The Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) has said that the worsening insecurity in the country due to the fatal clashes between herders and farmers can only be addressed if the country adopts ranching in place of open grazing.
Interim Chairman of the group, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, on Friday noted that the decision of the Southern governors was in line because there cannot be grazing on farmlands without the authorisation of the owners.
ASCAB added that Nigerian herders must accept “modern animal husbandry” and learn from Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Ethiopia that have effectively adopted ranching to end clashes.
Falana, speaking for the group, said, “As I had repeatedly maintained, the worsening insecurity in the country including the violent clashes between herders and farmers can only be seriously addressed if policy makers are prepared to abandon primitive ideas and embrace scientific solutions.
“As far back as 2016, the Buhari administration had adopted ranching in place of open grazing on farmlands without the authorisation of the owners. Unfortunately, due to pressure from some selfish interest groups, the federal government abandoned the policy of ranching. However, the increasing wave of insecurity in recent times has compelled the federal government and all the state governments to make ranching as the cornerstone of the National Livestock Transformation Plan.
“From the information at our disposal, no fewer than 24 state governments have applied for the special grant earmarked for the establishment of ranches by the federal government.
“No doubt, every citizen is entitled to the fundamental right to freedom of movement and right to own and acquire land in any part of Nigeria by virtue of sections 41 and 43 of the Nigerian Constitution respectively. To that extent, herders, like other citizens, are at liberty to acquire land for cattle business under the Land Use Act.
"Curiously, Professor Usman Yusuf has condemned the decision of the Southern Governors' Forum on the ban. Even though he did not condemn the decisions of the Northern Governors' Forum and the Nigeria Governors Forum, Professor Usman has argued that the decision of the Southern Governors Forum could not be justified under the Land Use Act. Such divide-and-rule tactics are designed to further polarise the masses of our people.
“Those who are encouraging herders to reject modern animal husbandry are advised to learn from Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Ethiopia that have effectively adopted ranching to end clashes between herders and farmers. In those countries, farmers live in the ranches with family members including their children and wards who attend schools in the neighbourhood.”
It will be recalled that at the virtual meeting of Northern Governors Forum held on February 9, 2021, the members unanimously resolved to ban open grazing. According to the communique issued at the end of the meeting, it was stated that the Forum noted with concern "the growing wave of insecurity in the country particularly as it relates to the circulation of unverified video clips on social media portraying violent attacks on persons in some parts of the country.
“Therefore, the forum called on political leaders to segregate between criminality and social groups in their domains with a view to treating criminals as criminals.”
Also the Southern Governors at its own meeting held at Asaba, Delta State on May 11, 2021, reiterated the decision of the Nigeria Governors Forum to ban open grazing in the country.