While we examine the security implications of the open grazing and cattle colony proposals of the federal government, it is also very pertinent we look at the economic implications of the activities of the herdsmen.
Subsistence farming is an age old agricultural practice same for pastoralism, what subsistence farming represents to the Hausas, the Ibibios, the Tivs, the Idomas, the Yorubas, the Efiks and the Ibos in Nigeria is what cattle breeding is to the Fulanis.
Why then would the Fulani herdsmen consciously and callously release their cattle to feast on peoples farmlands and set fire on acres of farm land with cash crops not yet harvested and still go ahead to impudently demand and get compensated in a situation whereby the owners of such farmlands reacts by killing, injuring or even chasing away a cow?
If there is any area in the life of the present administration where they have scored very high points, it’s in the area of agriculture where to a large degree the country is moving towards attaining food sufficiency and have even gone ahead to experiment on the exportation of agricultural products to gain foreign exchange, the agricultural sector has contributed greatly in reducing unemployment in Nigeria by engaging over 63 percent of the total Nigerian work force, research has shown that over the past 35 years, the Nigerian economy expanded by more than +3 times in size, The agricultural sector contributed about 40% to this expansion relative to Oil & Gas, in the last two years almost every Nigerian state today has a rice production policy aimed at producing rice in commercial quantity and that agrarian policy gave birth to what we have today as Ebonyi rice, Anambra rice, lake rice etc. flooding the Nigerian rice market.
The National Bureau of Statistics, said the Gross Domestic Product growth rate for the country recorded the economy standing at a 1.4% increase in growth rate in the third quarter of 2017, Evidently, it is therefore safe to say that agriculture having contributed significantly to the growth of the economy is the most important and resilient sector in the Nigerian economy today.
Nigerian cassava production is by far the largest in the world, producing more than Brazil and almost double the production of Indonesia and Thailand joined, while Nigerian yam production accounts for about 70% of the world’s total yam production thereby placing us at the world’s largest producers index, with Palm oil positioned as the most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world, Nigeria remains the third largest producers of the commodity across the globe.
With all these recorded achievements in crop farming, poultry, piggery, goat, and fish farming scored an encouraging high in the livestock subsector.
The shocking reality is that till date Nigeria still imports cows from other countries for local consumption, 70% of the cattle being reared in the country came from countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, a Nigerian bred cow produces just a litre of milk a day while a cow in Saudi Arabia or Brazil produces 30 to 40 litres daily.
What then is the appeal that will provoke the federal government placing premium on cattle rearing as against other flourishing farm products to the point of proposing colonization policy for herdsmen and their cattle with the obvious knowledge that they add very little value to the growth of the country’s economy and agricultural GDP.
Do the prevailing agro-economic indices justify the protection and shielding being given to cattles and their herders even after committing gruesome mass murder and destroying cash crops and agricultural products worth millions of dollars?
What then justifies the silence and kids glove treatment of the authorities over the wanton destruction of lives, cash crops and properties?
Why has the security agencies not arrested or questioned the leadership of Miyetti Allah cattle breeders association after openly encouraging the herdsmen to violate the open grazing law, admitting to and defending the mass murder of innocent Nigerians?
Today our farmers are afraid to access their farms, our agrarian communities have abandoned their homes and farm lands for cattle’s and their herders and vacated their communities for fear of being attacked and killed, farms and crops are being destroyed and set on fire by the herdsmen, affected states and communities are resorting to self help by threatening to arm their youths, hunger is looming, inflation is threatening, and criminality and break down of law and order is imminent.
Writes from Umuahia