FULANI herdsmen group Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) has waded into the ongoing land disputes in the southwest of the country by calling on the federal government to restructure the country so they can go their way.
Over the last week, there have been fierce land disputes in Oyo and Ondo states with local farmers objecting to the violence of Fulani herdsmen. In Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, local people have asked the herdsmen to leave because they constantly kidnap, rape and murder people, while in Ondo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has given them seven days to leave the forests for committing incessant violent crimes.
With the crisis dividing Nigerians along ethnic lines, Macban has added its voice to the saga, saying that herdsmen were being marginalised in the country and that it was best if they were on their own where they would be protected. Macban national secretary Saleh Alhassan, said that it was wrong to punish a group of people for the sins of some.
Mr Alhassan said: “We don’t support crime, so I’m not saying there are no Fulani that are criminals, there are, like other tribes but don’t destroy their profession. It’s not good for the country, as if everything busts, it’s to the advantage of the herders because we are not even enjoying the federation.
“We are even bidding for restructuring of the country, let every part go, so we can say this is where we are. As it is now, there is no form of marginalisation we are not seeing in this country, as everywhere we are being marginalised. You think we will accept Nigeria where we don’t have access to land to feed our animals and you think there will be peace?”
Resource control, fairness and the allegations of killings, invasion of farmlands and people’s properties, kidnapping and other criminal activities against some herdsmen have fuelled the calls for restructuring of the country. These herders/farmers clashes had also increased the distrust among the ethnic groups, with some individuals from the different zones issuing quit notice to some others.
When asked if he thinks restructuring would solve the herders/farmers crisis, Mr Alhassan said: “Quite fundamentally. If we leave today and if there is no oil revenue, won’t they pay attention to animal rearing? If we restructure the country and the southwest region says they won’t accept cattle unless they are brought to the market or supermarket, it’s okay by us.
“The mistake people make is that they think when they put pressure on herders they are getting at President Muhammadu Buhari but Buhari has no relationship with the herders. When people say he is our grandpatron, was Jonathan from the south-south not our grandpatron?
“If the President is a Fulani, it doesn’t in any way affect the life of a herder. In fact, they are worse off under Buhari. They don’t access any government facility or social amenity, yet they are responsible for the bulk of animal protein we produce in this country.”
“Buhari has not done anything for us other than creating enemies for us. Herders are being chased around. Let us look at the larger picture and not allow enemies penetrate us. If Buhari loves the herders, he would have created the grazing reserves for them.”
He added that the government’s refusal to address the issue of land management, which he said is at the root of the crisis, had been fuelling the crisis. Mr Alhassan said that the real issue at stake is basically that of land resource management as herders do not have land.