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Issues In The News

Fulani Herdsmen Grazing Reserves Bill Divides Lawmakers

Photo taken in November, 1967

Photo taken in November, 1967 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[The Sun] A bill that seeks to establish a National Grazing Reserves Commission, which will have power to acquire land in any part of the country for Fulani herdsmen to graze their cattle, has been generating ripples in the Senate.

The proposed Commission, amongst others, will acquire and designate “dedicated routes” for herdsmen, in just about the same way as the Federal Government acquires land anywhere in the country for roads and other public projects. Expectedly, this bill which reportedly came up for consideration in the Senate on July 3, sharply divided the senators along regional lines.

While senators from the South-West reportedly kicked against the idea of government acquisition and dedication of land in Southern Nigeria for Northern Fulani herdsmen and their cattle, those from the Northern region heartily welcomed the idea of dedicated grazing.

Socio-political groups across the country are also divided along regional lines on the idea. While the Afenifere Group from the South-West, the Izumunna Cultural Association from the South-East, the Ijaw National Congress from the South-South and the Federation of Middle Belt People have spoken against the bill, the Arewa Consultative Council in Northern Nigeria, from where the Fulani herdsmen hail, welcomed it.

Proponents of the bill argue that it would reduce clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and host farmers, while its opponents say it is against the Land Use Act and the spirit of Federalism and the Nigerian Constitution. Senate President, David Mark, referred the bill to a Joint Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters, and Agriculture and Rural Development for advice.

A dispassionate consideration of the two sides to this controversy calls for impartial juxtaposition of the rights of crop farmers and other landowners in all parts of the country, especially Southern Nigeria, with those of Northern Fulani cattle rearers, who want grazing land for their cattle in any part of the country they desire.

Our careful examination of this controversy, however, did not throw up any justification for the attempt by the proponents of this bill to establish and empower a government agency to forcefully acquire privately owned land in any part of the country to further the business interests of cattle rearers.

As a matter of fact, there is no reason at all for the government to acquire land for any private business concern of whatever nature. This is because land is a finite and very valuable resource that is critical to economic well being of people in every part of the country, especially farmers.

The plan to acquire grazing land for Fulani herdsmen will deprive farmers and other landowners both in Northern and Southern Nigeria of their rightful possessions. It will also put in place a time bomb which will surely explode when the land so allocated to cattle rearers can no longer meet their needs.

The increased population of Fulani cattle rearers in Plateau State, the resultant quest for more and more land for grazing, and the subsequent Fulani elites’ bid for political power in the state is at the root of unrelenting violence in that part of the country.

It is also a source of problems in Idoma land in Benue State and some parts of Southern Nigeria, where cattle rearers, without any compunctions or remorse, run their cattle over critical farmland, destroying crops. It is this penchant of Fulani cattle herdsman for illegally appropriating farmland wherever they choose that this bill is seeking to legalise with the proposed Grazing Rights Commission.

This is wrong and we condemn the idea in its entirety. But, since herdsmen from whatever part of the county must graze their cattle, it behoves them and the authorities of their respective states and Northern regional zones to develop grazing reserves for their cattle. Nigeria is not the only country where cattle is reared. Cattle farmers in developed countries such as Argentina and the United States do not appropriate land that does not belong to them to rear cattle.

Governments of those countries do not forcefully acquire private lands of crop farmers and other citizens for use by cattle rearers. What cattle rearers in serious nations do is to develop ranches where they graze and produce animal feed. They are not nomads who earn their living by encroaching on, or getting the government to acquire lands of others for their use. We see the bill as lacking in civility. It assails property rights of the owners of land targeted for acquisition.

It also does not take into cognizance crop farmers’ right to the sustenance of their own businesses. Nigerians need to be wary of this inciting bill especially at this time that farmers are never compensated for losses they suffer whenever herdsmen forcefully graze their cattle on their farmlands. This bill is vexatious. It is not deserving of consideration by any serious legislative house in this 21st century. We advise that it be thrown out.

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About TransformationWatch

TransformationWatch is an online news site founded by Henry Omoregie It is focused on keeping tabs on the Transformation Agenda set out by the Nigerian leadership in the Local, State and Federal Governments. My mission is to observe, analyze and report milestones or slowdowns in promised service delivery in all the facets of governance in Nigeria (2011 and beyond). Readership is open to all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria alike, regardless of Tribe, Religion or Political divide. We are all in this together

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