Source:http://www.punchng.com/news/senators-fight-over-grazing-land-for-fulani-herdsmen/Lawmakers in the upper chamber of the National Assembly are divided along ethnic lines on the propriety of a bill seeking to create grazing reserves and routes for Fulani nomads throughout the country.
South-West, South-South, South-East and Middle Belt senators are opposed to their colleagues from the far North on the issue.
While socio-political groups in the South-West, South-South, South-East and Middle Belt oppose the bill, the far North support it, saying it will reduce constant clashes between nomadic Fulani and host farmers.
The Senate, during its July 3, 2012 sitting, was sharply divided when the bill was discussed.
Among other provisions, the bill seeks to establish a National Grazing Reserves Commission, which will have the power to acquire land that will serve as grazing reserves and routes for herdsmen in any part of the country.
Senators who opposed the bill, said it negated the Land Use Act and the principle of federalism. They argued that the matter should be left to state assemblies to decide.
One of the supporters of the bill, Deputy Leader of the Senate, Abdul Ningi, argued that the bill had no conflict with the constitution and the Land Use Act.
He said that the Federal Government had the power to acquire land for the grazing project, just as it could acquire land to build roads across states.
Senate President David Mark referred the bill to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters and Agriculture and Rural Development for advice.
But on Thursday, the Federation of Middle Belt People opposed the bill, saying the grazing reserves and routes would create more problems for the country.
The coordinator of the group, Mr. Manasseh Watyil, in an interview with SATURDAY PUNCH, asked, “Where is the Fulani abode? Creating a grazing reserve for the Fulani is like creating trouble. They cannot be pinned down to one place.”
Also, the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, faulted the bill.
Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, told SATURDAY PUNCH in Akure that the herdsmen erred because they deliberately destroyed farmlands across the country without showing remorse.
He said, “I don’t support the bill seeking the Senate’s approval of grazing reserves for Fulani herdsmen in the country; rather, the government and their (Fulani) leaders need to re-orientate them.
“The most painful aspect is that they would not feel remorse after destroying farmlands. The tendency to destroy other people’s lives and property is in their minds and they seem to be deriving special pleasure in doing so.
“Their leaders should give them a fresh orientation. How many grazing reserves do you want to create for them? They will seek another one whenever they feel there is no enough grass again.”
Reacting to the bill, the Secretary, Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Robinson Esitei, said it was absolutely wrong and it should, therefore, be resisted.
The INC secretary said the bill would cause further divisions and crises in the country, stressing that the INC leadership would oppose it.
He said it would be inconceivable for the FG to acquire land belonging to the people for the purpose of cattle rearing.
He said land did not belong to the government, but to the people and could only be acquired with their consent.
He said, “That is absolutely wrong. Land is aboriginal to the inhabitants and owned by the people.
“If the government acquires any land without the consent and approval of the aborigines, then the government is running an illegal system, contrary to the stipulations of the constitution.
“The people own the land and the aborigines use the land as a means of survival. And if the government wants to use it for developmental purpose, that would be their equity share.
“If you acquire a piece of land from Delta State and you want to use it for cattle rearing, how will it benefit the people? It’s another way of causing division and crisis in Nigeria. The INC vehemently opposes it.”
The President of Izumunna Cultural Association, an Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Prof. Zebulon Okoye, described the grazing reserve bill as unreasonable.
He said the frequent attacks on host communities by Fulani nomads had justified the need for the Senate to reject the bill.
Okoye, in an interview with SATURDAY PUNCH in Jos, said that the constant clashes on the Plateau were only born out of the expansionist tendency of the pastoralists.
He said instead of establishing a grazing reserve for nomads, the FG should settle them in the North, where there are large acres of uninhabited land.
Okoye advised the government to provide amenities such as water and electricity for them.
He said, “From what is happening on the Plateau, it is now clear that a law of that nature is detrimental to other parts of the country, especially the South-East that is land locked.
“If they are doing it in a land that does not belong to them, what happens if such land is legally given to them? They will drive all the people from their homes.
“If they can visit this amount of calamity on Plateau and other places where there had been intermittent clashes between them and the natives, then we wonder what will happen in the South-East.
“This is more so as the majority of the nomads are non-Nigerians, but coming from Mali, Chad, Cameroon and so on.”
He said that the Igbo had experienced the attacks going by the friction between the nomads and the natives in Nsukka area of Anambra State.
Okoye added, “It is a thing of big concern in the South-East and based on the experience we already have in Nsukka area, where they have forcibly taken over land and driven away farmers from the little land they have, we feel strongly that the law will not achieve the purpose for which it is intended.”
But the North’s socio-political group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, said the bill was long overdue.
The group noted that the creation of the grazing reserves would greatly reduce the incessant clashes between farmers and the Fulani.
The National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, told SATURDAY PUNCH in Kaduna that the country needed a national policy for the development of livestock, which provides meat for consumption and means of livelihood for Nigerians.
He called for reconciliation between Berom and the Fulani in Plateau State.
Sani advised leaders of the two ethnic nationalities to reconcile and forgive each other.
“After all, the two communities had lived peacefully in the past. How they did it in the past should be repeated for common good,” he added.
A former Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said the bill was in order.
He, however, said it could only reduce the clashes between the Fulani and farmers.
Musa stated, “I support it, but there are a lot of problems. In the past, there was a provision for that and it was respected.
“There were grazing reserves and the routes that cattle could follow, but all that have now been abandoned. There is no grazing reserve for the nomads. They always keep fighting with farmers. It (grazing) would reduce the clashes in a substantial way.”
Musa added, “The clashes between the Fulani and the people of Plateau State have nothing to do with grazing. In Plateau, Kaduna and some other states, there is always the issue of political power rivalry.”
According to him, the only way to stop the clashes is for the government to muster the political will to confront the problem.
Backing the bill, the Convener/Chairman of the group of Northern Professionals, Politicians and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said setting up grazing reserves would curb communal clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Mohammed, in a telephone interview with SATURDAY PUNCH, accused successive governments, especially in the North, of mismanaging the land issue, using the Land Use Decree as cover.
He said, “The entire North was surveyed aerially and otherwise. And in every state and local government, there were areas set aside – we call them burtali in Hausa, where these herdsmen were allowed to go and graze their animals.
“These people were busy giving the land away. If you go through the archives of the former Northern Nigeria, you will find evidence. These things were not done off hand, they were gazetted.
“So, no one can say that this is anything new. If they don’t do it (pass the bill), they will continue to have problems.
“There was land set aside right from Niger Republic down to Northern Nigeria, I don’t know what happened in the South.
“The land had been surveyed and areas where they were to graze their animals were specified. Even the Fulani themselves know these areas.”