As hard as the President, Major General Muhammad Buhari (retd.), may press for open grazing in Nigeria, it will not just work. There is no law backing such a misadventure and no power will make open grazing allowed in Nigeria, especially in the southern part of the country. Open grazing is inimical to the development of the country; it is old-fashioned, unacceptable, and destroys people’s farmlands. Besides, it is unhealthy for the animals and the herders as well as promotes acrimony, violent clashes, bloodshed and deaths in our communities.
It is sad that some of our leaders in this 21st century are not thinking ahead for the best practice in managing our economy, unity and progress of the peoples of Nigeria but are rather putting their selfish interest, ethnic and religious interests far and above the collective interest of all.
Countries all over the world have left open grazing of animals to ranching because of the enormous advantage. We must as a people appreciate and embrace development, mainstream it with our values and customs. Nigeria is a country blessed with different ethnic groups, cultures, traditions and religions that cannot be ignored for one moment. The leaders must realise that there are certain laws that can work in the core North but not in the South and Middle Belt. Open grazing will not be welcomed in the South and parts of the North if encouraged by the Presidency. Instead, it will only lead to ‘sorrows, tears and blood.’
The experiences over the years have shown that open grazing triggered open conflicts between host communities and nomadic herders. A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae’s farmland was destroyed, the workers attacked and the old man abducted, threatened and released after payment of ransom. Several farmers have abandoned farming for fear of attack from herders and bandits. This has led to loss of employment and hunger in the land. The way out of this is to completely discourage open grazing and encourage ranching. The greater part of what led to the establishment of Amotekun, a South-West security outfit and in other regions is the menace of the herders.
We must consider every section of the country in all policies. This idea that there is a grazing route is a ruse. It is purely telling other regions and groups in Nigeria that they don’t matter. It is a provocation, nepotism at its height and one wonders why the number one man in Nigeria is doing this. No group in Nigeria can be easily cowed. The country will be better organised to follow the route of development in our daily lives. The world is embracing modern technology in the way things are done and Nigeria cannot be left behind. People cannot be roaming the streets, highways and farmlands with their animals when there is a modern method that is universally acceptable.
A majority of our people are against open grazing or any grazing routes. The demerits far outweigh the merits. It had in the past led to, and still leading to avoidable clashes and deaths, animal rustling. These are enough reasons to think of a better way out. There is nothing religious or sacrosanct about open grazing, it was just a way adopted in the dark ages. Now, there is a modern way of doing things which we must key into for peace and advancement. Insisting on open grazing is retrogressive and contradicts commonsense. The presidency should rather encourage the enactment of ranching laws to promote unity and a secured Nigeria. Already, we are witnessing food scarcity, increase in prices of food items and hunger due to farmers abandoning farming because of the incessant attacks by the herders.
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, had accused the regime of President Buhari to have released some billions of naira to the people of Katsina State for ranching of their animals. This is to show that Mr. President realises the importance and healthy conditions for ranching. Therefore, the same financial assistance should be advanced to other states of the country. By this singular action, Mr. President is further creating division in the country.
The southern governors, a few months ago in Asaba, Delta State, agreed on a ban of open grazing, promising that it is irreversible and that it will be defended with vigour to the support of most of their people. The ban of open grazing by the governors, if properly managed by the central government, will end farmers and herders clashes. It will reduce kidnapping and sack bandits from the forests.
Nigeria must migrate from open grazing to modern grazing where the herders acquire legitimate lands within the communities, keep their animals there, feed and take proper care of the animals. This will help check insecurity. Commendably, the Northern Elders Forum and Miyetti Breeders Association have aligned to the idea of ranching. But the governors must also come up with laws and guidelines that will actively support ranching in their various states to show oneness of the country.
- Uzodinma Nwaogbe wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org