How herders endanger lives, food production in Oyo, by deputy speaker
Abiodun Fadeyi, Deputy Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, spoke with FEMI IBIROGBA, Head, Agro-Economy Desk, on how activities of herders have posed threats to communities and the imperative of forestalling further crises with preventive and proactive legislation in the face of the recent controversial RUGA scheme as well as the need for private sector-led ranch establishment and management.
You co-sponsored a bill against open grazing in Oyo State. Is it modeled after Benue State’s law, or what is the intent?
The bill itself is Open Rearing and Anti-Grazing Bill originated from the Speaker of the House, Right Honourable Adebo
Ogundoyin. Basically, the essence of the bill is to regulate open rearing or open grazing, as the case may be, so that we can have a uniformed rearing of cattle, goats, sheep and what have you, being mindful of encroachments into farmlands and clashes between herders and farmers, with loss of lives.
Before now, the relationship between the Fulani herdsmen and our local people had been a cordial relationship. But most recently, there has been degeneration, and the Federal Government itself is unable to identify who is who among the Fulani herdsmen. As we know, Fulani herdsmen are nomadic people, especially moving from the upper Savannah to this place once there is a dry season.
But, there have been encroachments. The kind of Fulani herdsmen we see or hear about these days is scary. They carry AK47 guns around, encroach into farmlands, destroy products worth millions of naira. We have not seen this type of thing before. Apart from that, the issue of kidnapping equally came to existence, and the stories we have been hearing from the kidnapped themselves are that the kidnappers are Fulani herdsmen. What the bill will try to do is to regulate their activities.
Is the model like RUGA settlement, ranch or what?
It is a private sector-led initiative. People can build and manage ranches. You can decide to buy hectares of land, develop it and rent it out to herdsmen. The most important thing is that for a 21st Century nation, we need to do things the right way. Things are changing. Even the Cow Boys of the United States of America have stopped roaming about. In Botswana, South Africa, and other countries, they have ranched all their animals.
So, it is different from RUGA. RUGA is an initiative of the Federal Government, wanting to acquire land in states with the aim of bringing settlers to ranch their cattle. But this is different in the sense that private businessmen with funds can build a ranch and when the herdsmen come, they can pay for the ranch services and graze in the ranch without encroaching on farmlands.
Meaning that herdsmen coming to the state must register?
Certainly, they have to register. And there will be a time limit to move around even in the ranch. The essence of the bill is to ensure that the rearing of cattle or grazing is regulated. And it is fashioned after that of Ekiti and Benue states.
Does that mean Fulani herdsmen can also acquire land and build ranches in Oyo State?
Yes. They can if they have the means. They will be duly registered by the ministry of agriculture. They will get a permit, buy land and build their ranches. They will be monitored. There will be a monitoring task force that will ensure compliance.
You said there has been an escalation of crises between herders and farmers in the state, leading to deaths. In which area of the state is the crisis rampant?
It is in Oke Ogun areas such as Eruwa. We have a series of reports. We have reports of attacks every day, hour and minute because we have large settlements of Fulanis in Shaki, Eruwa and Igbeti areas. In fact, the traditional rulers in those places have done their best trying to ensure peace.
In the era of former Governor Lamidi Adesina, when he tried to curtail them, the current president supported the Fulani herdsmen in Shaki. The challenge is still there. So, what this bill tries to do is to regulate their activities. And part of it is that we are going to sensitise people after the passage of the bill to let them know how it will work.
Talking about the economics of the bill, what are the expected agro-economic effects in the state and Nigeria?
That is a very good question. If you look at it well, definitely there will be employment opportunities. Hundreds of youths and young men will be employed in the task force unit with uniforms to monitor activities of herdsmen from one ranch to the other.
Are they going to be accompanied by armed security men, because most attackers are armed?
Information at our disposal is that there are forest guards and they are still there. What we are trying to do is to distinguish forest guards and the proposed task force of cattle grazing bill. The forest guards are trained for forest protection. And the Civil Defence has just come up with Agro Rangers to guard herders and farmers. I do not know what they will be doing, but that is a Federal Government’s initiative for its agenda. But the state, under the ministry of agriculture, will equally have its own task force to monitor.
The point we have been talking about is that if a man is posted from Borno State as an Agro Ranger to Oyo, he does not know the terrain, and he is likely to be biased. So, in terms of security, it will generate opportunities for our teeming youths.
Economy-wise, investors will invest and they will employ one or two people. Apart from that, we will boost higher and better quality yields in terms of beef and milk.
Will the state government set up a model ranch that investors can replicate elsewhere, not necessarily managed by it?
Yes. There is nothing wrong with the government having its ranch, but what we will be doing is to set up a template and an enabling environment for investors to come in. Governor Seyi Makinde already has a bilateral relationship with Botswana, and the country is one of the most stable countries in animal production and what have you.
If an investor intends to build a ranch, for how long will it take to get the government approval considering business hurdles in the country?
I am very sure the government will expedite the process. We are still fashioning out the bill itself. We are going to have the second reading and organise a public hearing about it.
At which reading is the bill now?
It is in the second reading.
How would you advise other states to address the crises between herders and farmers?
The Federal Government tried to look at the RUGA initiative. But let me be factual with you, the Federal Government cannot do that, because the RUGA settlement is seen as a Fulani agenda and a new way of colonising territories. It will not be too good.
If you go to Ogbomosho, for example, we have Fulani settlements that have been there for over 100 years. Without the Federal Government’s involvement, they have a working relationship with the traditional institutions. But with the Federal government’s intervention now, it looks, to me, there is a hidden agenda.