Herdsmen recently claimed six lives in Bagana Community in Omala Local Government, Kogi State. According to an eye witness, the attackers, with assorted weapons, came in large number and selectively burned houses and shot people. Trouble began two weeks ago when people from a neighbouring village had a misunderstanding with the herdsmen that led to the death of three residents. The Administrator of Omala Local Government, Aboh Escort then mobilised mobile Police men from Lokoja, Kogi State capital who were guarding Bagana, with some local vigilante men. Three police men and three Vigilante men were killed during the attack.Three farmers were also killed and another seriously wounded by the herdsmen when he was returning from his farm.
Let’s not forget that it is the duty of the government to provide security for the people. There are different aspects of agriculture. The growth of crops and the rearing of animals are of equal importance. The problem with the herdsmen is not an issue of the order of priority of agricultural produce, but an issue of ownership of land.
Let me create a hypothetical situation. Imagine you own a piece of land, and you build your house on it, you go to work, when you come home, you see that your house has been overtaken with cattle. How will you feel? Let’s assume that herdsmen decide to rear their cattle on Aso Rocks lawns. I wonder how the president will react.
Imagine also, that for your honest protest, you and your family are killed. Your houses burnt. Your offence is protesting oppression and protecting your honest investment. Those farmers validly own the land they farm on. Their crop is their means of livelihood. They are Nigerian citizens, whose safety is within the purview of the government.
I often wonder why the State House of Assembly has not made laws criminalising free grazing within their state. Is it that they do not know that agriculture falls within the legislative power of the State? Or do they not care about the life of their citizens? The Oyo State legislature has promised that the Grazing Control Bill would be passed into law before April 30 to help forestall farmers/herders conflicts in the state. This promise was first made to the Oyo State people in 2016. More than two years later, and the legislature is still in the process of passing this bill. Think about how many lives were lost during this long wait. Let’s not forget that these legislators were paid salaries during this period (those who died probably contributed to this salaries. They are tax payers after all.)
Few days ago, Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, a People’s Democratic Candidate Lagos Central Senatorial candidate enjoined the federal government to take a total and decisive action against the herdsmen before they kill everyone. While encouraging the federal government to declare these herdsmen terrorists, he claimed that herdsmen are more dangerous than the dreaded Boko Haram because they are found everywhere and attack everyone on sight.
Terrorism is the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a religious or political aim The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) attributed nearly 1700 deaths in 2018 to Fulani headsmen. Stating that this is six times the death toll attributed to Boko Haram in 2018. The question is, do you think herdsmen fit into the category of terrorists?
How does the government react to this instability? First of all, it will create a grazing reserve with N91Billion. According to them, this is expected to yield two trillion naira in profit in ten years (most good investments of that amount should yield similar results). This grazing reserves would be established in Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, and Zamfara which have been affected by herdsmen/farmers clashes, with four ranches (small, intermediate, medium and large) in each grazing reserve.
Who has heard of “RANCHERS” or “COWBOYS” or “COUNTRY PEOPLE”? These are white men that rear cattle in foreign countries like the United States of America and England. They don’t do this on government owned lands. These people purchase land to farm on and rear their cattle. The herdsman is in a business man, he sells his cattle and forcefully uses others land and crops as feed for his livestock. He has killed innocent citizens to maintain his lifestyle. Why should we fund his trade?