By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Ola Ajayi, Gbenga Olarinoye, Daud Olatunji Monsuru Olowoooejo
THE recent murder of men, women and children in Benue State and Taraba State by Fulani herdsmen has provoked tension across the country to the extent that citizens want preventive measures.
In the light of that, Vanguard made findings across the states in the Southwest geopolitical zone to know what their respective governments are doing to prevent such occurrence.
We won’t prohibit cattle rearing — Ondo govt
In a bid to ensure peaceful co-existence of farmers and herdsmen in the state, the Ondo State government said it would not prohibit cattle rearing but was quick to point out that plans are underway to regulate the activities of herdsmen and their cattle.
The Senior Special Assistant to the state governor, Mr. Akin Olotu, in an interview with Vanguard in Akure, said the government has no intention to either ban grazing or restrict anyone from farming.
Asides this, the state government said it is yet to take a decision on Federal Government’s proposed establishment of cattle colonies.
Olotu said the government was still studying the policy and would make its decision known soon.
However a farmer opined that the new policy should first be experimented in the North and if successful those in the down south would follow suit.
He said: “let the cattle colonies start first in the North. New technologies like this should first be experimented and if successful other people will do the same.”
Olotu noted that government met with stakeholders, herdsmen and farmer recently in a bid to find a lasting solution to the crisis between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the state which have assumed a frightening dimension in the last few weeks.
He said: “We are not going to prohibit cattle rearing in Ondo state, we are going to regulate it. It is not a crime to rear or own cattle in any part of the state, but it has to be done legitimately, it has to be done in such a way that someone’s business is not used to destroy another person’s business.
“So what we have in Ondo state is cattle rearing regulation in which case there will be dos and don’ts.”
Olotu said stakeholders at the meeting resolved that there should be a form of identification for all the cattle rearers and their cattle to now identify some of the erring herdsmen.
Part of the resolution reached included the setting up of a committee which will include security agents, farmers, herdsmen, members of Fulani Myeti Allah and Hausa community.
The committee would be put in place in all the 18 local government areas of the state to reduce the incessant attacks and destruction of farmlands.
Though Governor Rotimi Akeredolu decried the security challenge posed by activities of Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country, he said “while the challenge of Boko Haram is yet to subside, the new challenge of herdsmen which has assumed a national dimension has reared its ugly head.”
On measures being put in place to prevent crisis in the state, Akeredolu said: “This has constituted nagging pains in necks of all those in the authority in this country. Like I have had occasions to say in the last couple of days, we will not allow any miscreant to toy with our joy in Ondo State.
“We are resolved to take the challenge head-on. Ondo State residents must have the space for their daily economic activities unhindered.
“The farmers, especially, will be protected and imbued with the required confidence to engage in their legitimate farming activities
“We will not tolerate any act of brigandage. We will defend the right of our people to engage in farming without let or hindrance of any sort.
”We will protect our citizens with such fervour as expected of true representatives. We will sanction with impassioned severity any acts which seek to tilt the balance of harmonious coexistence in the State towards anarchy.”
Besides, he said: “Our administration is taking proactive steps to ensure that this obnoxious phenomenon is nipped in the bud.
“While we encourage all those with legitimate intentions to visit our space, we intend to clear any doubt about anyone who may wish to perpetrate crime.
“We, therefore, enjoin our people to go about their normal businesses and report, promptly, any suspicious movement of undesirable elements in their communities
“All of us owe our country a duty to ensure peace while not ignoring issues of justice and equity.”
Oyo dilly dallying
In Oyo State, the state government seems to be dilly dallying over the issue.
When Vanguard contacted the Special Adviser to Governor Abiola Ajimobi on Community Relations, Murisiku Siyanbade, he said he was in a meeting after he asked about what he would react to and he then promised he would be through at 4:30pm.
When calls were made to his phone number severally, he did not pick the calls.
Lagos govt not in favour of colonies
In the Centre of Excellence, there are strong indications that Lagos State Government might not toe the path of the Federal Government as far as creating colonies is concerned.
Following fears expressed by Lagos residents over possible herdsmen attack, the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, assured that the state security apparatus would work to ensure such is prevented in the state.
The governor, who made the remarks at the Town Hall meeting, held recently, noted that the challenges facing states especially on herdsmen would be prevented from occurring in Lagos State.
He said: “Herdsmen will not have space in Lagos. The state government security officials would work effectively to mitigate any action and intrusion that could come from those quarters.”
Efforts to get state government officials to elaborate on strategy already adopted in this direction was unsuccessful as at press time.
But sources said that the statement of the governor at the Town Hall meeting was a strong indication that the state would not welcome the idea of proposed cattle colonies in state.
Osun taking preventive measures
Like other states across the country, Osun state has had its share of violent crimes, even as government has continued to fashion out ways to keep the crime rate in the state very low.
To ensure farmers and herdsmen co-exist without crises, a government committee headed by a former assistant chief of staff to the governor, Mr. Oguntola Toogun, was instituted.
The committee, which has members across security agencies, has embarked on preventive measure, rather than wait for clash to occur.
Governor Aregbesola, who spoke through his commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lani Baderinwa said the since the committee put in place by the government has been doing a good job, there was no basis not supporting them.
“It is not that we don’t witness occasional crises here and there, but the committee are up to the task to settle the matter amicably to the satisfaction of the two parties”, he said.
According to him where there is need to pay compensation, any of erring parties would be asked to pay compensation to the aggrieved party. Aregbesola stated that both the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba are fully represented on the committee.
Ogun people reject cattle colonies
In Ogun State, the idea of establishing cattle colonies for herdsmen is not on the agenda for the people.
Most people, who spoke with our correspondent, rejected the idea, claiming that it is an attempt to rob peter to pay Paul.
According to the Coordinator general of Ketu Advancement Forum, Kunle Abiose, which recorded more cases, the idea is not welcome.
Olayode, who spoke on behalf of residents of 13 communities in Ogun west Senatorial district in the state where the issues of killing by herdsmen said “we reject it.”
“The idea of cattle colony is worse than grazing route. This shows that the government is attempting to lord the idea on the people. Herding is a personal business. No Yoruba man will go to the North and ask for a land to plant cocoa.
“Every Nigerian needs government intervention to his or her business. We all need infrastructure like herdsmen.
“To us, we don’t have land for the colonies. It would not work.”
Also speaking, a farmer at Odeda local government told Vanguard that the herdsmen recently destroyed her plantain farm ruining the whole farmland while feeding their herds.
She said the villagers were afraid of confronting them due to the report of the attacks on the people in some parts of the country.