South-West, South-East, South-South and Middle Belt leaders on Saturday, united against the threat of Fulani herdsmen and called for a new fiscal formula that would move Nigeria from its current dependence on oil and gas revenues to a fully diversified economy.
The leaders admonished the Federal Government to immediately disarm all herdsmen in the country and bring an end to the terror unleashed on farmers by the nomads.
During the consultative meeting held in Abuja, Chief Edwin Clark led the South-South delegation; Chief Ayo Adebanjo led the South-West delegation; Gen. Ike Nwachukwu led the South-East delegation while Prof. Jerry Gana, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, former Governor Idris Wada and Gen. David Jemibewon (retd.) led the Middle Belt delegation.
Also at the summit were Chief Olu Falae, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Chief Albert Horsefall, Chief Guy Ikoku, Basil Paul and Bala Kakaya, among others.
The high-powered delegation from the Middle Belt and the South unanimously agreed that “there was a little difference between Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram.”
According to them, the only difference is that Boko Haram is wreaking havoc in the North-East and North West, while the Fulani herdsmen are unleashing terror in the South and Middle Belt regions.
Rising from the summit, the group in a communique read by Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said, “We have resolved to put an end to these herdsmen immediately and bring an end to this organised terror being unleashed on the South and Middle Belt states.”
They also expressed support for Nigeria “as one nation under God.”
The leaders restated their calls for restructuring of the nation in line with the recommendation of the 2014 National Conference and called for the placement of the report before the National Assembly.
The summit also demanded the devolution of powers and functions to the federating units to enable each unit to effectively serve the development interests of the people.
The communique read in part, “As a logical derivative, we must work out a new fiscal formula that will move Nigeria away from the current overdependence on oil and gas revenue to a diversified economy where all federating units are encouraged to develop their abundant natural and human resources for regional and national development.
“The federating units shall remit an agreed percentage of their revenue to the federation account.”
The Summit drew the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that Nigeria was a secular state in which the government could not adopt any religion as a state religion.
“Therefore, we ask the Federal Government to immediately review the discriminatory appointments into key offices of government and public service and comply with Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution,” the group stated.
In addition, the regional leaders said the recent plans to adopt a combined syllabus of religious and moral education should be scrapped immediately and a return to status quo maintained.
“State governments are also called upon to outlaw open grazing in favour of organised ranching,” the group said, just as it condemned the Arewa youths’ quit order to the Igbo living in the North.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, however, said the decision by the Southern and Middle Belt leaders to stop herdsmen from open grazing was not done in good faith.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on the telephone, the National Secretary, MACBAN, Baba Usman Ngelzarma, said the move was ill-advised.
“I don’t honestly think this move is (made in good faith). The herdsmen are equally citizens of this country and by going round with their cows, they are looking for grass and water, which is pushing them out of the North to other parts. But these people used to open grazing; that is what they know. That was what they saw their forefathers do.
“These herdsmen are mostly uneducated and don’t know what ranching is all about, even though ranching is not a bad idea at all. We are talking of a population of about 30 million herdsmen in the country, and they contribute to the overall wealth of the country.
“Even in developed societies where cows are used for economic purposes and kept in ranches, they still have some grazing areas for cows to feed.”
Similarly, the Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, suggested that government did not have money to build ranches, and called on the Southern and Middle Belt leaders to give government information on criminal herdsmen.
“If they think that Boko Haram is using Fulani herdsmen and they have the information, they should help the government.
“Does government have money to build ranches? They are talking about ranches as if it is one naira. Our agriculture is too agrarian. Is it possible to single out the Fulani and modernise their occupation through ranches? We think it is very easy to take only livestock and modernise it.”