature. The facts are there. Ranches cannot be created overnight but they are just playing politics.”
On the issue of insecurity, he said herders had been victims of rustling and kidnapping and that if insecurity was to be addressed, it was not by making it an ethnic issue, because according to him, there are criminals in every ethnic group.
“It’s sad, because at the end of the day, we end up radicalising the herders,” he said. “When they are radicalised, who will benefit? The country will suffer worse insecurity. That’s why we are against this issue of eviction or ultimatum because it doesn’t work like that. There have not been proper laws at the national level to address these challenges and the National Assembly is just playing to the gallery. Let there be proper laws.”
He said if there had been an increase in the herders moving from the North to the South, it could be due to climate change, insecurity in the North-East, drought caused by environmental factors or Boko Haram.
“All these need to be properly addressed via articulated policies. Politicians should address their differences; they should leave the herders alone, they are in the bush dealing with all kinds of challenges,” he added.
When reminded that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, who is also a northerner, had canvassed the restriction of the movement of herders from the North to the South, Alhassan said, “That is where I disagree totally with the Kano State governor. Are they going to stay inside his house in Kano? You must create space for them and not to just talk.”