The debate over the propriety or otherwise of the Federal Government’s plan to establish ranches in 10 states of the federation as part of solutions to herders-farmers clashes has taken a new dimension as the umbrella association of cattle breeders in the country, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, has asked those hoping to force government to jettison the proposal to perish the thought, declaring that, “land all over Nigeria belongs to the Fulani but the only thing is that we don’t have business to do with the land.”
In an interview with Sunday Sun, the chairman of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Alhaji Abdullahi Bodejo, stated that with the establishment of ranches, the incessant attacks, killings and displacement of people in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Kogi, Zamfara and other states of the country would be a thing of the past.
But some southern leaders and youths who spoke on the issue said the claim by the Miyetti Allah leader lends credence to the earlier position of Middle Belt and Southern leaders that the proposal was a plot to grab people’s land and turn it into Fulani emirates with time.
President of Pan-Ndigbo National Forum (PNF) and the Grand Patron of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State Chapter, Chief Guy Ikokwu, in an interview with Sunday Sun, said Middle Belt, South South, South East and South West leaders were opposed to the ranching proposal for fear of what would happen in the future.
He said: “People who reject the ranching proposal have done so because they know what will happen 50 years after. The government wants to locate these ranches near military establishments and they want to populate the ranches with people who are not indigenes of that area where they are taking the land. They are using the army, which is not well structured and inclusive to protect the shenanigans, which they are putting there so that in the near future, all those colonies will have an emir. We are no longer idiots and fools in this country.
“In case you don’t know, it is the same cattle colonies that they proposed in the past that they are now calling ranches. What is the business of government in doing that? Is the government the one establishing piggeries in the East? Does government establish poultry farms across the country? We must check whatever we are doing now otherwise Nigeria will continue to go down and down until it becomes the poorest nation in Africa.”
Ikokwu posited that cattle rearing is an economic venture, which should not receive any form of special incentive from the Federal Government.
He observed that the issue of herders/farmers clashes was not new to the country, but called for an end to irrational killings and territorial occupancies, insisting that it’s only in restructured governance that Nigeria would have justice, equity, fair play and economic advancement.
“The issue of Fulani migration has been on for more than 200 years. When the matter got to a crescendo, Buhari told the nation that the killer herdsmen come all the way from Libya, Mali and so on. And a president who knows that foreigners are coming into the country to cause mayhem is talking about spending tax payers’ money to establish ranches for them instead of taking necessary steps to protect the country. The first duty of a government is to protect lives and property. And the only people who can protect lives and property in the country today are the security agencies, which are now lopsided and non-inclusive.
“Therefore, anybody that wants to go into ranching should do it as a commercial activity of the person. Don’t forget that before civil war, in the East, Michael Okpara and Zik taught the Igbo how to breed livestock commercially. The government established a company where it held 10 per cent equity and the people held 90 per cent. The government equity was to guarantee them bank loans and as soon as they started doing well, government withdrew its 10 per cent. With that, we had our own native cows in the Igbo territory, which were different from Fulani cows.
“The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, is a farmer and his farm is not run by government;
it is run by his co-directors and shareholders. Therefore, we have to establish a new template of how to move forward economically. We of Ohanaeze Ndigbo have made proposals to the South East governors to encourage our people to go into livestock husbandry as a viable business proposal so that our people can go back to the pre-civil war era when we were able to raise cows, goats, pigs and various kinds of livestock.
Bodejo, however, stated that his group was supporting the establishment of ranches 100 per cent, disclosing that, “it is because there are no ranches that some Fulani elements from other states are opposed to anti-gracing law.”
He added: “But with the intervention of the Federal Government, Fulani can now confine their gracing activities to a particular area. They are raising opposition to it because the President of the federation is a Fulani man. I don’t know the basis of the opposition, but those people who are opposed to it are enemies of the Fulani. They are trying to gang up against the Fulani because of their personal interests. If you take statistics of the cow we eat in this country, 99.9 per cent of them are individually reared by the Fulani. If government can vote billions of naira for cassava production, then what is the noise about establishing ranches? Is it not a good idea to also settle the Fulani? This will be a solution to the herders-farmers’ conflicts Insha Allah.”
Asked how his association would pay back the taxpayers’ money government intends to invest in their private business, Bodejo retorted: “Cattle rearing is a personal business just as farming too is also a private business. Is it also not public money that farmers are taking as loan? But nobody cares about medical health for the Fulani and their cows, no school for their children, no hospital for them. At the end of the day, it is the local governments and the state governments that benefit from the taxes they pay. If we close all the cattle markets in this country, the economy will come down. Take the case of Lagos where they slaughter almost 6000 cows per day; go and ask the governor how much revenue they are raking from there. For almost 60 years, Fulani have not gained anything from government. Some people are just bent on destroying the Fulani economy.
“As far as I am concerned, they have no reason for opposing creation of ranches. It is just a demonstration of their hatred against the Fulani. Everybody has a right to his opinion but the hatred is too much for us. Let us have a rethink and build Nigeria together.
“If the Fulani can have their own grazing area, all these banditry, cattle rustling and farmer/herdsmen conflicts will be a thing of the past. The crisis in Benue, Taraba, Plateau and Zamfara states will be a thing of the past. We have to look beyond the politics of 2019. Everybody is thinking about the 2019 elections using Fulani and farmers to cause conflicts.”
Bodejo maintained that the establishment of ranches would be of great benefit to the herders and their host communities.
“It will end the crisis. For instance, recently, some cattle rustlers collected 300 cows from the Fulani. That is a major loss. If we have our own area, there will be no more exposure to such danger. It will also guarantee peaceful coexistence with the host communities. In Benue State, only one family lost one million cows to this anti-gracing law. People are doing demonstration everywhere in Lagos, Abuja and other places calling on government to declare Fulani terrorists. In most cases, a lot of criminal elements disguise as Fulani to commit their criminalities. But thank God, the Police and the Army are now collaborating to arrest those people. If you look very closely, many of those the security operatives have arrested are not Fulani. So, those who are demonstrating against the Fulani should tender their apologies.”
Told that many states were reluctant to donate land for ranches because they don’t want to regret it in the end, Bodejo quipped: “The day those people were born, were they born with the land? The people who are claiming land are the ones causing crisis in this country. If Fulani have the culture of staying in one place, do you think anybody can claim land more than Fulani?
If you don’t know, land all over Nigeria belongs to the Fulani. But the only thing is that we don’t have business to do with the land. If you give me the whole of Lagos and the grass there is not good for gracing, I will leave and migrate to other place. In all the crises that happened in the recent time, no Fulani man has come out to lay claim to any particular land.”
Meanwhile, Middle Belt and South Youth Leaders have also called on the government to suspend the ranching policy, saying it was the motivating factor behind endless attacks, killings and displacement of people across the country.
In a statement made available to Sunday Sun, they observed that government had been paying lip service to the unfortunate security situation in the country.
The statement signed by Emma Zopmal (Middle Belt Youth Leader); Famous Danoumua (Pan-Niger Delta Youth Leader); Olufemi Lawson (Afenifere Youth Leader); Okechukwu Isiguzoro (Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Leader), called for the immediate arrest of leaders of Cattle breeders associations in the country and the proscription of the groups as terrorists. They noted that failure to do so meant ‘there was a State collusion with the groups to decimate the Middle Belt and Southern people in this country, which would soon spark serious war.”
The youths also called for the removal of all the Security Chiefs, noting that they had failed in their responsibilities.
They added: “President Buhari should immediately remove them and make them to face a panel of inquiry. If the President fails to do this, Nigerians should know that there is a State collusion. The Federal Government should withdraw the pro-Fulani herdsmen ranching policy. Such policy has been the
key motivating factor behind the frequent and endless attacks, killings and displacement of our people in the villages so as to grab lands for grazing and settlement of the Fulanis. Since President Buhari has told the whole world that the Fulani militia were trained by the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, it means that these people are not Nigerian citizens, therefore, no piece of land in the Middle Belt and the South is available for killers from Libya.”
The youths, who condoled with those who lost their loved ones and property in the attacks by herdsmen, urged the government to wake up to its responsibilities. They noted: “Government should not be sectional in carrying out its responsibilities. The soul of a nation dies if its government is biased. What has eaten up many countries in the world is this tendency towards favouring one side and being high-handed on the other. These people who cause insecurity in the country are not above the rest of Nigerians but as law-abiding citizens, we have been waiting on the government, which claims monopoly of use of force, to exert it on them accordingly but apparently there is no sign. Government should act now before the rest of Nigerians will go out of hand.”