Fulani herdsmen under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore on Friday blamed rising insecurity and rampant killings across the country on secessionists in the South-East.
Without mincing words, Miyetti Allah Secretary-General, Alhasssan Saleh, said the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra should be held responsible for festering insecurity in Nigeria.
Saleh, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, claimed that members of the Eastern Security Network, IPOB’s armed wing, were disguising as herders and attacking communities to leave the impression that Fulani herders were behind such attacks.
“All the noise and cries from Ekiti, Ondo, Zamfara, and South-Eastern states have not solved the security problem. Now that herders have left the South-East, are there still no problems there? Herders are not the country’s problem; they only represent a tiny part of the challenges we have,” he said.
Saleh acknowledged that herdsmen were trespassing on farmlands but said they were not responsible for most of the attacks and killings.
He said, “In reality, the crisis we have all over the country is not caused by the herders. Yes, the trespass is there, but that is not the main issue. There is a crisis in the land and everybody is looking for who to blame it on. People think the security crisis is caused by herders. But in reality, it is caused by IPOB secessionist elements. The new wave of terrorism in our hands is caused by secessionists, but the security agents don’t want to say the truth.
“IPOB soldiers wear herders’ clothing and attack communities. For instance, in Benue State, it is infighting that is causing crisis there. The people there are the ones killing themselves. There are no longer herdsmen in the state. The security people should arrest those killing people and let’s see if they are herders.”
He added, “There is nothing like foreign herders. We have secessionists in the South-East who want to return to Biafra and they are the ones causing insecurity in this country.
“The herders have moved back to the North because of the crisis in the South. Herders are the least of anyone’s problems. Any cattle you see in the South now are owned by Southern merchants, not Fulani herders.”
Meanwhile, Saleh said despite the Federal Government’s claim of working hard to create grazing reserves to solve the farmer-herder crisis, the situation on the ground showed that the government was not yet ready.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, had during a webinar on Tuesday tagged, ’Nigeria’s dairy industry,’ said the Federal Government was working hard to revive grazing reserves in 21 out of the 36 states of the federation.
The webinar was organised by the Policy Centre of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry to mark World Milk Day 2021 with the theme, ‘Sustainability in the dairy sector.’
Nanono, who spoke through a representative, Mercy Otiteh, was quoted in a statement issued by the Media/Strategy Officer, ACCI, Olayemi John-Mensah, to have stated that the Ministry of Agriculture had mobilised contractors to various sites across the country with a target to revive the grazing reserves.
However, Saleh said the Federal Government had yet to show seriousness about creating grazing reserves, insisting that without an alternative way being provided, open grazing could not be banned.
He said, “Do you think they are serious? It’s not today that we have been hearing noise from the Ministry of Agriculture. Right from the time of Adamu Bello to Audu Ogbeh and to the current minister, we have not seen any policy materialise. Speaking of the reserves they are talking about, they are all in deplorable conditions, and they can’t even sustain 20 per cent of the herder population in the country.
“This is why we are saying you can’t ban open grazing when you have not provided an alternative choice for herdsmen. It cannot work. The herders can’t pack their cattle and put them inside shops; they have to graze. But when you create an alternative for them, they will naturally go there. They won’t wander around in harsh weather conditions if they have reserves.
“Providing grazing reserves is a long process. It involves scientific studies, reorientation, and all sorts. People who want it to happen overnight are not being realistic. It can’t happen.”
Saleh added that it was time the North created a solution to the herder crisis.
“I think by the time we settle down properly in the north, we will find solutions to our problem. The solution to the herder crisis is in the North and not in the South because this is the herders’ home.
“We have grazing reserves in the North, and that is why we are telling the National Assembly that we should start from here. The reserves were there from the colonial era. Whether gazetted or not, they should be allocated to the herders for use, not ownership.”
As of April, over 200,000 hectares of land across 15 grazing reserves were said to be prepared by the Federal Government under the National Livestock Transformation Plan.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, Andrew Kwasari, who coordinates the NLTP, said some participating states had already commenced training for the implementation of the scheme.
Kwasari stated that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), secured a €400,000 (N200m) grant from The Netherlands for the initiative.