By Debo Adeniran
The Federal Government came out of an intense, hours-long meeting with security agencies and Governors of Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Kaduna to ban open grazing in order to stop frequent violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers. The government urged Nigerians to shun the usage of hate languages that may once again provoke violence or hurt the sensibilities of parties.
It would be recalled that just two days ago, there was a callous and barbaric attack on two Benue communities where more than seventy four lives are reported to have been lost. This follows the pattern of virulent clashes between Fulani herdsman and farmers in several parts of the country. The major bone of contention is the needs for grazing land. According to the Myetty Allah, the umbrella organisation for the Fulani herdsman, they are nomadic people who have been traversing the country and the West African sub-region for centuries along some routes for their cattles to graze.However, modern development and emergence of new communities have destroyed many of these routes, hence, the open choice for the herdsmen to rear their cattles in open field which are sometimes other people’s farmland. Hence, inevitably, farmers and nomadic herdsmen are bound to clash.
These clashes has gone on across the various zones of the country for some years now with attendant monumental loss of lives, properties and fatal, permanent injuries without any determined, serious efforts by the Government to intervene. Though two States, one in the East and the second in the North-Central have summoned courage to ban open grazing of cattles in their territories following the unleashing of monumental carnage on their citizens, this has not been sufficient to stop the incessant herdsman and farmers or communities clashes.
Many concerned observers have hitherto loudly called on the Federal Government to take the bold step of banning open grazing in the country but the government’s hands seemed to have been tied in the last two years. The decision to finally ban open grazing is not only courageous, but patriotic and shows a humane government. No government worthy of its salt will allow a simple, civic matter over herds gracing to degenerate into a security threat, leading to maiming, killing of hapless citizens and wanton destruction of properties.
As we commend the decision of the Federal Government, we also identify and fully sympathies with victims of this condemnable herdsman and farmers clashes from either parties particularly those of Benue State who are presently the gruesome and senseless killings of their loved ones.
We are however more concern, that the main task before the Federal Government does not end with the banning of open grazing, this would merely contain the situation. It is the duty of the Federal Government to massively investing in grazing land reserves for the herdsman. This would not only stop the perennial clashes but it would be a potential baseline to harness the huge economic potentials for diary business. In the same vein, all the security challenges thrown up by these episodes should be frontally addressed. It is good that the meeting where decision to ban open grazing was attended by security agencies. Our security forces must seal all holes where people can get cheap access to arms and arrest those who are culpable of criminal deeds.