THOUSANDS of Fulani herdsmen are leaving Nigeria with their livestock and settling into neighbouring countries like Chad and Cameron as a result of the growing opposition to open grazing according to the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban).
In May this year, the Southern Governors Forum met in the Delta State capital Asaba where among other things, they agreed to ban grazing, called for the restructuring of the country and lent their support to the idea of state police forces. As a result, governments of the 17 southern states have begun banning open grazing, as have the six states of Nigeria’s north central geo-political zone.
Gidado Siddiki, the chairman of Macban in the southeast geo-political zone, said his group will meet with governors of the region to prevent them from enforcing the anti-open grazing law. He added that during the meeting, Macban would inform the governors why the anti-open grazing policy would not be of benefit to the region.
He said the purpose of the meeting is to appeal to the governors to reverse the law for the sake of the less privileged. In addition, Mr Siddiki noted that within the short period of the ban, the price of cows had jumped and this development would prevent poor people from eating cow meat again.
Mr Siddiki said: “A cow that was sold for N80,000 before the law, is now sold for N300,000 and that is the implication of the anti-open grazing law. If they are asking the cattle breeders to stop moving around with their cows, it means indirectly that they are asking us to leave their land and that we are not Nigerians.
“Because of the law, a lot of herders have relocated to other countries like Chad, Cameron and Sierra Leone and they have vowed not to import their cows to Nigeria again. I believe Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, who have already enacted the law and their Imo State counterpart, Senator Hope Uzodinma, are definitely going to listen to us because of the love they have for their people.
“I don’t think the ban on open grazing is necessary in the southeast zone, because 80% of our members have embraced the modern way of grazing through our continued sensitisation programmes, including the cow identification workshop recently held in Enugu State, where every cow, owner and their boys will be first captured digitally before being allowed to operate in their choice areas. It is also not necessary in the region because the Igbos know the consequences of one losing their means of livelihood, so by God grace, the governors will consider our corporative request,”
He explained that for the past 50 years, Macban members had enjoyed a good relationship with the indigenous people of the area in spite of some isolated cases of misunderstanding. In addition, Mr Siddiki said their interests in the area was purely economic, adding that no herder was interested in contesting the ownership of the land with members of their host communities.