Various Fulani associations on Wednesday stormed the Oyo State House of Assembly, venue of the public hearing on a bill for a law to prohibit open grazing in the state, voicing their stand against the bill.
Alhaji Sale Bayari, national chairman, Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), in an 18-page position paper he delivered at the session, kicked against the bill and its sponsors, saying the bill is not practicable, as it’s a ploy to punish poor herders in the state.
According to him, “It is impossible in our country for any peasant small scale herdsman or rancher to go into ranching.”
Bayari pointed out that sponsors of the bill did not look into the detailed history of the Fulani herdsmen and their cattle-rearing culture, tradition and hereditary attachment to their means of livelihood, and not just “business” as people were made to understand.
He questioned the rationale behind the failure of the bill to take into consideration the above set of people involved in the cattle business.
Theirs, according to him, is unlike the commercial merchandise livestock farming of the likes of President Muhammadu Buhari; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd); Senator Abdullahi Adamu; West Africa Milk Company; and Alhaji Tafida Mafindi, among others.
Bayari asked rhetorically how a herdsman that owns 50 cows or less can afford to take out a lease on a plot of ranch to keep and graze, as well as buy feeds for these animals, saying, “The maximum average total value of 50 cows at N150, 000 each is N7.5 million only.
“From our calculations, one cow will eat grass, drink water, drugs and other maintenance costs to the tune of N1, 500 a day.”
He said in the absence of peace, he knows the Fulani people are the number one victim, because their entire means of their livelihood, which is the animals, are perishable.
According to him, “Despite that Benue State is a northern state it has been a very bad brother and neighbour of the Fulani herdsmen.
“Ironically, it is Oyo State, among the Yoruba states, that has been and remained our true home as Nigerians due to the wonderful warm and receptive nature of the great descendants of Oduduwa, who the Fulani herdsmen have come to see and accept as their beloved great grandfather too due to the accommodating spirit, nature and character of the people of the South West.
“We shall continue to be law-abiding citizens of this state and here undertake to ensure that we fish out all the bad elements among us that are distorting the peace and tranquility of Oyo State.”
Chief Azeez Maboreje, the farmers’ representative, disagreed with Bayari as he lauded the lawmakers for taking the bull by the horn.
Maboreje advised the Assembly “to go ahead and prohibit open grazing to safeguard farming practice and investments of the people in such a way that those engaging in open grazing would be made to face the wrath of the law.”
He urged the House “to amend a section of the bill to include provision for special courts and mobile courts to try erring herdsmen.”
Maboreje also counseled the lawmakers to make provision for the Baale Agbe-in-Council in each local government area for them to contribute meaningfully to agricultural development, and engage in harmonious relationship with the Fulani and other herders.
In his opening remark, the chairman, Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Peter Ojedokun, pointed out that the purpose of the meeting was to receive input from the stakeholders on ‘A Bill for a Law to Prohibit Open Rearing and Grazing of Livestock and Provide for the Regulation of Activities of Herdsmen and for Connected purpose.’
According to him, the bill is aimed at addressing the crisis between farmers and the herdsmen.
Earlier, Adebo Ogundoyin, speaker of the state Assembly, noted that there was need for peaceful coexistence between farmers and herders, adding that agriculture, crop and animal husbandry, remained major part of the economy of the state.