By Foga Tyozer
On the eve of his planned visit to Benue State, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is quoted to have promised to review the anti-open grazing laws in some states for compatibility with the Nigerian Constitution. And Benue State is one of the states.
The former vice president will be in Benue State on Sunday, February 6th, 2022 in continuation of his consultations for the 2023 presidential election.
This is even as there is anger among the Tiv speaking people where he holds one of the most prized chieftaincy title of ‘Zege Mule U Tiv’ (The Shelter of Tiv) people.
Atiku is accused of not showing sympathy to the killings of the Tiv people by his kinsmen, the Fulani.
He is not known to have visited, personally or in representative capacity or sent relief materials to the thousands of displaced people scattered all over Tiv land or even publicly speaking against the carnage visited on Tiv people and the entire Benue state by the Fulani herdsmen.
The former vice president is further quoted ro have said that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees free movement of citizens, and suggested that herders should not be an exception.
If one may ask, how does free movement bring killings against communities to the point of being invaded and their ancestral lands forcefully taken away from them with scores killed daily?
Then suddenly, Atiku Abubakar finds it convenient to put forward such an irritating proposal. It is clear that this proposal is already in conflict with the position of Benue state where we have a strict anti-open grazing law and have been in enforcement since 2017.
For us in Benue State, we wont contemplate such review by any stretch. We won’t back down on the law in whatever form. We are conversant with the thinking by some unscrupulous elements who unjustly believe that the Benue law was specifically antagonistic towards the Fulani who are predominantly herders. This is not true.
It is no longer news that Atiku, a Fulani, is also widely believed to also own large investments in livestock. And so for him to have promised to implement policies geared towards establishing reserves for nomadic herdsmen is a point of worry to us in Benue.
As we have consistently said, we find the decision of Atiku, the ‘Zege Mule U Tiv’ not only shocking and curious but also a sign that all Fulani’s have a single agenda. It doesn’t matter which party they belong to.
It is more worrisome that at a time the country’s security situation is worsening as a result of the state of activities by the killer herdsmen, in combination with the dreaded ISWAP and Boko Haram, a presidential aspirant is still contemplating opening cattle grazing routes as the only solution available to him. This is sad and unacceptable. Could this be the hidden agenda of the Fulani nationality?
It is now accepted by a greater percentage of the population that open grazing of animals is no longer fashionable and should be banned to pave way for ranching. And that is where Benue State under the leadership of Governor Samuel Ortom stands.
This open endorsement of open grazing by Atiku, an influential national figure has the tendency of further emboldening these armed herders who lay claim to all lands in Nigeria as belonging to Fulani. This is why they have continued to invade farming communities and killing the original owners on their lands.
Let it, therefore, be known to Atiku and his strategists that we in Benue have embraced ranching as the viable alternative to open grazing and there is no going back on this. Our ranching law which prohibits open grazing is a law accepted by the Benue people in reaction to the incessant killings. It is also an instrument that serves as a win win for the farmers and herders.
Right now, we are concerned about the plight of millions of our people who now live in IDP camps not fit for human habitation. This is already adversely affecting food production. All we want now is for these people to be returned to their ancestral lands to continue with their farming activities.
Tyozer is a Public Affairs analyst and writes from Makurdi.