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OPEN GRAZING CONTROVERSY – FEMI OLUWASANMI

On: July 8, 2024 - In: Headlines News - No comments

OPEN GRAZING CONTROVERSY – FEMI

OLUWASANMI

 

The waves of killings and kidnappings linked to the perennial pastoralist herdsmen and farmers clashes in Nigeria has proven beyond doubt that open grazing is a practice that has outlived its usefulness. This necessitates unison in the call for an animal husbandry practice that will reflect the growth in the country’s population and development. However, what seems to remain a “rocket science” at the corridor of those entrusted with the power to make, interpret and implement laws is the method to adopt in doing the reform, particularly putting into consideration the heated debate that greeted the introduction of a bill seeking to end open grazing at the floor of the Senate in the recent times.

On 5th June, 2024, a Senator representing Benue North West at the National Assembly, Mr. Titus Zam argued in his lead debate on a bill considering a ban on open grazing at the floor of the senate that the best therapy to the menace of farmers-herders clashes is to adopt an international best practices in animal husbandry by establishing a law to stop open grazing and encourage ranching in Nigeria. This will reduce insecurity, boost food production and improve revenue from the agricultural sector because it will rebuild confidence in the farmers to return to farm and reduce rampant clashes between the herdsmen and farmers in their competition for land to graze and cultivate for the survival and sustenance of lives.

Herders-farmers clashes has been a disturbing phenomenon in Nigeria. Its multidimensional manifestation and interpretation has contributed seriously to the deleterious elements corroding the tenets of peace and unity with a reverberating effects on lives, livelihoods and property across the country. A critical look at the magnitudes of the horrific display especially, at the epic center of the clashes seems to suggest that the practice has been hijacked by the terrorists masquerading as herdsmen to perpetuate terror and create fear in the mind of the farmers in order to cause food shortage that can lead to hunger and anger that can make the people to lose confidence in the government and resort to actions capable of generating crisis that can lead to anarchy.

The frustration occasioned by the malady made some of the Governors in the southern part of the country to issue a ban on open grazing in their states at Asaba, Delta State in 2021. Though, the decision was greeted with great controversy which led to a legal battle between the governors and the then Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami who opined that the decision was inimical to the freedom and liberty of movement among others enshrined in the constitution but failed to explain what happens to the right of the farmers who spent huge amount of money on cultivation but was pushed to incur debt as a result of the grazing on their farm.

Inability of the government to decode this and summon the political will and courage necessary to nip in the bub the scourge at infancy contributed to the over 300% in the prices of food commodities and services that has exacerbated frustration and aggression across the country especially, at most of the domestic fronts where serious calculation are carried before monthly budget in order to fill the gap caused by the reduction in the value of Naira and inflation that has turned the 2019 national minimum wage to a mockery when evaluated with the prices of the essential commodities. For instance, a bag of rice which was sold at an amount less than #40, 000 in April, 2023 is now hovering around #64000. While a bag of beans that used to be #40, 000 is being sold above #120, 000.

The same is the prices of perishable goods such as peppers, tomatoes and others that are used for most of the items being consumed daily by the people in Nigeria. Quest to ameliorate this hardship prompted the federal government to declare a state of emergency on food in 2023 with several intervention programmes in agriculture. However, the more the programmes are reported the more the hardship seems to continue to increase. That is why urgent and greater efforts are needed to end open grazing in Nigeria so that the farmers can return to farm to cultivate.

Although, it is understandable that in some parts of the country the practice is seen as culture rather than business. However, in time like this when the whole country seem to be feeling the heat of the attack on the farmers and the “chorus of hunger and anger” seems to be resonating across the country, it is obvious that there is need to discard the anachronistic, hazardous and burdensome culture which has become a menace aggravating the insecurity of life and property, causing distrust and destroying the age-long peaceful coexistence among the people and threatening the unity and development of Nigeria.

A side the confidence and peace an end to open grazing will bring to the people across the country, an end to the practice will improve the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) because it will boost the economic strength of those involve in animal husbandry by reducing wastages in milk and meat production because of the international best practices such as ranching that will be adopted.

Ranching is a system of animal husbandry where animals are restricted to a geographical location with proper monitoring and care. This is the practice in most of the leading countries in meat and milk production across the globe. For instance the United States, Mexico, Australia among others.

In fact, if this is adopted as the national standard of animal husbandry in Nigeria there is a possibility that the country might overtake these countries in the nearest future because of the industrious nature of the people in the country. Thereby reducing unemployment and food insecurity by increasing crops production while more hands are employed to make and man ranches across the country.

Therefore, the lawmakers at the National Assembly should intensify the tempo of their support for the bill seeking to end open grazing in Nigeria and ensure that it gets the necessary assent from the president when passed to the executive so that the menace of herder-farmers clashes threatening lives, livelihoods, unity and peace in Nigeria can become a thing of the past.

 

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