The decision by the National Economic Council (NEC) of the federal government to place a ban on open grazing and free movement of herders and their flocks from the north to south of the country has elicited various reactions from Nigerians.
Some lawyers have applauded the federal government for the step taken, saying it was long overdue.
Abdulrahman Anofiu, a Abuja- based lawyer, said it is a step the government should have taken long before now.
According to him, “It is better late than never. I think it is the way to go and the support of every Nigerian is needed to end the killings”.
Another lawyer, Ehirim Matthew, said any step that will halt the killing was welcome.
“I think every reasonable Nigerian should join hands with the government to ensure that normalcy returns to the troubled areas. We should stop playing politics with the lives of Nigerians,” he said.
Garba Busari, on his part, blamed the government for allowing the people of Benue to be pushed to the wall before taking steps “but like the saying goes, it is better late than never.
“We can’t continue this way. Something very urgent should be done to bring an end to the killings in this country, not just in Benue State”
On its part, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Associate (MACBAN) said the body was not against anything that would bring an end to the crisis so long as the interest of the pastoralists was considered.
National secretary of the group, Baba Usman, told our correspondent on phone that “we are not opposed to anything that will bring peace in the country.”
“The crisis is worrisome to everybody. The pastoralists and the farmers are also not at peace with the way things are going. The crisis has become a national security problem and everybody must agree to measures taken by the federal government for the sake of peace.
“Pastoralists only need water and grass and once that is provided, the pastoralists will not want to be moving around. We don’t have issues so long as the policy will take into cognisance the peculiarities of the pastoralists,” he said.
Also speaking, the Southern Kaduna Indigenous Progressive Forum (SKPIFo) expressed displeasure at the conclusion by governments to purchase large swaths of land for the exclusive settlement of Fulani herdsmen in the name of ranching.
Its spokesman, Luka Binniyat, said: “We believe that the so-called new “ranches” are the same with “cattle colonies” “and grazing reserves” because it still amounts to grabbing scarce land resources of farmers and handing them over to pastoralists to own as their own new found lands.”
“We kick against this. After so many massacres of our people and destruction of our communities by such herdsmen, they cannot be rewarded or placated with the lands of their victims.
“This does not bode well for peace and security and peace of the neighbouring villages to the grazing reserves as exemplified in an already existing grazing reserve in Southern Kaduna.
“Let it be on record that SKIPFo encourages and promotes pluralistic southern Kaduna with Fulani as important stakeholders. We, therefore, call on the states and federal government to create avenues for genuine and sustainable reconciliation of all estranged Fulani from all our communities.
“If, then the Fulani want to buy lands from their host communities to create ranches, it will be through negotiated agreement, not forced acquisitions. We believe that living together side by side with trust and faith in each other will lead to sustained peace and development.
“We, however, support government’s determination to review its commitment to the ECOWAS protocol on free movement, as a means of stopping the influx of unwanted persons into Nigeria,” he said.
The national secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Baba Ngelzarma, has given assurance that their members would always support any decision towards ending the persistent farmers/herders clashes, saying they were at the receiving end of the crisis.
However, the Nasarawa State chapter of MACBAN has rejected the proposed ban on open grazing by the federal government.
In an interview with our correspondent, the Nasarawa State MACBAN chairman, Alhaji Mohammed Hussaini, said the ban was wrong-timed.
Hussaini contended that the decision by the federal government was too hash on the herdsmen, as he urged government to make proper arrangements before enforcing the ban.
Meanwhile, the member representing Gwer East/Gwer West federal constituency of Benue State, Hon Gbillah Mark Terseer, has said that his constituents would reject the ban of open grazing by the National Executive Council (NEC) if neighbouring Nasarawa State is not included in the list.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that the National Economic Council (NEC), headed the vice president and comprising the 36 state governors, had on Thursday announced a ban on the movement of cattle in five states of Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna and Plateau.
While reacting to this decision, Gbillah said that the NEC could not by a fiat ban open grazing, adding that affected states must be allowed to enact a legislation to give it the force of law.
“Nigeria is a country governed by laws. The NEC cannot just ban grazing in states by a fiat. The states concerned would have to enact legislation. So all the state governors, including Governor Lalong who has made some discouraging statements about the anti open grazing law signed by Governor Ortom, will have to send an executive bill to the state houses of assembly,” he stated.
The lawmaker, who alleged that the killer herdsmen camped in Nasarawa State and launched coordinated attacks on other communities, said such a strategic location should not be ignored.
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