Senator representing Nasarawa West Senatorial district and former governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu, said government owes it a duty to treat herdsmen the other citizens were being treated.
He spoke at a media parley with Senate Press Corps in Abuja on Monday, saying that the hullabaloo about herders in Nigeria were unnecessary given that they are also Nigerians and should be protected by government at various levels.
He lamented that herders because of their calling don’t enjoy infrastructure like good road, electricity, pipe borne water etc, yet their rights were being stampeded.
According to him, government should make funds available to herdsmen pursuing their legitimate business the same way businessmen across the country have access to funds from the national treasury.
He said: “This government has a duty like the way its treating businessmen in Alaba, Onitsha, Kano, and Port Harcourt to treat herdsmen too because they are Nigerians. These provisions are public funds. They are not from the private fund of any governor or senator. The funds are from the treasury of this country and every Nigerian has a stake in that treasury.
“So the government has a duty to find a wherewithal to make it possible for herdsmen not to go astray in the course of pursuing his legitimate duty.”
Abdullahi, who is the Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture and Rural Development, expressed disappointment at how governors are legislating on anti-open grazing law, saying that the right to movement of herders were being inhibited.
While reacting to questions on national issues, he added: “When I read the meeting of southern governors and the issue of open grazing and how they kicked against it and threatened to make law against it. I replied them in a manner that you recalled.
“I believe as governors, as members of the executive, operating in the different tier of government, they have a constitutional responsibility, the constitution upon which they take an oath of office.
“One of the fundamental rights there is every Nigerian, no exception. Every Nigerian has a right of free movement. Every Nigerian has a right to pursue a legitimate business. Right of association is enshrined in the constitution. You cannot under any pretence take away these rights.
“I don’t know under any condition which government can say, yes, we can take away this right. When they came up with this, I was wondering. First and foremost, a week earlier before the meeting the governors had here in Abuja and there was no such announcement like that. I was taken aback when I read about their meeting in Asaba.”
Responding to questions that anti-grazing law was gaining traction in the North, he said: “I still stand by that. The fact that one or two governors in the North have said something like that does not take away the right of herdsmen.
“The question here is nature has closed vacuum. You can’t build something on nothing. The duty to protect herdsmen and farmers rest squarely on the national government, State Government and the Local government administration.
“The question here is, has the government done what it is supposed to do to protect Nigerians who are in that calling, in that profession and in that trade? The answer is no and you cannot blame the person who is desperately looking for means of livelihood.
“However, this does not excuse somebody who is pursuing his right from doing harm to somebody’s right. I must be very clear on this, a farmer has right to farm, if you dare carry your cattle and and damage his farm crops, he has right to make claims in the Court of law. That’s the law as I understand it.
“So, it doesn’t matter. If the whole Northern governors make the same pronouncement that the Southern governors did, that doesn’t shake my fundamental position on this. Government owes herdsmen a duty to protect their calling and I dare repeat that if you go to Wuse Market here, you will see how many infrastructure have been provided by the FCT and Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) like water, and electricity. These are for Nigerians. These herdsmen are Nigerians.”