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Elias Osaghae

~~Last week this blogger brought to you the Part I of this article by James Pam. In this Part II, Mr. Pam exposed the weak, purposeless and deceptive arguments of sponsors of the devilish Bill. The Fulani National Grazing Reserve Bill, is shrouded in hidden agenda which is far from the ‘sugar-coated’ objectives the sponsors advanced. Mr. Pam also did extraordinary job to fish out the hidden omissions in the ill-fated Bill. The implications of the ‘Fulani Nation’s Bill’ on other ethnic groups in Nigeria is well articulated. This conclusive part of the article resonates with the fears of many Nigerians who foresaw Buhari’s intents to Islamize the nation should he be voted to preside over the affair of Nigeria. Unfortunately majority of myopic Nigerians put us where we are today. Nigeria has been smuggled into The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) and efforts are on to give Nigeria to Fulani to ‘own’ and raise their cows. What comes after that is yours and this blogger’s guess – Elias Osaghae.

James Pam, an activist for the protection of the ethnic minorities of the Jos Plateau, has taken the pains to study the Fulani National Grazing Reserve Bill, its implications and dangers to other ethnicities in Nigeria. The first part of his article is brought to you unedited and undoctored.

SUPPORTERS’ ARGUMENT: The first surprise regarding this Bill is that the sponsor, Senator Kure, did not say the truth about the most important thing that her Bill is intended to achieve, that is, to curb the incessant fatal feuds between Fulani nomadic cattle rearers and farmers all over the country. When she presented it, she tried to prove its relevance with a lot of wishy-washy points. She said that the National Grazing Reserves will be provided with incentives and facilities such as functional Earth Dams, Water Points, Dairy Processing Centres, Schools, functional Barns and Livestock service centres but didn’t say for who’s benefit and why. She added that the Bill, if passed into law, would lead to the establishment of National Grazing Commission that would be empowered to enforce Gracing Reserve Laws across the country and then simply stated that grazing reserves were very important.

Next to support the Bill was Senator Ningi from Bauchi State who rambled down memory lane about how Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa ensured the establishment of grazing reserves in the then Northern Nigeria without mentioning anything about the clashes between pastoralists and farmers all over the West African sub-region. Ningi also tried to score the point that the economic value of Grazing Reserves to the nation included the creation of employment opportunities, large-scale production of food for domestic consumption and for export, generation of income for the people and for the government. Ningi concluded his support comments by saying that if the activities of the large number of pastoralists in Nigeria were well harnessed, it would diversify the economy and minimize unemployment, inflation and serve as a means of giving the Fulani nomads a sense of belonging.

Alhaji Sale Bayeri, a PDP stalwart and the self-styled spokesperson of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association of Nigeria, claims that there are 12 million cattle rearers in Nigeria and that they have been at the receiving end of all sorts of atrocities from other Nigerians and neglect by the government. The population figures are a figment of his imagination because his tribesmen rejected the idea of including ‘Tribe’ as a demographic date to be captured in the last population census. Authorities quote about 18 million for all the Fulanis across West Africa. Many of these are no more cattle rearers but educated and living in cities without any cattle. No one can authoritatively quote a number today for the population of Nigerian Faulanis.

OMISSIONS: I have noted the following as deliberate or careless omissions from the proposed legislation:

What informed the need for such a Bill is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. Is the incessant Fulani/farmers clashes? What is the cause of all such clashes? Is it not because the Fulani cattle rearers grazed their cattle on the farmers’ yet-to-be-harvested crops? Who is therefore the antagonist? Should the cattle-rich aggressor Fulanis now be protected or the defenseless poor peasant farmers?

For whose use are the grazing reserves and stock routes to be acquired? The Bill does not say. It will simply create grazing reserves and stock routes for nomadic cattle rearers who we know are of one ethnic group – Fulani. The clause cattle rearers in the Bill can be replaced with the word Fulani, and it will be seen that it is purely meant to serve the interest of one ethnic group out of over 250 ethnic groups on Nigeria.

The Bill does not define who a cattle rearer is. Will all Nigerians of all ethnic groups who own cattle, sheep, goats, camels, donkeys, etc; be allowed to use the grazing reserves and stock routes.

Why does the Bill not require Cattle rearers to contribute towards the acquisition of the grazing reserves and stock routes when owning cattle is tantamount to being wealthy? Cattle rearers are richer in terms of assets than the poor farmers who will be dispossessed of their inherited ancestral lands. Shouldn’t the rich cattle rearers be made to sell some cattle and pay for the rights the Bill wishes to give them?

The fundamental rights, ancestral rights, customary rights, rights to pursue a preferred means of livelihood of farmers whose lands will be forcefully acquired are not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. Don’t other Nigerians, especially agriculturalists, have equal rights and entitlements from the Federal Government as cattle rearers?

Arrangements for the resettlement of the farmers and other land owners who will become internally displaced is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. Does the Bill assume that the compensation they will receive will be adequate to buy comparative land elsewhere? Why should the Bill not provide that the Grazing Reserves Commission will also negotiate and pay for alternative land for persons who will be dispossessed of their farm holdings?

The Bill has been designed to create a refugee crisis of internally displaced persons by legislation. This is the most absurd and vexatious to put it mildly. How could right-thinking, intelligent Nigerian legislators do this? Unless they are not what we all assume them to be.

Without saying it in clear terms, the Bill, when and if passed into law, shall apply in retrospect from 2008. Otherwise, why should it be cited as a 2008 legislation in our statute books? I can’t see the rationale in this.

The NGRC shall report ‘for the time being’ to the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources. Who will it eventually be reporting to? The head of the Fulani tribe? Why this ambiguity? Something is being hidden here by the sponsors of the Bill.

There is no provision whatsoever in the Bill for the policing of grazing reserves and stock routes by any of our security agencies. They will be outside the purview of our law enforcement agencies and therefore constitute lawless enclaves where the nomads will be above the laws of Nigeria.

IMPLICATIONS: Though the late Senator Gyang Dantong, whose constituency has experienced some of the most intense ethnic clashes with fatalities in thousands, supported the idea of the Bill, he quickly cautioned that government should be very careful in such land acquisitions to avoid infringing on the rights of other people. He suggested that pastoralists should be encouraged instead to acquire land through the use of their great wealth for the purposes enumerated in the proposed legislation.

I am shocked that Nigerian adults in the National Assembly would even tolerate such an obnoxious and vexatious proposal. The Bill is a clear attempt to hand over the entire country, its economy, its land, its citizens, its security and its future into the hands of one tribal group – the Fulani. The Bill should have been thrown out at first presentation.

The Bill proposes to establish a National Grazing Reserve Commission (NGRC) for the country. The NGRC will be charged with the responsibility of using funds received from the Federal Government to forcefully acquire farmlands from Nigerians in all the 36 states of the country, develop same at government expense through the provision of boreholes, water reservoirs, etc; for the exclusive use of nomadic cattle rearers (or pasturalists), whom everyone knows, are of only one ethnic stock – Fulanis – out of over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. All other Nigerians who venture into these grazing reserves for whatever reason would be fined or imprisoned or both.


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