FG handling herders/farmers conflict decisively —Ex-SGF

Insists blocked grazing routes escalate crisis Says states ignorant of most of Buhari’s govt programmes

By Stephen Gbadamosi


FORMER secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, has described as unfair, the accusation that the Federal Government handles herders/farmers conflict with lethargy, maintaining that it has been decisive in treating the crisis.

Mr Mustapha, who spoke in an interview at the weekend, also observed that there were gazetted cattle grazing routes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other parts of the country where houses had been built and other structures erected, a development he said had contributed to the crisis.

The SGF also said state governments were unaware of most of the programmes of the Federal Government that could be of benefit to the masses of their areas, adding that his office had taken it upon itself to liaise with secretariats of the state governments to avail them of such information.

“I think for anybody to accuse this government of being lethargic in dealing with herders-farmers conflict is quite unfair because we have been very decisive. The categorisation of the Fulani as herdsmen is improper.

“I am a herdsman, but not a Fulani. So, particularly in the Northern part of the country, saying all herdsmen are Fulani is a lie. We are all herdsmen; we are all farmers; some are arable farmers, some are herdsmen and all this farming, in the agricultural sense, is one. One is animal husbandry, the other one is arable farming or crops.

“The farmers-herdsmen conflict is not new. They have a pattern in resolving their conflicts in a particular location. If the herdsman allows his animals go into a farmers plot and there is destruction, the local community used to sit down; there will be an assessment of the level of destruction, then, the herdsman will be asked to pay. If, unfortunately, the farmer kills an animal that belongs to a Fulani man or herdsman, then, the community will sit and establish the justification for that action and if there’s no justification, you will be asked to pay.

“So, we have a communal way of resolving conflicts. Ranches and reserves have been in existence. In Adamawa, where I come from, there are several reserves established by law dating back to the days of Northern Nigeria with defined cattle routes. Abuja is a cattle route defined and gazetted in the laws of Northern Nigeria and similarly in several parts of this country.

“There is a major contention going on now; partly economic with the growth in our population. With the growth in urbanisation, we have taken some of those reserves and turned them into residential areas.

We have built across those cattle routes because there is a traditional pattern of movement that was established over the years.

“We have taken the grazing reserves and apportioned them among elite farmers. We have fenced the places, and these animals will have to feed and would have to get to a source of water in a seasonal movement. That’s why they are called nomads,” he said.

Speaking on some of the programmes of the Buhari-led government that took the state governors long to key into, Mr Mustapha said: “When I came into government, things that were decided at the federal level never took hold in the states. There was a big communication gap.

“Since we provide secretariat services to the Federal Executive Council, we decided to extend it to the cabinet affairs offices of the various states.

“We developed a handbook on how to manage a cabinet affairs office which was launched a few months ago. So, we have been going about to ensure that my colleagues here in this office get at least a link between the federal and state governments for the purposes of pushing the change agenda.

“State governments now realise that there was so much goings-on at the federal level that states were not appropriately benefitting from. For example, when we got the Central Bank to speak about the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, a lot of the secretaries to the government at the state were amazed that there was so much money available that their people could access.

“When we started to talk about the School Feeding Programme, a lot of them were reluctant. They asked: What are you talking about? Some states that had logged into that programme began to explain what was happening in terms of school enrolment with the nutrition and health of the children. “It helped them in convincing their state governments that they needed to key in and begin to appropriate those benefits that were coming to their states. Initially, the perception was that this is a political move to have a hold in the states, but by the time they realised that it was for the benefit of their people, they jumped in to be on the truck.”