Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq
Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq

With open grazing banned, Gov AbdulRahman tells what it is like to be a herdsman in this season

NEWS DIGEST – In Oyo state, state legislators are mounting pressure on Gov. Makinde to follow through on the anti-open grazing law that was passed two years ago in October 2019.

Kwara state governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq wonders if much forethought was given to the proclamation by southern governors which forced a ban on open grazing.

“The ban on open grazing is a law that cannot be enforced,” Gov. AbdulRahman told ThisDay on Monday, faulting a lack of resettlement plan for the displaced herders.

Since the ban was imposed, states like Kwara, in the North Central, have seen a wild influx of Fulanis whose business model is to graze for free, wherever water is free.

Herders, due to no fault of their own, had originally been forced by worsened climate and increased habitation of grazing routes to seek better grazing options.

Increased warming of the earth is making water less available to cattle farmers in arid regions like Northern Nigeria. Grazing routes from 50 years ago are now filled with homes to service the under 3% annual increase in population.

“They have to come further South to graze,” he said.

The anti-open grazing ban is one of several issues that resurrect a South-North dichotomy. “It is about equity and planning properly,” said AbdulRahman, who felt the open-grazing ban was a more hastened, rather than informed reaction, to the herder-farmer clashes.

“They are illiterate,” he added. “You’ve gone to the bank to collect money to plant maize. He sees food for his cattle. You see maize that you want to cultivate, sell and pay back your loan.”

Herdsmen worry

AbdulRahman believes that the anti-open grazing law could leave many with more to worry about—some more aggressive herdsmen.

“We’re not offering these Fulanis anything other than the bullets,” said AbdulRahman, noting a similar happening in the United States and the effort of the US government to stop open grazing by offering cowboys lands in Texas.

“What are the options?” he added. “We say we ban open grazing, so what option did we give them other than move out of our state.”

Despite several attempts to effect peace to the herder-farmer clashes, tensions continued to soar this year, resulting in violence in places such as Ibadan.

According to AbdulRahman, these herders, who may only own one or two of the 50 cows they herd, may need to choose violence after encroaching on farmlands because they are unable to pay the amount requested as damages.

Farmers who also need the proceeds of their farmlands to offset the loans they took may also react violently, initiating a cycle of violence that has since birthed greater evils like kidnapping for ransom.

Northern Governors Proposal

AbdulRahman agrees that open grazing is not sustainable and needed a makeover to keep farmers and herders apart.

With this, AbdulRahman faults state governors who ban open grazing, yet refuse to make available lands for grazing reserves within their states.

“If you have 10,000 hectares, you give 2,000 to a commercial company, that will run the whole thing, and the Fulanis will be on the remaining 8,000 hectares,” he said.

“It will be a full company that carries out agro-schemes with them: milk collection, cheese processing, they will buy their beef and so on but in return, they will do waterways, boreholes, and provide feed for them and veterinary services. Those are the modules being looked at,” he added.

This model is the National Livestock Transformation Programme advocated for by Northern governors.

AbdulRahman sees significant improvement if the country were to take the Niger Delta militant approach to the herdsmen crisis. There needs to be a programme that compensates herders for giving up open grazing, he said.

“You need to either compensate them or give them enough time to change because the cost of beef has to go up, because they’re now buying food to feed the cattle, instead of getting it for free in the bush,” he added.