Discordant tunes have continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on revival of grazing routes with state governments across the country taking different positions on the president’s pronouncement.
The president, in an interview with Arise Television last week, said approval had been given for the reclamation of grazing routes as a way out of the perennial farmer-herders conflicts.
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Buhari’s directive was rooted in the First Republic concept in which there were designated routes where herders moved cattle in different parts of the country.
The move has generated mixed feelings among Nigerians. While some supported the move, which they said would end the protracted farmer-herder clashes, governors, socio-cultural groups, farmers and other stakeholders from the southern Nigeria opposed it.
The 17 governors of southern Nigeria banned open grazing in the region while they maintained that there is no grazing route in the area.
Speakers of the southern states’ Houses of Assembly also endorsed the resolutions of the governors at the Asaba meeting.
However, some states in the northern part of the country have declared their support for the presidential directive, with some of them saying they have taken steps, prior to Buhari’s statement last week, to go back to the abandoned old way.
Katsina reclaims over 2,000km of cattle routes
In Katsina State, the special adviser to the governor on livestock and grazing reserves, Dr Lawal Bagiwa, said the state had reclaimed its cattle routes before the president’s order.
“We already have a committee here, which has already worked by remarking the routes, which have been gazetted,” he said.
He added that the state had already reclaimed over 2,000 kilometres of cattle routes across the state, which were marked out by beacons.
Dr Bagiwa said government had earmarked and gazetted 123,000 hectares of land for grazing reserves.
Bauchi on course before Buhari’s directive
The Bauchi State Government has put machinery on ground before President Buhari’s move to revive grazing reserves and reopen all cattle routes across the state.
Findings revealed that the state government, in October 2020, released a white paper on the report of the Administrative Committee of Inquiry into a land dispute between farmers and herders in Misau Local Government Area, which recommended revocation of all land illegally acquired by farmers and other persons to re-establish grazing reserve and reopen of all the cattle routes in the state.
The committee’s investigation revealed that the Malumje grazing reserve is a community reserve and the allocation of parts of the forest reserve to farmers or self-acquisitions of the forest as farmlands are in contravention of the forestry law and laws of Bauchi State, 2007.
The government has directed that reserves should be utilised for grazing purposes only, while Misau Local Government and emirate councils are to ensure compliance. Among gazetted forest reserves in the state are Maladumba, Danfisa/Bokki, Gambara/Tofu and Umala/Jarkasa forests.
The state chairman of the MACBAN, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, popularly known as Sarkin Shanun Dambam, said they were happy with the president’s directive because many of the cattle routes were blocked and grazing reserves encroached in many parts of the state.
Abubakar said the MACBAN and the entire Fulani cattle rearers supported the decision of the state government to implement the recommendation of the Surveyor Musa Baba Committee, which recommended that government should reclaim all the grazing reserves encroached by farmers and individuals, as well as reopen all the cattle routes in the state to address the farmers-herders crisis.
“What we are just waiting for is the full implementation of the recommendation in the government’s white paper,” he said.
Grazing routes functional in Kano
According to the Commissioner for Information in Kano State, Malam Muhammad Garba, the state government had never closed any of its grazing routes.
He added that federal government’s decision to reopen all grazing routes was in line with Governor Ganduje’s resolve on sustainable peace between farmers and herders.
“Kano State has never closed its grazing routes, but had also made several attempts to accommodate processes that would ensure peaceful grazing within the state.
“The state government has spent a lot of resources in establishing a RUGA settlement and milk market at Dansoshiya in Kiru Local Government Area,” the commissioner said.
Fear of insurgency in Borno
Authorities in Borno State said cattle routes existed in different parts of the state but had been abandoned by pastoralists due to insurgency.
The director, Borno State Nomadic Education Directorate, Gambo Abasuwa Tom, said the routes used by herders were of different types, including local routes that linked one community to another within the state, interstate routes as well as international routes, which were in existence for a long period of time.
He said insurgency had displaced most of the pastoralists while the majority had migrated to neighbouring states and countries.
He said any effort by the authorities to restore normalcy and demarcate the routes would be a welcome development.
“The routes were known by the pastoralists, community leaders and policymakers before the advent of insurgency.
“If there was any need for an additional route, the government was informed by the herders and their associations.
“This was the strategy used to maintain peaceful coexistence between crop farmers and the nomads.
He said the state government had made progress in resettling displaced pastoralists in their ancestral homes, while those living as refugees in neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon were repatriated gradually.
He said the government would thereafter ensure that all grazing routes are safe and new ones created where necessary, to avert conflict.
“My community, Darajimal in Bama Local Government Area, which had Shuwa Arab nomads, has been displaced by insurgents, just like many other towns with pastoralists in Mafa, Dikwa, Ngala, Nganzai, Abadam, Marte and Kala Balge local government areas.
“As soon as normalcy returns, the people will begin to breed and raise animals, and the routes that were abandoned will resurface, with the support of the government,” he explained.
Yobe commences land reclamation
Yobe State Deputy Governor Idi Barde Gubana stated that Governor Mai Mala Buni has earlier inaugurated a committee under his chairmanship to deliberate on a wide range of issues including farmer/herder clashes.
He said the FG initiative would go a long way in mitigating the crisis in the state.
The Chairman Gujba Local Government area, Alhaji Dala Mala said so far he was able to recover about 31 international cattle routes in his domain.
He assured that the new federal government commitment will strengthen stakeholders take more precautionary measures in averting farmer/herder clashes in the state.
The chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association (MACBAN) in Yobe State, Alhaji Sarkin Shuwa described the pronouncement as long-awaited.
Shuwa insisted that the problem of farmer/herder clashes can only be resolve if cattle routes are properly demarcated.
He said every year the state witnesses massive influx of nomads and because some of their grazing reserves were overtaken by farmers and traditional rulers they destroy farms and their animal would be killed in return.
Meanwhile, farmers group have also expressed optimism with initiative saying that it would resolve the crises lingering for that past two decades.
Aliyu Mai Bindiga,the Chairman Farmers association in the state lamented that his members lost over 70 percent of their produce to herders invasion.
He said “Herders will invade our farms and whenever we ask for reasons they accuse us of encroaching their grazing reserves.
“We agitated for government intervention for long and now that the Federal government has shown strong commitment we have sigh some relief .”
The Yobe State government said the initiative would complement its effort in resolving the farmer/ herder clashes.
‘Ranching is the best solution for cattle farmers’
Meanwhile, the Niger State Government said ranching and grazing reserves would be the best solution for cattle farmers. It, however, noted that reopening grazing routes might be difficult because of the level of development in the country.
The Secretary to the Government of Niger State, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane said the adoption of ranching is still the best solution for the challenges of farmers/herders clashes and insecurity.
He said, “We believe that if we are adopting the ranching system, in the long run, there would be no need for grazing routes.
“We should also be mindful of the fact that most of the routes are now farmlands; most of them have been taken up by towns, villages and communities as a result of development.
“For a short term solution, routes could be adopted, but for a long time solution, ranching would be the best.”
Niger State is already implementing a ranching system in semblance with the RUGA concept.
“It is expected that there would be water pasture by creating a small settlement where the Fulani would stay and carry out their activities without moving about with their cows.
“It is the same concept we are implementing at the Bobi grazing reserve and some other reserves around the state. A lot of reserves have been gazetted while some are not,” he said
Matane disclosed that pasture and water were provided for pastoralists while investors that are specialised in livestock production had been brought into the reserves.
He added that Niger State already keyed into the livestock transformation plan of the federal government.
Open-grazing unworkable – Akeredolu
The governor of Ondo State and chairman of the Southern Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, during the June 12 Memorial Lecture in Akure, questioned the workability of a return to open grazing practiced during the First Republic as directed by President Buhari.
Akeredolu said things had changed and creating cattle routes would not reflect the demands of a 21st-century development in cities and states, stressing that such creation could dislocate already established developments.
“Would you say that where the Deji of Akure’s palace is now is a grazing route and we have to remove it for a grazing route? We can’t do that now. Things are changing and there has to be a paradigm shift,” he had said.
Sarkin Fulani, MACBAN back re-opening of grazing routes
However, the evicted Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, described the move as a welcome development.
He said it would lead to peace between farmers and herders. Abdulkadir said that Igangan, where he was evicted in January by Sunday Igboho, was a grazing route that was well gazetted by the federal government.
He said it was after people began to farm on the grazing routes that the farmers-herders confrontation started.
“The directive of the president is a welcome development if it would be implemented.
“Don’t forget that my palace at Igangan was a dedicated grazing route that was well gazetted. It was on the basis of the recognition of the area that the government recently built a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic for us there.
“This was burnt into ashes, including my house, my palace and several property worth hundreds of millions,” he said.
According to him, many people in Oyo State are also aware of the designation of Igangan as a grazing route.
“This was why we settled there for years immemorial. I inherited the place from my father and we have been doing our legitimate businesses,” he added.
The secretary of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in the South-West, Alhaji Maikudi Usman, also countered those opposing the recovery of the grazing routes.
He said that contrary to the claim of the critics, the grazing routes are in the constitution.
He said if the grazing reserves could be recovered as directed by the president, the problem of farmers-herders clashes would be addressed.
“All the grazing routes in the North, South-East and South-West have been taken from herders, and this is why we are having this problem.
“The grazing reserves are in the constitution. We also have many lands that can be given to cattle breeders if those grazing reserves have been taken over and if we can do this, there would be no problem again,” he said.
‘No gazetted grazing route in South-East’
The vice president of Ohaneze Ndigbo worldwide, Chief Damain Ogene Okeke, said there was no grazing route in the South-East.
“There is no grazing route in the South-East. The president should be interested in restoring the glory of the country instead of talking about grazing routes,” he said.
He maintained that there is no grazing route to recover in the zone as none was gazetted.
A civil servant in Anambra state, Ikechukwu Madu, who shared the view of Ohanaeze, added that there is no land for grazing in the South-East.
According to him, if the president wants to recover any grazing land, he should pay compensation to the owners.
Another resident, Fidelis Okafor, said the demand for the recovery of grazing routes suggested that the president had interest in the activities of the Fulani across the country.
Afenifere, PANDEF condemn move
But the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has rejected the planned recovery of the grazing reserves, saying the directive is archaic and untenable in the present age.
The spokesman of the group, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said the land belonged to the state and the federal government had no power or authority over any grazing route.
Ajayi expressed disappointment on the disclosure by the president that he had directed the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to ‘reopen’ grazing routes throughout the country.
“We have some questions for Mr President and the attorney-general in this respect.
“Who created the so-called grazing routes? At what time in our history did our founding fathers gather to designate specific routes from the North to the South as grazing routes?
“Assuming without conceding that there were so-called grazing routes, what would now happen to structures that have been built in areas where they are to be re-opened?
“Would such structures, including residences and factories, be pulled down so that cows would have places to graze?
“Compared to what would be lost economically, socially, politically, and in security terms, if these structures are to be pulled down, is it not better to encourage building of ranches?” he said.
Afenifere added that the president’s pronouncement on the issue seemed to indicate that the Buhari government is operating a constitution that is different from that of 1999.
“For instance, section 2 of the Land Use Act, the law governing land matters in the country, vests the administration and control of lands in a given state in the hands of the governor of the state.
“Since most governors in the country have outlawed open grazing in their respective states, on which land does the federal government want to ‘open’ or ‘reopen’ its vaunted grazing routes?
“Why talk of grazing routes in this age when ranching is the fad in all civilised climes?” He asked rhetorically.
Also, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) said the group was not utterly surprised about President Buhari’s comments on open grazing.
The spokesman of the group, Ken Robinson, said the federal government had refused to accept that open grazing and movement of cattle was an archaic practice that had become untenable in contemporary Nigeria.
“Everything about this presidency indicates that it is not nationalistic. The conduct and actions of this administration have been largely parochial and sectional.
“We will continue to aver that nepotism under the Buhari administration has caused more problems for Nigeria than anything else,” he said.
Directive infringes on powers of states – Lawyers
Hameed Ajibola Jimoh, a lawyer, said grazing routes were not the same as freedom of movement, adding that grazing is not under the exclusive legislative list and concurrent legislative list, but under the residual legislative list.
“This gives grazing powers to state governments. The federal government can only make grazing laws and control same as it concerns the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and federal lands within states, but not on state governments’ lands as distributed under the Land Use Act.
“The taking over of grazing routes in states infringes not only on the autonomy of states and powers of governors, it affects their sovereignty and violates federalism as a democratic principle, except as it relates to the FCT, Abuja and federal lands within states.”
In the same vein, E.M.D Umukoro said that since Nigeria is a constitutional democracy and a country governed by laws, the presidential directive must be backed by law and its applicability.
“The answer is simple. The law known as the Grazing Reserve Law of 1965 provides for grazing and grazing routes. However, this law is only applicable to northern Nigeria.
“Therefore, the applicability of the directive of Mr President is for only the northern states of Nigeria.
“It must also be added that it is the responsibility of the attorney-general and other legal minds within the government to advise Mr President on legal issues.
“The spokesperson of the Senate has been reported to state that there is no grazing act in Nigeria, so it will be ultra vires for the powers of the president to give such directive,” he said.
From Taiwo Adeniyi, John Chuks Azu (Abuja), Abiodun Alade, Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Titus Eleweke (Awka), Romoke W. Ahmad (Minna), Misbahu Bashir (Maiduguri), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano), Hassan Ibrahim (Bauchi), Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina) & Ibrahim Baba Saleh (Damaturu)