RSS

Tag Archives: Fulani herdsmen

Benue: Of Cattle Colonies, Ranching and Grazing Routes

By Rommy Mom

Growing up on the Plateau, in the 80s, the yearly tradition was to see Herdsmen arrive on the rocky plains just before the rains, setting up their huts. They would daily graze their cattle in non-farming areas down the plains. As the rains dried up the Fulanis would demolish those dwellings and move on. There absolutely was no crisis. Principally for 2 reasons: the Fulani dwelled on the rocks, while their cattle grazed on weedy spaces between the mountains, far from the plains being used as farmlands.

Desertification has brought in new challenges, amongst which is the elimination of suitable grazing areas for the cattle. This, in turn, has led to the herdsmen now grazing their cattle on farmlands and sometimes actual farms, leading to the chaos that is now being witnessed in the Benue basin. I concede the situation might not be as simplistic as painted above, but undoubtedly, this is the basis of all Nigeria is going through today with Herdsmen.

Enter Benue. This is a state where every inch of land not built upon is converted to some agricultural use, gardening or keeping livestock. The rural areas are inhabited 100% by full time farmers. No hyperbole intended, practically every inch of land in these area are farmlands. Even among natives and indigenes, communal clashes have ensued over farmlands. The question of the Fulanis therefore going through routes in Benue or grazing on certain lands will appear to be a non-starter. Do you displace the inhabitants to create spaces for cattle? Do you pay compensation to the rural populace for cattle to pass? Again these questions are neither here nor there, since the presence of government, especially the Federal Government, is virtually absent in these rural communities.

In practical terms therefore, the tradition of herdsmen building transit camps for settlement and grazing for a season, then moving onwards, cannot find a place in Benue, as it was in the Plateau. How does the Benue person who is economically tied to, and survives on his land, as his only source of livelihood, hand same over to herdsmen for the welfare of their cattle?

For the Fulani man, the idea of their nomadic settlements, grazing and onward movement is a fact the Benue people must live with. Therefore, the acquisition of territories for settlement and grazing is now being enforced even if with consequent bloodshed.

Today parts of Guma, Logo, and Kwande LGAs of Benue State are inhabited by the Fulanis and every year, there is a further push for more land. These are the barefaced facts that Nigerians must be made aware of.

Ortom Ortom

How do you solve this problem?

The Federal and State Governments are not on the same page with regard to a solution. While the Benue state government has promulgated the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing Law 2017, the Federal Government appears displeased with it. The law in a nutshell bans grazing in all its forms in Benue and has stated therein penalties for such. It also has enforcement mechanisms therein. No doubt the state government has the interest of its people at heart. At the last count, there has been an average of 41 herdsmen’s clashes, yes 41, between 2013 and 2017.   Thousands of lives have been lost. Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) camps are now littered across the state especially in Guma, Makurdi and Logo LGAs.

There are neither remedial nor assistance measures from the Federal Government in mitigating the situation. For an economically disadvantaged state like Benue, battling with salaries and infrastructure, IDPs and unemployed indigenes uprooted from their farmlands is the last problem a responsible government would want on its hands.

This is why the promulgation of the anti-grazing law is perfectly understood and in order. Take grazing out of Benue, all the associated deaths, IDPs camps, properties lost and the economic effect of all of the chaos would have been avoided.

The FG on the other hand, is advocating for grazing routes and colonies. One of the arguments is that grazing routes have been in existence for centuries. The question however is, what is the position of the law with regard to land in Benue?

All lands in Nigeria today are administered and regulated by the Land Use Act of 1978. Under this law, all urban lands in Benue are held for the good of the people under the trusteeship of the Governor. While the rural lands are under the LG administrators.

The effect of this therefore, is that the FG has no say with regard to land in Benue. It is the government of Benue that will even provide the FG with land for any project in Benue. Under our jurisprudence, the FG cannot compel the Benue state government to open up the state lands for cattle routes or cattle colonies. It is a legal impossibility.

The Benue state anti-grazing law is therefore in order, proper and just.

If, and assuming the FG and Herdsmen require an inch of the land in Benue, they will have to apply to the Benue State Government for such lands and if the government is convinced that it is for the overriding community good as stated in the Land Use Act, the decision will be that of the State Government. This is why the seeming arm-twisting by the FG for grazing routes and or cattle colonies in the state is off the rails.

Whatever the situation, what makes sense now is this: removal of all cattle and herdsmen in any form from Benue. Let some semblance of peace and non-bloodletting be the order of the day. It is only in this state of affairs that any conversation or talk of cattle colonies or grazing routes will make sense.

Any action outside that for now would amount to dancing on the graves of the departed.

As a member of the constitutional conference, I opined that the Fulanis are not ordinarily nomadic but rather compelled by circumstances of grazing to so be. Two years after the confab, the Fulanis have remained essentially nomadic and the consequences is what we now face. Time to tame the menace referred to as grazing, cattle colonies, ranches or grazing routes, in whatever form.

Rommy Mom Esq

President, Lawyers Alert, 08036081967, rommym@lawyersalertng.org

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 14, 2018 in Governanace, Human Rights

 

Tags: , , ,

Unlawful Killings in Nigeria: It could have been me

By Rommy Mom esq

After the hearing of my case in the Makurdi High Court on the 9th of May 2013, I was billed to leave for Abuja on the 10th of May, 2013.

There were reports the previous day of tension on the Makurdi – Abuja route owing to the killings of about 44 Police Officers by militias 2days earlier in Nassarawa State. Vehicular movement was difficult owing to blockages on the road by their angry widows assisted by youths. As is the practice, the widows assisted by youths (read thugs) were ever ready to cause mayhem.

Given the deaths suffered by the police, and the fact that the resulting action, whether legal or illegal, was in sympathy with the police, the police were expectedly not interested. They were after all, mourning their reportedly 44 killed colleagues. Never mind that in good times the police are equally helpless.

On this Friday, 10th May 2013, I made the necessary calls, reasonably ascertained the route to Abuja from Makurdi was safe, packed my bags, and started the four hour drive to my home in Abuja.

The drive was smooth except for the rather heavy traffic I was driving against. Wondered aloud why the opposite traffic was heavy, but put it down to the weekend and folks leaving Abuja for deserved rest in their home states.

An hour and half into my journey on the outskirts of Akwanga, a town two hours to Abuja, I ran into motorists all parked and obviously anxious. I pulled to the shoulder of the road, and my worst fears were confirmed. The road was blocked.

The widows were back on the road and this time heavily fortified by armed thugs I was told. And so we waited hoping that by some miracle, we would continue our trip. I understood some other motorists were parked far ahead of us and we were in a very safe zone.

An hour into the wait, pandemonium broke, cars screeching and reversing as the hoodlums commenced violent acts of breaking vehicle wind screens and setting some ablaze. Yours truly of course did a deft U turn and headed back to Makurdi, stopping only after about 20 kilometers when I saw other vehicles parked at obviously a safe distance from Akwanga. About 100 vehicles were parked in the area. We commenced another wait.

This turned out to be a bad decision, very bad decision. Approximately 30 minutes into the wait, two truckloads of hoodlums arrived at break neck speed. Humans, thirsty for blood, militias, jumped out wielding axes, sticks, stones and a few locally made pistols and guns.  One of those trucks parked right BESIDE my vehicle and about 30 yards from I was standing, hell broke loose.

People began running into the bush, while the hoodlums lashed at them; the sound of glass breaking as they smashed windscreens, screams of women and children; it was, in one word, terrifying.

It, for me, was the first time I was coming directly into such violence and seeing same, first hand.

I was rooted to the spot, could not move but stood watching everything, and noting everything. Only one thought crossed my mind. Dying a violent death is one thing I had always feared given living in Nigeria in recent times. For us who travel within the country so often, this has always been a fear I nursed. Now it seemed tp be coming true and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

In the madness that was playing out, there was a sudden chill, when almost everyone ran into the bush except for a few of us including me. A dark spectacled Hoodlum approached me, ‘what are you still doing here?’ he barked. ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ I heard myself answer. Suddenly there were three of them asking questions at the same time. I answered none. ‘Where is your car,’ they asked? I pointed to the Dark Honda, yards away, which was miraculously yet to be vandalized.

‘What do you think of the dead policemen?’ I was quizzed. ‘They should have been provided bullet proof vests and more importantly the authorities should have had a better plan,’ I said. One slammed his hand on my car and asked why I didn’t tell that to the government. The Chief amongst them (it seemed) yelled that I take my car and drive off. Mumbling words of appreciation, I got in the car, hoping they would not change their minds, turned the ignition and drove off shaken and sick to my stomach.

The point was made to me finally.

In the last 12 years of our democracy almost 800,000 Nigerians have died in such gruesome barbaric displays of violence for absolutely no fault of theirs, innocent people.

Government has been totally unable to provide its most basic obligation: security.  It has progressively gotten worse in the last 3 years.  This is the plight of Nigerians today. Harsh reality used to be, once you set out on a trip, you were anxious about bad roads, robbers and unscrupulous security agents.  Now there is a new addition: Militias and hoodlums.

MEND, Boko Haram and OPC alongside a motley of violent groups, from Fulani herdsmen, to tribal warlords, have taken over the country. We live and breathe at their mercy while paying taxes to a non-functional government.

Of what relevance is Government in Nigeria one is tempted to ask? We dig our boreholes for water, buy Generators for power, employ Guardsmen for our homes for security, attend private hospitals when ill and send our kids to private schools for quality education.

Where then is the place of Government? Of what relevance is Government in Nigeria? The situation and challenge calls for a Leader who truly is passionate and has a vision for effecting positive change and not enriching himself, kinsmen and friends in situations where corruption is King, and the Rule of Law, nonexistent.

Until Nigeria is blessed with such a leader, the downward spiral continues.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Governanace

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: