ISLAMIC body Muslim Rights Concern (Muric) has waded into the ongoing national debate about Fulani cattle herdsmen by calling no President Muhammadu Buhari to give the pastoralists government money to enable them by land for ranches.
In recent years, there have been incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers across the country as their livestock eat crops and destroy farms. On top of this, there is a criminal element to the herdsmen as they heavy-armed Fulanis are engaged in kidnapping, rape, extortion and armed robbery.
Over the last week, there has been stout opposition to the herdsmen in the southwest geo-political zone with Fulanis expelled in at least three states. Herdsmen body the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) has been accused of being behind the violence and many have called for it to be dubbed a terrorist organisation.
Lending its voice to the debate, Muric asked President Buhari’s administration to do more than it is doing presently to address the burning issue of insecurity in the country. Muric also advised Macban to take responsibility and show good leadership by re-organising its members into cooperatives.
Muric director Professor Ishaq Akintola asked the federal government to offer the herdsmen bailout funds to enable them buy huge portions of land where they can set up ranches and graze freely. He added that he wants to see the federal government give the cattle rearing industry enough funds to buy land for the establishment of ranches, after which open grazing can be banned.
Professor Akintola said: “The federal government still has some options open to it after the state governments in the south rejected the ideas of ranches and Ruga cattle colonies. In our own view, the state governments who rejected the idea of donating land for ranches and Ruga settlements did so because nobody was prepared to pay for such land and the federal government 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.
“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 the federal government should come in as it 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 conundrum necessitates it, after all banks, airlines, private vehicle producing companies, petroleum importers and even farmers have received subsidies, bailouts and waivers in the past, so it is now the turn of herders and cow owners and the time to do it is now.”
Muric noted that farmers cannot be blamed for complaining about herdsmen activities on their farm lands, adding that the crimes being committed by some of the cattle rearers cannot be tolerated by any community in the country. According to Professor Akintola, open grazing and the movement of cows on foot has become anachronistic and counter-productive, insisting that farmers need a peaceful environment and a guaranty of security for both their crops and persons.
Professor Akintola added: “Therefore, our message to Miyetti Allah is this, the governments and people of the southwest, south-south and southeast 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-organising your members into cooperatives and ask the federal government for bailouts to buy huge portions of land where they can set up ranches and graze freely. The problem on the ground can be resolved if the federal government shows a willingness to give bailout funds to herders and cow owners, while 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.”