Senator Rochas Okorocha says the resolution of the Southern Governors to ban open grazing in their respective states is not a fight against Fulani but injustice ravaging the country.
He said the cattle businesses are not all owned by Northerners, stressing that Southerners also engage in cattle rearing business.
However, he said it had got to a point to stop open grazing in Southern Nigeria and the entire nation.
The former governor of Imo State also said that most of the herders that cross several thousands of kilometres from the North to South are teenagers.
He described it as abuse of human rights, adding that it also affects the education of such young people.
He, then, urged the Northern stakeholders to see the ban on open grazing as a collective step in addressing the insecurity plaguing Nigeria. He also added that cattle ranching can generate millions of dollars for the country as well as generate revenue for the Nigerian government.
Okorocha revealed this during Channels TV Sunday Politics programme monitored by SaharaReporters.
“I think we should look beyond this to the best of my understanding the injustice that is going on within the herder arrangement. For instance, have you ever seen a herder before? If you have seen a herder before, you’ll see that these are 12, 13, 14, 15 years meant to trek some thousand kilometres from Kano, or from Sokoto or from Niger to South-East.
“In the first place, these are human rights issues. It’s the labour law issue. It’s child abuse to keep out these children. Not going to school and get them into trade every day. That would have in before 1960 when there were no roads, but this is the time that we have these children. Tha’s my concern that they are not going to school.
“And if you agree with me, these children do not own these cattle. Who own these cattle? These cattle are owned by eminent Nigerians. Some of them are even Southerners. All of them are not Northerners. But, we have suggested that don’t let these children travel a thousand kilometres,” Okorocha said.
He continued, “You see I’m going to a point by the Southern governors. They are saying our reason for saying no is that the issue of AK-47 involved within the herders. And the herders that we used to know are the ones that carry sticks not AK-47.
“And then when these cows come, they destroy people’s crops. That’s their concern. That doesn’t mean they don’t like cow meat. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to eat saki or cow leg. They even love it more than the Northerners. But, it is the effect.
“Then they are talking about how do we address the AK-47 being carried now and the properties of the farmlands? These are the two issues that cause controversies. But they jumped over it and politicised it. My concern is that there are elements of things to do, but let me talk to Nigerians for the first time as a businessman.
“Do you know how many billions of dollars this nation is missing by not handling this business of cattle in the Federal Republic of Nigeria? This business of cattle can create one million jobs for Nigerians if well managed.
“I wish Nigerians can call me or the Governors will call me and say look Rochas, the 76 million we want to give to you as share, take it and face the cattle business. If I don’t create one million jobs within the shortest possible time, then just know I’m not Rochas.
“This is just business that people say see money. And people are just joking with it. By now, do you know, do you know how much we use to pay exporters of leather skin? One of the dairy products, the milk?
“Assuming, we have this business, do we know how many welders, how many fabricators, would build burden carriers for these cows while we export the heads from China and fix it? Do you know how many drivers? Two thousand drivers will create more than two thousand jobs in the first instance.
“So, why can’t we look at the business aspect proper? We can export the meat. Are we waiting now till we start importing meat from Niger? Or from Somalia? Or from Mali to import cow meat before we can eat meat? I think we should look at this, and what the governors have said not that they don’t want cow meat but let it be ranched.
“Let it be kept in a place where it should be kept. And these children can go to school also. Nobody saying Fulani should go. I will not support anybody who says Fulani people should go. I’ll not support it.”