From: AgroNature Admin
The Federal Government on Tuesday disclosed plans to meet with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as part of measures to put a stop to cattle roaming and farmers-herdsmen crisis in the country.
It unfolded moves to meet with the relevant Ministers from the ECOWAS member states and likely review the regional treaty that promotes free trade, movement of human and animals across the member states.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed this during a meeting held at the Presidential villa in Abuja to provide a permanent solution to the herdsmen-farmers crisis. The presentation made at the National Economic Council (NEC) had in attendance other top public officials including the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom.
Ogbeh said the region has 60 million cows, half of which Nigeria accounted for 20 million while Niger has only 10 million.
The Minister explained that the herders would often come down south towards the Benue valley to seek grass and water during the dry season and as a result cause misunderstanding especially when the herder is armed and uproot farm produce to feed his cattle.
However, he said efforts are ongoing to also meet with the Sultan of Sokoto as well as other foremost traditional rulers in the country, especially in the north to intercede in the crisis.
Ogbeh who acknowledged important roles of both farmers and herders in developing the agriculture sector said pastoralist often fall victim of cattle rustlers who currently major in attacking same Fulanis to cart away their cattle.
He said though, for the crisis to end, based on meeting with the Fulani communities, the federal government needed to provide water, grass and security, otherwise the herders would still have to find means to ensure their cattle survives.
“It is true, the herdsmen responds very well to their leaders, as a matter of fact, right now, we are using the Emir of Kano, and to some extent the Sultan at the higher level to reach the herdsmen. In 2016, i went to see the Lamido of Adamawa, who is not only a leader but also the Chairman, West African Union of the Fulanis. I sat with him in his palace and before i got there, i asked him to invite a cluster of herdsmen, 300 of them came. I spoke with the emir in his palace, talk to emirs so they brought interpreters.
“I asked him when did guns get into your hands because you had sticks before, secondly why must you roam and three why do you have to kill farmers on their farms? They said to me, if we could find them grass and water, they won’t roam. Those are the desperate needs of herdsmen which is true and grass is not just grass but there is special kind of grass that is good for cattle and good for human beings who consume beef and milk. Some grasses are poisonous.
“I asked them what other challenges do you have, and they said to me the biggest problem facing them now is rustling and rustling is carried out by some sets of Fulanis themselves. A man has 300 cows somewhere camped in the bush, in the middle of the night, rustlers arrive, shot him, his wife and children and marched all the cows, when they sell all of those cows, they are closed to N400 million. It is a new generation of rather criminal minded Fulanis, who do not want to herd cattle but rustle cows from those herding them in the bush and i said to one of them, you mean if we provide grass, water and security, you will stay? He said why should we roam, for most of us our family lives are totally destroyed.” Ogbeh said.
He stated further that, “There is this conflict management formular which still works in some villages. In most cases, it can because the herdsmen marching in from Niger, Chad or Mali sometimes he doesn’t speak a single Nigerian language although he is Fulani or Chadian, he arrives here, he has an AK 47 which he bought from the conflict in Libya ostensibly to fight rustlers but now turns it to local farmers who challenges him for pulling his cassava and you hear a herdsman saying his cow too is hungry, so he should allow him uproot your cassava to feed his cows. That hurts me in both ways.
“I want cassava to feed human and beef to feed human but rather than the herdsman killing the farmers, who is also playing his role in agriculture. So slowly, we have to deal with it. What do we do with people marching in from Niger and Chad? The ECOWAS treaty says free movement of human, animals and goods. We had meeting with the ECOWAS ministers here. We are going to have another, we will tell them you must do what Nigerians want. Roaming around is no longer an answer. We may have to shut our border.”