The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Sulyman Abdulkareem, has cried out over the alleged destruction of the university’s multi-million naira research and training farms by cattle illegally grazing on the vast lands of the institution.
The vice chancellor, who said the cattle also destroyed plantations of economic trees, made this known last Thursday during a security meeting with the leaders of the 11 Fulani settlements on the University land.
The meeting was witnessed by representatives of law enforcement agencies comprising the Nigerian Police Force, the State Security Services, SSS, and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
At the meeting held at the institution’s Auditorium Basement, Mr. Abdulkareem, a professor, disclosed that the university management would no longer tolerate illegal grazing of cows on its land.
He, therefore, told the illegal settlers who have started building permanent structures to vacate the university land in the interest of peace.
This new development came almost a year after the university authority first issued a quit notice to the illegal settlers.
According to the university publication, Unilorin Bulletin, the management had on April 26, 2017 handed down a seven-day ultimatum to the Fulani herdsmen encroaching on the university land to quit the campus, but the quit notice was never complied with.
Also on May 11, 2017, 28 persons, comprising Fulani herdsmen, Yoruba and Hausa farmers, were dragged to an Ilorin Chief Magistrate’s Court for allegedly trespassing into the university land, destroying the school’s plantation and perpetrating other unauthorised activities on the university campus.
The accused persons were alleged to have resorted to poisoning the institution’s dam with chemicals, while also engaging in illegal felling of economic trees from which they made charcoal.
But at last Thursday’s meeting, the vice chancellor clearly told the Fulani settlers that “enough is enough”, stressing that the university could no longer condone the destructive activities of their grazing cattle on the university land, “as this is becoming too costly for the institution to bear”.
“We have a multi-million naira programme that is currently at stake now because they (herders) have gone to the extent of uprooting tubers of cassava for their cattle to feed on,” the vice chancellor said.
“We cannot conduct any research or training on the farm again because each time we get to a point where their cattle can feed on it… they go back there and destroy it.”
The Vice-Chancellor also explained that the objective of the meeting was to marshal out plans to agree on a specific time frame for the herdsmen and other illegal settlers to vacate the University land.
“And once we agree, they cannot spend one day after on our land”, he said, recalling that the university, under his immediate predecessor in 2017, had granted a three-month extension window which the herders had requested for in order to vacate the University land, an agreement which was eventually violated as the herders failed to comply with it.
In his reaction, the Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Usman Adamu, told the university management that the herdsmen destroying the university farm land were not living in the community.
He said there were other ethnic groups embarking on illegal activities like logging, and these were not differentiated from the Fulanis.
He maintained that the Fulanis have been living peacefully in the environment and had even helped in checking crimes such as kidnappings, robberies, which hitherto occurred on the university campus.
The herdsmen appealed to the university management for time and pledged to come up with a response on the matter by February 22, 2018.
Speaking through an interpreter, the vice chancellor, in his response, told the herders that the university was willing to give them logistics support, to ease their relocation; provide them nomadic education and more where necessary, but stressed that they must stay outside of the university land.
“We care about them but we cannot afford to keep them on our land again …if they want to continue to be our friend, they can live anywhere around us but they should realise that this is a sacred place.
“Again, even where there are wars, people leave the university alone. We are now facing a lot of financial problems and yet they are compounding it for us…the teak plantation, several times they have set it on fire and there are millions of naira invested in that place,” he said.
Representatives of security agencies, who took turns to speak at the event, stressed that drastic measures will have to be taken in order to ensure that the investments of the university remain secured.
Speaking at an earlier meeting with the vice chancellor, the SSS representative, A. Akinsola, said, “The security agencies are ready to assist; just tell us what you want to do and we will support you.”