A member of the House of Representatives, Dickson Tarkighir, believes President Muhammadu Buhari is not doing enough to curtail the menace of armed herdsmen in the country.
Speaking in Abuja, Tarkighir claimed that Buhari’s inaction regarding the catastrophic activities of herdsmen was the cause of apprehension in parts of the country over calls for the establishment of the grazing reserve routes for herdsmen.
The lawmaker, who is a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC) representing Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency of Benue State, urged the President to be harder on herdsmen responsible for the destruction of lives and properties across the country.
He said: “I must say that the incessant attacks by herdsmen on communities across the country have brought a lot of anxiety, so much so that even for that alone, some people are very anxious of any conversation like this.
“Government on its part needs to come out. I am surprised that the President has been ‘silent’ over the killings in Benue, particularly Agatu, Taraba, Kogi and Nasarawa, especially the north central valley.
“The President has not done much. People are beginning to think that his Presidency has emboldened herdsmen to attack communities across this country because he is a Fulani, who also owns cattle himself.
“The President is supposed to lead by example. He declared in his form at the code of conduct that he has cattle.
“Let him show cattle rearers where his ranch is and that this is the best practice to graze cattle. If he can ranch his own cattle, that is the more reason why he should preach the idea of ranching and ensure that those who cannot afford ranch are given incentives to set up ranch to grow their cattle.
“People are very anxious about the creation of grazing routes because they think that their lands would be confiscated and given to herdsman. Since the government is practically saying nothing to protect Nigerians, we think that indirectly he is giving the go-ahead to destroy communities for their herds to feed.”
He continued: “In far away China, the President sent a clear message to pipelines vandals that he is going to treat them like Boko Haram. Pipelines vandals don’t kill people; they vandalise pipelines. Herdsmen kill people, destroy lands and properties and crops in our communities.
“They have killed over 8,000 people since Buhari came to power.
“The herdsmen are a huge security threat to this country. The President has provided military men to protect cattle breeders in the in Kano and Katsina from rustlers, but he has not provided the same military to deal with herders who kill people, particularly in the North Central zone.
“How is that fair?”
The lawmaker, who is the sponsor of the Cattle Ranch Bill, blamed poor governance for the ongoing clash between herdsmen and farmers in the country.
Pointing at country’s porous borders, he claimed that a sizeable number of the herdsmen that kill people and destroy property are from neighbouring Niger, Mali and Senegal.
He bemoaned the ease with which the herdsmen enter the country heavily armed with automatic riffles to kill and maim hapless Nigerians, saying it is made worse by the inability of security agents to confiscate these deadly weapons from them.
“I will say that the government has failed the people of this country and the reason is simple. I just returned from my constituency. Most of the cattle rearers arrested there are not even Nigerians.
They have been chased away from their various countries as a result of their violent activities and they are flooding into Nigeria.
“Government is supposed to ensure that our borders are not porous. We have lived with the normal Fulanis in our communities for years and have never experienced what is happening right now.
“Herdsmen didn’t use to carry arms; they carried sticks with which they controlled their herds. What is happening now is that herdsmen are carrying automatic riffles in our communities.
“That, in itself, is negligence on the part of government, because those arms are not even licensed. They carry AK 47 guns and those same herdsmen sometime used them to rob, kidnap or even rustle cattle.
This is what is happening, which is akin to complete banditry.
“So, it is the cross border pastoral thing that is causing this problem today.
“Our normal Fulanis who we have lived together with over the years would never participate in the kind of atrocities happening now. Most of the herdsmen coming into our countries from neighbouring countries are the ones causing havoc.
“We never had cattle rustling before in Nigeria. It is a new practice in this country, where some professional thieves come into societies that are rearing cattle to rustle the cattle.”
The lawmaker said rather than the touted grazing reserve routes, the establishment of cattle ranches remains the panacea to the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country.
He added: “When I travelled to Brazil, which is one of the biggest beef exporters, I discovered they all ranch their cattle. Even in some African countries, like South Africa, and Malawi, ranch their cattle.
“The cattle that we rear is dependent on crops that we cultivate for survival and so you cannot rear cattle and grow cattle and crops in the same place.
“Therefore, if we are serious about agriculture, then we must find a way of providing a conducive avenue for those who want to also grow cattle to do it in a very professional way that does not interfere with those who want to farm crops.
“That was the reason I brought this Bill on ranching. I have read materials on ranching and I discovered that it was very imperative.
“Cattle ranching is not just about the beef alone, it is also about the diary, the milk and the cheese that countries that produce cattle export to other countries.
“So, it is even more productive, more profitable for us to change from the way we are growing cattle right now to embrace the advance cattle technology, so that we can grow bigger cattle that has more milk.”
Continuing, he posited: “My proposal is that cattle rearing is a business, it is not a charitable thing. People who rear their cattle do it for their survival, for profit and as such if anybody desires to rear cattle or grow cattle, he should acquire a piece of land from either a community or anywhere and set up a ranch and that way, there would be peace, so the cattle would not stroll away into somebody else’s farm.
“There should be a department of ranching that should be able to sanction the sale and lease of lands to those who desire to set up ranches.”
He also explain why cattle ranching, unlike the grazing reserve route, would not be encumbered by the Land Use Act, which specifies that state governments should exercise control over lands in their domains.
“When somebody directs the federal government to set up a grazing reserve commission, whereby the federal government would take land from a state or from a community for the purpose of establishing a grazing reserve, such an individual is required to amend the constitution, because the federal government doesn’t own any land in the communities or states, as they are domiciled with the states.
“So, if a states doesn’t desire to set up any reserved, it would say no, we don’t have land.
In Benue, for instance, my governor has come out to say several times that the state is the food basket of the nation; we are an agricultural and agrarian state and don’t have lands for grazing reserves.
“Even the one for farming is not enough. So, we cannot provide lands for grazing, which completely conflicts with those agitating for grazing reserve.
“The truth is some states don’t have lands to donate for the purpose of establishing a grazing reserve, and my state is one of them.
“So, if anybody desires to grow cattle, they should be able to approach communities or states to buy land through the department of ranching,” he explained.
On what becomes of poor Fulanis that cannot acquire land for grazing purpose, he said: “As we speak, the government is trying to diversify into agriculture.
“One of the incentives the government can offer is to provide loans to those who want to grow cattle. It is as simple as that.”