The new opposition to open grazing

TO say that cattle rearing is a business is to state the obvious. As a business, it must be subjected to the global best practices and standards. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Nigeria. And, what is more, those who ought to have spoken out against the anachronistic practice of nomadic grazing long ago, particularly given the tears, blood and sorrow that had pervaded the landscape over the years due to the murderous activities of criminal herders, are only just beginning to openly acknowledge what a tragedy and disservice to the country and humanity it has been all along.

Days after the governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, openly acknowledged the calamity that itinerant herders had continuously inflicted on Nigerians, some functionaries in the executive and legislative arms of government lent their voices to the widespread opposition to open grazing. Instead of open grazing, they posited, Nigeria should join the league of nations that had adopted ranching with its immense, multifaceted benefits. It is disheartening that the hypocrisy of  the northern elite on such a crucial issue has cost the country a monumentally huge loss of human and material resources, not forgetting the psychological trauma suffered by the victims of herdsmen’s atrocities. Thousands of law-abiding citizens have been sacked from their ancestral roots, thousands have lost their breadwinners,  and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in several parts of the North are teeming with widows and orphans marooned in the blizzard of state failure. Sadly, with increasing lack of capacity and capability to tackle the menace headlong, security personnel have become dispirited and weak, the pitiable objects of public ridicule and shame.

Quite disturbingly, the 2019  Global Terrorism Index (GTI) showed that more people were gruesomely killed by Fulani herders than by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, in 2018, thus putting Nigeria in the infamous bracket of such war-torn countries as Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. The casualty figures from the herders’ onslaught on farmers  in 2018 alone was etimated to be above 3,600. The  figure has increased geometrically as the herders have become deadlier and more daring, apparently because of the lack of political will to prosecute them, which is evident in the adoption of weak and uncoordinated approaches by security agencies. Indeed, this weakness was underscored by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, when  he pointed out that the North-West governors were operating at across purposes in the battle against security challenges in the zone. Instead of cuddling and indulging the criminal elements, the governments and their agencies should smoke them out and haul them before the courts.

All of a sudden, governors from the North have realised that open grazing is “no longer sustainable” in the country and promised to educate herdsmen “on new methods of herding by ranching or other acceptable modern methods.” In any case, as a potent pressure group, the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) ought to have led the way, long before now, in the advocacy for herders to key into ranching, dissuading them from the open grazing that breeds endless conflicts. The governors should jettison political expediency: they should walk the talk this time around. They should no longer play the ostrich but roll out mechanisms to contain the herders. They must show that they were really sincere in their acknowledgment of the fact that herding is indeed a business not insulated from rules and regulations.

Finally, all stakeholders must collaborate on the Ganguje advocacy for legislation for the abolition of  “transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and to the Southern part of Nigeria.” States should be encouraged to maximize their comparative advantage in specific areas.

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