Need for quick solution to incessant herdsmen, farmers’ clash

HerdsmenThe recent clash between farmers and herdsmen in some villages in Gashaka Council Area of Taraba State, which claimed several lives and property, has once more brought to the fore the urgent need for the government, and its agencies to find a lasting solution to the societal menace.

The Taraba incident occurred not quite long after such ugly incident has occurred in Agatu communities of Benue State on February 10, when the herdsmen invaded the communities in the wee hours, razed several houses and killed hundreds of people including women, children and the elderly.

Also last week, some suspected herdsmen invaded the farmland of Chief Olu Falae in Ondo State, killing his security guard. It would be recalled that Falae was kidnapped sometimes last year by some suspected herdsmen that were later arrested and charged to Court.

Trying to justify their invasion of Agatu, the Fulani community in Benue State said that the crisis started after 10,000 cattle belonging to its members were killed by the Agatu natives.

Ado Boderi, who spoke on behalf of the community during a meeting between Agatu community, Fulani community and Police Inspector General, Solomon Arase, said criminal elements from both sides escalated the crisis despite the quick intervention of the governor.

Akpa Iduh, who spoke on behalf of the Agatu people, condemned in totality the continued unprovoked attacks on his people by the herdsmen. Iduh, who said that the crisis started over five decades ago, lamented that it had recently turned into a war because of the types of weapons the herdsmen were using against them.

“The herdsmen are bent on turning our land into their grazing area, thereby rendering us homeless and without food.”
“Is it because we are minority and poor that they are using their numerical advantage and wealth against us?”

The immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan had once promised to tackle the menace by creating grazing routes for the herdsmen. A committee headed by the then Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina was set up, but nothing concrete came out of it before the government left office last year.

With the growing cases of the clashes across the country especially in the North Central zone and southern parts of the country, it was disclosed recently that President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governors have agreed that ranches should be established to address the incessant clashes instead of grazing reserves.

This was disclosed recently by the governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong in Jos, the State Capital during the dedication of the new headquarters of Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA.

The governor said that grazing reserves would not address the clashes and the killings.
“The President and governors agreed that there would be no grazing areas; ranches would be established by government where the cattle would be kept in one place and fed.
“Government will provide facilities like medical, schools and other needs in the ranches,” he said.

Mr. Lalong said that the ranches would not be for the Fulani herdsmen alone, but for whoever rears cattle.Also speaking, the Senator representing Plateau South, Jeremiah Useni, said that delegates at the 2014 National Conference agreed that grazing reserves should be a state affair, not federal. He said that it would be difficult for farmers to support the establishment of grazing areas as they would not donate their farms for grazing purposes.

But if Lalong’s disclosure is true, why the push for National Grazing Reserve Bill that have passed second reading in the 7th National Assembly. The push for the bill has attracted wide criticisms, suspicion and condemnations.

A Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has rejected the Grazing Commission Bill proposed by the National Assembly to address the burning issue of farmers and herdsmen clashes. Afenifere described the bill as “anti-people.”

The bill proposes the establishment of the National Grazing Commission which will preserve and control the national grazing reserves and livestock routes and other matters related to it.

The group’s leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, said the bill, which empowered the commission to acquire any land anywhere in the country, would violate the subsisting Land Use Act and traditional means of land holding if enacted.

He noted that the bill was being proposed allegedly to favour the business of the herdsmen at the expense of the farmers whose farms were always destroyed by the cattle.

We reject any law that would rob the citizens of their possessions and award to another set of citizens as this offensive bill attempts to do. That is against the principle of natural justice, ” Mr. Fasoranti declared.

He called on all federal lawmakers from the south and Nigerians in general to join Afenifere in rejecting the bill.
“We stand with the decision of the of the 2014 National Conference which recommended the scrapping of grazing route for the establishment of ranches,” he said. Those in support of the bill have argued that the bill is not on ethnicity, but profession of the nomads.

“Anybody that is into the profession can benefit from it and those that are not into the profession will not benefit from it. What I think should be corrected in the bill is the issue of using any land in the country. The ranches should be created where the herdsmen are culturally accepted. Ranches are simply presence of water and grasses, not a specific place.”

While debate over the grazing bill is ongoing, there is urgent need for the governments at all levels to come together and sincerely tame the ugly monster before it destroys the peaceful co-existence of the country.

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