Our people will be endangered if ranches are given to Fulani herders —Ekiti traditional rulers

May 11, 2021
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The decision of the Ekiti State government to embrace the Federal Government’s national livestock transformation plan, otherwise known as ranching, has been publicly rejected by some traditional rulers in the state. ‘YOMI AYELESO in this piece reports the concerns raised by these 81 traditional rulers and other stakeholders.

For over a year in Ekiti and other states in the South-West, Nigerian Tribune reported the killings of farmers on their farms and crops worth millions of naira destroyed by suspected herders. This horrible development brought about the popular Akure meeting in February between the south-western governors and the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigerian (MACBAN) towards finding lasting solutions to the attacks.

At the meeting, resolutions were reached and prominent among these resolutions were the ban on night and open grazing. Underage grazing was also outlawed. Unfortunately, months after the Akure meeting, there appears to be no end in sight in the clashes as many farmers have lost their lives while farmlands are being destroyed.

In a bid to resolve these issues and restore peace, the Ekiti State government introduced several measures, including the commencement of registration of herdsmen and farmers operating in the state for proper documentation and monitoring. This exercise was embraced by the stakeholders including the leaders of the Fulani community in the state.

Aside this, the government also announced that it would be resuscitating the grazing reserves in Oke-Ako and Irele Ekiti which would serve as ranches where herders and others would graze their cattle and other animals under the National Livestock Transformation Plan of the Federal Government.

The state commissioner for agriculture, Dr Olabode Adetoyi, had, while confirming this recently, said, “In Ekiti State now, under the National Livestock Transformation Plan, we are bringing back our cattle ranch settlements at Oke Ako and Irele for whoever wants to graze their cattle. They will register there and provision will be made over there too.”

However, considering rife suspicion in the country, 81 traditional rulers under the auspices of Majority Obas of Ekitiland (MOBEL) rejected the move by the government, saying creating grazing reserves for herdsmen would endanger the lives of Ekiti people. They explained that the decision to speak against the proposed plan was taken following series of protest by their subjects both home and abroad.

The traditional rulers in a letter addressed to the state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi noted that the move by the state government would constitute a security threat to lives and property of their subjects, adding that the herdsmen are known for violence wherever they live.

The letter which was signed by the Olomuoke of Omuoke-Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Otitoju and the Onikun of Ikun Amure Ekiti, Oba David Olusola as chairman and secretary, respectively, alongside other 79 traditional rulers.

They argued that, “We are mindful of the security implications and consequences which will be inimical to the security of our people, knowing full well that majority of our populace are predominantly peasant farmers. We are also not unmindful of the antecedents of some of the Fulani herders, wherever they co-habit with their hosts.

“Since the time it was reported that Ekiti State is favourably disposed to the proposed programme which will lead to direct occupation of our lands by Fulani herders, we have been inundated with series of complaints laden with fears from our subjects both from home and in Diaspora.”

They called on Governor Fayemi to consider the security of lives and property of the residents in his administration’s policies and programmes, declaring that, “the proposed programme which we perceive to be another nomenclature for Rural Grazing Area (RUGA)—the widely rejected land grabbing initiative—is unacceptable to our subjects.”

Speaking, the Onikun of Ikun Amure, Oba Olusola, noted that the traditional rulers were more concerned about the interests of Ekiti people hence their decision to write the governor. He disclosed that events in recent time across some South-West states suggested that allowing the herdsmen to settle down with the people in Ekiti would be counterproductive.

A public affairs analyst, Mr Tunde Akinwale advised the government to dialogue with all stakeholders in the state including the traditional rulers in a bid to find lasting solutions to the crisis. According to him, “You know the situation of things in our country today and anybody who hears such decision from the government would want to ask questions and that is what I believe the traditional rulers had done. Government needs to dialogue with the people through their traditional rulers and disclose its intention towards finding solutions to clashes between farmers and herders.”

We are not in support of giving our lands to Fulani herdsmen— Farmers

The All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Ekiti State said it would not support the idea of giving lands to Fulani herdsmen to graze their cattle but backed the idea of ranching for indigenes to replace open grazing in the state. The group said this would go a long way in addressing the conflicts between farmers and herders.

The chairman of AFAN in the state, Mr Adebola Alagbada told Nigerian Tribune that individuals who rear cattle and give to Fulani herdsmen for grazing must embrace the idea of ranching. He explained that not only Fulani are in the business of rearing cattle, saying some prominent individuals in the society are into the business, calling on them to establish ranches for their cattle to put a stop to open grazing which would in turn end killings and destruction of farmlands.

According to him, “Cattle ranches by government and individuals will help in resolving all these crises. If Chief Obafemi Awolowo could establish ranches across the south-west in 1958, why can’t we do same in this time? Ranching is the only way to solve this crisis at this moment; there is government and private ranching but I am not in support of giving our lands to Fulani herdsmen but to local people to rear their cattle.

“We don’t want open grazing because these people are destroying our crops in the farm. Ranching is not a new thing but government must not hand it over to the Fulani herders. Local Individuals must embrace the modern rearing method through creation of ranches.”

We will support every move by govt to end crisis—Ekiti MACBAN

The leader of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Ekiti, Alhaji Adamu Abache, said the establishment of ranches will provide lasting solution to the recurring clashes between farmers and herders. He also called for registration of all members in the state for easy identification.

“It is true that farms were being destroyed, but if we had registered with the local governments, we would have been able to identify these itinerant Fulani killer herders. We are not against arrest of criminals, but anytime they want to arrest, the police and other security agencies must ensure that the criminals are arrested not innocent Fulani herders,” he said.

The Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti and Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, Oba Ajibade Alabi has called for calm and patience among traditional rulers and communities in the state over the government’s proposed creation of ranches for the herdsmen. He urged communities to debunk insinuation in some quarters that the state government was planning to give lands to herdsmen.

In a statement by his media adviser, Chief Ajibade Olubunmi, Oba Alabi said Governor Kayode Fayemi had no plan to cede ancestral lands to any group of people for ranching. He added that there was no need for any alarm or tension on ranching, “as the governor has made it abundantly clear that no part of our land would be ceded.”

According to the first class traditional ruler, the Council of Traditional Rulers at its next statutory meeting would be receiving briefings from top government officials on the state’s policy on animal husbandry and other contentious issues surrounding the NLTP.

He, therefore, appealed to all traditional rulers and various communities in the state to remain calm, exercise patience and restrain themselves, saying “there was no cause for alarm.”

When contacted for the government’s reaction over the latest concerns raised by the majority traditional rulers, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Adetoyi said he had nothing to say on the issue, directing our correspondent to the statement issued by the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti.

“I think you have seen the reaction of Alawe on this issue, I don’t have anything to say again,” he said.

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